In 16th century Japan, Murdoch would be headless


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This Murdoch thing is still getting bigger; by tomorrow it will have held the world’s attention longer than the last tsunami in Japan did.  That may seem strange, or even perverted, but maybe not; while we all care when thousands of people die, it isn’t personal to us its impact on our emotions passes quickly. Rupert Murdoch is much more personal to millions and millions of people; Murdoch reaches into many places, but most of all he reaches into people’s lives directly.  The combined readership of his newspapers is likely to be largest in the world, but that does not make it personal in the way his television empire does.  Think of three things – Fox TV, Glee and American Idol, with just those three, and the list of media assets extends into the hundreds of different print publication, movie studios and television networks around the world, and it gives just a hint of how intimately we live with Rupert and why he is such a big story; a one time or another Murdoch reaches into every home in The United States and England, as well as many other countries.

The reason the story maintains its interest is because the empire in personal, it is important and its problems are still increasing.  Today the FBI has declared to be on hist tail for hacking into the lives of the families of those killed on 9/11, he and his son, James are appearing before parliament and even the Australians think it is time to investigate.

However, I have an apology to make;  for days I have been calling his son James, Robert.  It was a simple mistake – the Australians have given us two media moguls – Kerry Packer and Rupert Murdoch.  Both were second generation media guys, both inherited the empire from knighted fathers – sir this and sir that – both grew the empires past their fathers wildest dreams and both have a son who is heir apparent to the empire – one each – a James this and a James that.  I guess it just seemed too much to beleive so I renamed James Murdoch, Robert Murdoch.

Murdoch and Packer senior, like their sons, were about the same age, just seven years different in age – and both carefully groomed their sons, as they were groomed in their time, in the family business so that when the day came the transition would be seamless.  Besides their similarities, Murdoch and Packer had some major differences – Packer was a world famous gambler, winning and losing as much as $30 million in one trip; Murdoch has no such reputation; Packer was notoriously a bully, but he was not a micro-manager; Murdoch may be a nicer man in person, but he also takes a much greater interest in the details of his enterprise – a trait that will haunt him in the court room for certain.  The media, rumor and documentation is rather quiet about the way each man treated his son – we know they are groomed and ready, but not how the father talks to the son in private – unless of course someone hacks into their phones or emails and lets us know.  But we do know Packer trusted his son to take over; Packer paid his son the ultimate compliment and demonstrated his confidence in him- Packer died in 2005 and left it all to his son.

And that may be the only way out for Murdoch, to die, symbolically at least and leave it all to James and the way Packer did.  We can’t expect Murdoch to commit seppuku (harakiri), the ancient Japanese suicide required of a leader who makes a grave mistake, one that affect the whole society; in the Japanese tradition, the leader would appear in public, apologize for his actions and then thrust a small knife into his stomach – the heir to his position, standing next to him would then whack off his head.  A noble tradition and one that the rest of the world might adopt – it is about the only way Murdoch could escape – he can resign and that might save the empire – might – but it is not likely it would save him.

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