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Letters from Downunder

The Rupert Sanction

Submitted by Lindsay
Melbourne Australia!

This house today is a theatre which is being watched by the whole world.
Stanley Baldwin, British Prime minister, December 10, 1936

(2/2013) Influence. A lovely thing, isn't it? We all use it, others use it on us, often without our realizing it. Everyone is influenced by something every day, even if it is only hunger or thirst, but how we respond to our neighbours, to the news, to our circumstances - these are far more telling, as our beliefs and decisions are formed by constant exposure to such things.

So - would you mind taking a little test? A simple one: jot down, or think of, the people you consider to be the most influential in the world. (No, it's not psycho-pop 1 A) Don't look at the next line until you have finished.

Did Rupert Murdoch make it onto your list? He really needs to be, because he is without doubt the single most influential person in the world, both personally and across the globe. Hardly a shadowy figure, he has the power to follow his dreams, come what may. And those dreams are not those of you or me, but of the original demagogue intent on seeing the world shaped according to Rupert.

He didn't start out like that, but as an Australian at Oxford, a son worthy of his father's praise, he was a radical, a leftie, a fighter for the underprivileged. He could afford to be, as the family fortune had come from determination, brilliance, and hard business sense in newspapers, which Rupert inherited, then honed over the years with a magnetism that could attract or repel, and a cutting edge wielded with seemingly haphazard choice.

Money, of course, was vital, and that rolled in as his enterprises matured, but it was not and end in itself, unlike so many of his contemporaries. It was, and is, a tool to be used to shape the cosmos. We all dream of what might be, but unlike Martin Luther King his dream was not that all men will become brothers, but that all (western) men will love his ethos and do things his way. His was no idle reverie, because he had already shown it can be done. With America, Britain and Australia being politically shaped to his will, wars could be fought, insurrections mounted, governments coerced. You disagree? The Iraq war would not have occurred without him. Margaret Thatcher might well still be working in a shop; Tony Blair would not have been Prime Minister, George Bush would have been unable to swing congress his way. The financial systems would not have been opened up for exploitation, the far right would have fallen on hard times, and the military-oil-transport complex would have been far less powerful.

Newscorp, his flagship, is the largest communications group in the world, and includes The Wall street Journal, The Fox group, Harpers, BskyB, The Times, The Sun, (in England), the Herald Sun (here), and over 800 other companies. Having been privy to the way in which the 'ordinary' man thinks, Rupert knew, and still knows which buttons to push to ensnare the great unthinking majority. Busty topless girls on page three of the Sun, phone hacking anywhere it works, redneck attitudes and self-indulgent thinking, pop sports and stars, and always the news and views that conservatives want - whether they are on the right or left of politics. (Yes, the left is as conservative as the right, perhaps even more so at times.) The sheer sway that the ill-informed masses generate mean it is their voices that do his work and help fulfil his vision. At least, that's what has happened until the last presidential election.

The messages, prejudice and untruths embedded in the 'normal' news produced by his communication network was, and is, too subtle for the average news-byte analysis, the opinion forming headline, and the digital glance. If you had the desire to be your country's leader, or even near the top, you needed him. That's something Sarah Palin learnt - she had a better chance with Rupert's backing, something not in the handbook of democracy. The piper always has to be paid, of course, and woe betide you if your agenda strayed too far from his - or you wanted to do what you were elected to do. George never did, Tony tried - and he got dumped, John Howard here thought Rupert was chosen by God. Power of the press? That it is, with bells on - the bells of the Murdoch circus. The circus that delivered on the guarantee. Well, one presidential race lost was a slap in the face, but could be borne.

Mind you, there's nothing illegal in this; Rupert is wholly above board, but without too many scruples, for the bottom line is that he doesn't much care about humanity, who are there to generate profit, support his opinion, and in short, to be used. In this he is very different to previous moguls, whose aim was profit and prestige with lobbying, but power is a heady sense, and manipulating governments presumably the most heady of all.

While elected officials deny forever any covert links to our man - although there's plenty of overt ones, reported with innocent joy - there are other groups who ostensibly have no links to him at all. "Rupert? The newspaper guy? Oh, sure, we advertise with him. Nothing else." But underneath all those disclaimers they have enlisted him in their causes, for they have many of the same goals. Prime among these other groups are the oil cartels, who together with the armaments industry have so much clout it is difficult to quantify. But to see something of their joint work, a story reported from the early days of the Iraq invasion is instructive - and heartrending.

Rupert, who had never been much interested in watching television, is sitting in front of the big screen and sees the drones demolishing another set of buildings, smoke, flames and incredible noise. "' Oh, boy! This is exciting. What a great show!"

Nearby is a certain friend from big oil. 'Just think," he grins, "oil at $20 a barrel."

And I have no doubt that the armaments chapter were also rubbing their hands at the thought of all that money the government were paying them. And would continue to do while they could whip up support for more conflicts. And could continue to deny climate change.

For, when the biggest businesses and the media get together on stage the words of Stanley Baldwin are once more most appropriate: 'This house today is a theatre being watched by the whole world.' And we watch and wait to see our world crumble.

Lindsay, from Down Under

Read Past Down Under Columns by Lindsay Coker