Rupert Murdoch and All the King’s Men

Rupert Murdoch: An investigation of political power

McKnight’s book reads like something that is very carefully worded, and very carefully referenced. It’s the kind of book you might write about one of the world’s most powerful men if you didn’t want to lose all your money in a lawsuit.

But it’s still an interesting read. It touches the intersection between Murdoch’s business interests, his political focus, and his personality. As this review notes, Murdoch is not an original political thinker.

One thing I found interesting is that while Murdoch’s values may be reasonably consistent (although they have changed at points), he is willing to back politicians on both sides of the aisle (at least in the UK and Australia), which makes him ruthlessly effective.

One thing the book doesn’t really unpack, is the media side of the equation. As a review notes:

… none of the dark stuff would work unless Murdoch ran hugely popular newspapers and television stations. I don’t think McKnight gives due weight to this fundamental source of the old man’s power. Murdoch’s political leverage depends on his uncanny talent for winning and holding the attention of very large numbers of people.

All the King’s Men, by Robert Penn Warren

I came across All the King’s Men in a list of books recommended shortly after Trump’s election. It is the story of Jack Burden, a journalist working for a corrupt, populist politician in the pre-WWII American South.

As his Boss rises, so do Jack’s fortunes; but when fate turns on his boss, he’s forced to confront his own responsibility.

It is, politics aside, a beautiful book. Warren writes beautifully, and it is evocative and powerful. Worth it for the writing alone.

It’s also beautifully structured. We see Burden fall into the pit of despair, both at his Boss’s fortunes, and at his own lack of moral courage. Joseph Campbell can write about heroes killing their fathers; the way Jack Burden does it is particularly striking. But beyond it all, Burden finds a measure of redemption, frail as it is, in taking the right step.

There is some discussion about whether the ‘restored’ version (evergreened, perhaps?) or the original is better. I wasn’t sure whether you could get the original on Kindle, so I bought it from a second hand dealer. I didn’t want to mark up an older copy, so there are no quotes; but believe me that the writing is beautiful.

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