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Our glee at the Murdoch saga does Britain no credit

Rebekah Brooks is talented, rich and good-looking – and for that, it seems, the general public would love to see her humiliated

By on Friday, 22 July 2011

James Murdoch, centre, is only slightly more interesting than Rebekah Brooks's hair, according to Google (PA photo)

James Murdoch, centre, is only slightly more interesting than Rebekah Brooks's hair, according to Google (PA photo)

The News International scandal seems to be running its course. Rather like a potato, the main tuber seems to be dying, and the sprouting tubers look more interesting. This will not be a story about phone hacking much longer, perhaps, but a series of stories about other less shocking matters.

First up is Rebekah’s hair, which has an impressive 1.8 million results when searched for on Google. But what about Wendi and her fabulous punch? Funnily enough, the “slap-down sister” and her right hook are not quite up there with Rebekah’s mane, scoring a mere 91,000 Google mentions.

The male members of the Murdoch cast should surely be more important than these walk-on female roles, one would have thought. Rupert Murdoch gets over 29 million mentions but his son James weighs in with a mere 2.3 million.

This is not mere silliness. This cast of characters, and the visceral dislike that they have aroused in certain breasts, tells us something about contemporary Britain. Rebekah Brooks is talented (she must be to have risen so high so young), rich and good-looking. She is someone who has made her own way in life – and do we admire her for it? Not a bit of it! One has the impression that the general public would love to see her humiliated, and that does them little credit.

I am not trying to defend criminal behaviour here. If Ms Brooks is guilty of a crime, she must pay the price – but the process of law is meant to be neutral and impartial, please note. And if she is guilty, how should we feel? Surely the correct response would be regret – that a meteoric career has been tarnished in this way. Instead those watching the downfall of Rebekah to my mind resemble the tricoteuses at the foot of the guillotine: they are not sorry for her, but rejoicing in her suffering.

Perhaps the British do not like meteoric careers, and they do not like the rich and powerful such as Mr Murdoch and his son, simply because they dislike success. How different from America, where the rich and powerful – the Vanderbilts, the Pierpont Morgans, the Mellons – are regarded in a heroic light as the people who built America and made it great. We by contrast see Mr Murdoch as a villain, overlooking his other qualities. But isn’t part of our problem that we need more people of his vision and drive?

Outside Grand Central Terminal, New York City, there is a statue of Cornelius Vanderbilt, the man who built the original railway and who become stratospherically rich as a result.

Imagine if there were a statue of Rupert Murdoch anywhere in London – the pie-throwers would have to form an orderly queue.

And if you think I am saying “Why can’t Britain be a bit more like America?” – yes, you are perfectly right. That is exactly what I am saying.

  • pie jesus

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  • mitsy

    When did Rebekah Brooks ever care about due process or hold back on anyone with innocent until proven guilty? You seem to think because she is young and good looking she has done nothing wrong…Confessed hacker Paul McMallun who NOTW sent to Newsnight to defend them was delirously proud of his time hacking phones of the rich and famous…Yet Rebekah Brooks doesn’t know anything… It is the NOTW and The Sun that hates the successful most, they tear them down and take away their privacy.., You mention the rich and powerful (love a priest being so sycophantic to the rich)…but Murdoch isn’t British, he doesn’t even live here…
    I also think that a statue of Rupert Murdoch would get defaced by people from all over the world, including Americans who aren’t conned by Fox ” Fair and Balanced.”

  • Morys Ireland

    I don’t think one can say that the British ‘dislike success’, some very successful people are held in high public regard – take someone like Richard Branson for example. It’s probably more about what you do with that success; Murdoch has spent years hoarding power seemingly just for the sake of it. If you use your success simply to gain power and push your own agenda you probably wont find too many statues of yourself outside railway stations. If you use it to create pioneering public works that benefit many people then you just might.

    My favourite quote regarding the saga so far came from a Russian journalist: “Certainly Murdoch is no more guilty than the two-and-a-half million people who rushed to the trough called the News of the World once a week in order to eat their fill.”

