Murdoch, a pitiful tyrant

A full-page apology ad published in British ne...

A full-page apology ad published in British newspapers by News International. The letter, signed by Rupert Murdoch, begins: “The News of the World was in the business of holding others to account. It failed when it came to itself.” Sweney, Mark (14 July 2011). “Phone hacking: NI plans full page apology in national press”. The Guardian (UK) . . Retrieved 15 July 2011 . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To many people, Rupert Murdoch appears as a powerful figure. He appears able to punish his enemies and help his friends. Such power is what many people desire. Others fear his power for what he can do to them. Others pursue him in the hopes he will use his power for their ends. He has amassed great wealth and influence. He is by any measure within popular culture a powerful and successful man. Yet, he has paid a terrible price for his power, success, and status.

Xenophon’s insights are timeless

What brought me to that answer is Xenophon’s Hiero, or Tyrannicus.[1] In this short dialogue, Simonides, a poet, discusses the nature of tyranny with a tyrant, Hiero. In that dialogue, Hiero bemoans his state for he is without love, trust, or friendship. Even though he appears to have what he wants, he can find little pleasure. The tyrant may have large meals but worries he does not have enough to impress. He cannot travel abroad for fear of a plot at home. He cannot call the city his fatherland for he has usurped his position. He cannot trust his advisors to tell him the truth. When he goes out in public he requires a bodyguard. When he wants to pursue a beloved he worries whether he is loved for what he has and not who he is. By contrast, the private man has none of these worries. The private man, at least to the tyrant, appears happier.

Like the tyrant, people fear to speak the truth to Rupert Murdoch.

When we look at Murdoch we see that he resembles Hiero more than the private man. This does not mean that he is a tyrant, it is to suggest that he occupies an analogous role. If we consider the way in which he has amassed and retained his wealth, influence, and status, we see the similarities. In his success, he has relied, in no small part, on the malfeasance of others. When the malfeasance has emerged, Murdoch has claimed ignorance.[2] What this suggests that people were not telling him the truth.

When you change, your religion, citizenship, and wives, what remains?

Other similarities are apparent. We know he changed his religion to suit his business needs. He appears without a religious conviction. In matters of love, he has married for the fourth time with wives more a business decision than one of love. He has changed his citizenship to suit his business needs so that he knows no country as home. Like Hiero, he has had to gloss over the way he amassed and sustains his wealth, status and influence.

Shocked, outraged but no desire to repent. Why?

When he learned of Milly Dowler he was shocked.[3] Yet, that did not lead hi to reflect on his responsibility or seek to reform. He paid the family for their pain. With the Daniel Morgan murder case, where his employees have been shown to have interfered with investigations, he seems unaware of it[4]. He is a salutary lesson for what his success has required. Like Hiero, he knows that for all his success, he is a pitiful figure.


[2] See his response to question 167

[3] See his response to question 196



About lawrence serewicz

An American living and working in the UK trying to understand the American idea and explain it to others. The views in this blog are my own for better or worse.
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