At last, after months of sleazy,
and sometimes downright spurious, revelations about celebrity paedophiles, we’ve
go a real honest-to-goodness scandal to sink our teeth into. Or so many of us are hoping.
So far the known facts are bland:
Last night, Rupert Murdoch filed in a New York court for a
divorce from Wendi Deng, his wife of 14 years.
That much is interesting in itself, but we’re assuming that there’s more
to come. Perhaps much more: Robert Peston, the BBC’s financial
correspondent has hinted as much on twitter.
“Am also told,” he tweeted soon after the news broke, “that undisclosed
reasons for Murdoch divorcing Deng are jaw-dropping.” Most of
us, if we’re honest, can’t wait to hear what they are.
Now, wait a minute. Are those of us who claim the intellectual
high ground, soaring above the prurient groupies who scan the print media every
day in search of celebrity gossip – what Gwyneth Paltrow eats for breakfast,
how much side-boob Rihanna has displayed in her most recent red carpet
appearance, whether Robbie Williams has had a nose job – reducing ourselves to
the same idle, pointless curiosity?
Well, yes. But with a difference,
if I may be so bold.
Unlike the two-a-penny pop stars
and the model-actresses and the virtual reality stars, the Murdochs are genuine
celebrities. Well, Rupert is, if not
Wendi. He presides over the world’s
largest media empire, News Corporation, which includes in its ownership stable
a major Hollywood film production company,
several television networks and a host of newspapers. He’s been involved of late in Britain’s
phone-hacking scandal, resulting in the closure of a newspaper. Criminal cases deriving from the scandal are
about to go to court. In short, unlike the rest of the gossip-fodder nobodies,
Murdoch is s a significant public figure.
So, naturally, we’re interested
in what he gets up to, or if you prefer, what he gets down to. We can claim that, without firmly placing
tongue in cheek, anything Murdoch does is of real, as opposed to manufactured,
But let’s not even try to mount
the high horse. Isn’t our interest in
this story no more than a simple case of prurience wrapped up in some flimsy
wrapping called The Public Interest? Of
course it is. Not a single member of the
chattering classes is any more immune to the condition than simple-minded
star-struck readers of trashy tabloids and mindless celebrity magazines.
But there’s a difference
here. What happens to Rupert Murdoch is,
by any definition of the word, news. It
may not be the kind upon which the future of mankind, or even our economic or
social well-being, might depend. And arguably,
it doesn’t deserve a place on the front pages of serious newspapers. But it’s much
more than just fodder for the show-biz gossip columns.
The story may be one that we all
want to know about from motives more base than pure, but it also qualifies as one
that we ought to know about. No doubt the
topic will undoubtedly be discussed at dinner parties mainly in the form of ribald
jokes, but it may also be one, for all we know, that could affect the future of
the media conglomerate that’s engaged in activities which, one way or another,
touch just about all of us. That it’s
more a human interest story than a political or economic one is neither here
nor there. The world does not live by politics
and economics alone. Nor, for that
matter, do newspapers.
The point is that the Murdoch
divorce isn’t one of those placed media ‘events’ contrived by publicists, or the
paparazzi, to promote its subject’s new film or television series. That alone makes the Murdoch story, by any definition
of the word, news.
Meanwhile, having established our
more enlightened motives, it’s time to indulge in some harmless speculation
about the ‘jaw-dropping’ revelations for which Mr. Peston has primed us.
Come on, Bob, dish up some more