    Too true.

  • Rita M Murphy

    It’s exactly what “Misty” said. It’s the way Murdoch and company have used their power to tear others down that makes people angry. It’s also the awful power Murdoch has had by using his newspapers and TV sations to influence politicians and others. He seems to have had a stranglehold on distributing the news. Where’s the objectivity we say we value? No one person or group of people should have control over so many news outlets. I would like to see Fox News in this country also held to a higher standard, or maybe fold. I hope the Murdoch empire is busted for good.

    Rita Murphy

  • Simon

    I agree with your point about the clamour against these people but your second point in comparing them to US ikons is misplaced and misses the point.

  • Erplad

    Shame on you for this sycophantic drivel. Murdoch’s papers are full of racist, hateful, bigoted,misogynistic lies. Written by clever people ( Brooks, Kelvin Mackenzie et al) who reduce often complex issues in to black and white solutions that pander to the ignorance of the lowest common denomitator. Witness the lynch mob they stirred up against paedophiles which resulted in a paediatrician having his home burned down. People dislike Mrs Brooks because of her conduct whilst in charge of these awful rags that pass themseles off as newspapers.. not because of her hair. wealth and “talent”. To delete messages on a dead child’s phone in order to leave room for more heartbreaking messages from her parents and sibblings is nothing short of evil. . certainly not talented. No doubt she will deny all knowledge of this but she was in charge and encouraged this culture. There seems to have been an editorial decision at the Herald to come to the aid of Murdoch. Sympathetic pieces have cropped up in the blogs. One of our Church’s darkest days  was to accept money from Murdoch to build the Catherdral in L.A. And then the award of the Papal Knighthood presumably in recognician of this. You then finish by lamenting the fact that the British don’t seem to exalt the Billionaires you seem so in love with. Perhaps the British have a little more insight and see these people for the greedy tax dodging parasites they are. Our Lord threw the money men out of the temple. . . . .

  • Anonymous

    It’s the pain and suffering the NotW has caused in its self-righteous way of bringing down people, supposedly in the “public interest”. And inventing news – the fake sheik, for instance, creating events which would otherwise not have occurred – an aha I’ve gotcha! sort-of reporting.

    And the rampant cruelty.

    The Sun revealing Brown’s son’s illness to the world, not giving him and his wife the chance to reveal it themselves in their own time – Rebakah simply phoning the Brown’s to let them know she knew and would be publishing it. Such stories make me furious and/or sickened. I never paid for them – I read them 2nd hand from the Internet.

    Some columnists (in all papers) declare what is “right” and what is “wrong”, letting us know what is the current fashion in “correct” behaviour and “correct” thought, with what could be considered religious fervour. I noticed this trait especially (irony) in atheist writers.  

    I think some journalists consider themselves our consciences (well, excuse me), even if the information was obtained illegally. But all they are selling is a story and comments, making money from other people’s (alleged) sins and errors and private lives and the suffering of the bereaved. 

    It’s not the sort of news I want. For worldly news I think I’ll just stick to reading New Scientist which reports attempts to find solutions to problems, interesting scientific discoveries and always looking for a better way forward.

  • Erplad

    It now appears that Mrs Brooks gave a phone as a present to the mother of a murdered child. That phone it now appears was hacked. The mother, Mrs Sara Payne understanderbly feels hurt and betrayed by people she thought of as friends. . . talent eh? These people are beneath contempt.

  • Anonymous

    All empires begin to crumble at the edges when the lines of supply and communication become overstretched, as detailed in Paul Kennedy’s wonderful book: The Rise and Fall of Great Powers.

    I am sorry, to say, however, that this article shows a naive appreciation of how the media industry works and how some people get where they are (were). Interestingly, it seems to be men who are obsessed by Mrs. Brooks’ all-conquering hair – shades of the Magdalen?

    By the way, I believe the first on her feet to obstruct the foam-pie thrower was the woman sitting next to Mrs. Murdoch.