Before we go any further, spare me any nitpicking over whether the screaming headlines we’ve seen from News Ltd are actually representative of Rupert Murdoch’s personal point of view. We have 50 years of history to tell us how Murdoch operates. Did he get on the blower to newly parachuted-in head honcho Col Allan and say, “Listen son, get yer biro out. This is what the front page is gunna say…”? Of course he didn’t. He doesn’t have to. Rupert Murdoch is many things, but he’s not stupid. He doesn’t employ people who have to be told what to do. He employs people who know what to do, what the company’s position is and what’s expected of them. There’s no shortage of people who will tell you what happens if you try to flout the company policy. Like any good organised crime syndicate, there are plenty of buffers between the commanders and the footsoldiers to give the head of the family plausible deniability. So if you want to point out that we can never be completely certain that the papers would look exactly the same this week if Rupert himself were editing them, save it for the debating society. If you honestly have genuine doubts that Murdoch wholeheartedly approves of these front pages, then please leave your credit card number, expiry date and security code in the comments so that I can send you your prize.
The broader question, which is worth debating, is whether this campaigning by media is going to make any difference either way. Who cares what Rupert wants? The overwhelming majority of voters have absolutely nothing in common with him. Does anyone really go into a polling booth asking themselves, “What would Rupert Murdoch do?”
I fear the answer may be more people than anyone would like to admit.
This can be partly illustrated by this motivational poster quoting Steve Jobs.
During last year’s U.S. presidential election, some wondered why people would vote against their own interests – why the poor would vote in the interests of the rich. I read an article then (which I can no longer find, I’m sorry), which theorised that while the great majority of voters in any election may not be rich, most of them hope that one day they will be and that some of them work on the logic that if they vote in the interests of the wealthy, that’s going to put them one step closer to becoming like them.
Sure, the thinking voter may look at this kind of logic and say, “dream on!” but the fact is, celebrity endorsements work. If you don’t believe me, have a look on a bus or a train station and count how many people have paid over $400 for a pair of headphones because they were allegedly designed by a rapper. Never mind the fact that they’re probably being used to listen to badly encoded mp3s or, worse still, streaming services. If you’ve got a sound system like Dr Dre’s, then you might notice the difference but if you’re listening to Spotify on your iPhone, then I’m afraid you’ve wasted your money. That doesn’t stop people from proudly displaying on their heads the fact that they have more disposable income than judgement. This is why people buy shoes according to which sportsmen wear them. This is why you can’t go hear a shopping centre without the giant grinning mug of someone called Gok staring at you from every direction. This is why people are happy to take home budgeting advice from Status bloody Quo! And they all have the vote.
There are plenty of people who consider being rich and powerful to be virtues in and of themselves. To them, Rupert Murdoch is the ultimate role model. The fact that he upsets lefties and academics is a bonus to them. The endorsement of Murdoch and his company, while being of no material interest to them, could still help them make their decision, figuring it will get them a little bit closer to being like someone they admire, as depressing as that may be.