Murdoch Fixation Symptom of Larger Failures

The always-direct Brendan O’Neill takes on the Left’s fixation with Rupert Murdoch in a book review at Spiked:

It sounds eerily like conspiracy theorising. The language precisely echoes that which is used by the 9/11 truthers and Obama birthers who lurk in the underbelly of the interweb: it shares with them a belief that there is a ‘hidden’ or ‘invisible’ sect which controls everything from ‘the shadows’. The last chapter of the book is called ‘Darker and darker’, and it is of course a yet further delve into the dark world of what Watson’s calls the Murdoch-created ‘shadow state’, those mysterious men on yachts who ‘orchestrate public life’ (!) in Britain.

Throw Murdoch’s name at a committed Lefty – particularly one from the UK – and the response is visceral and immediate. It’s personalised hate, and you get the face-flushing and the wide eyes to go with it.

O’Neill picks at a reason for this:

Murdoch has become for a Labour Party bamboozled by the public’s indifference to it and for liberal commentators befuddled by the failure of their petty ideas to make inroads with ordinary folk – a catch-all explanation for the travails facing the modern mainstream left and British politics more broadly. Incapable of grappling with the real reasons why Labour’s fortunes are waning […] the Murdochphobics have become convinced that it is all HIS fault, Rupert and his agents called ‘Silent Shadow’, who have visited upon this land a terrible plague of dumbed-down politics and hollowed-out institutions.

While I agree with this analysis, I’d add another. One of the defining differences between the Left-Agrarian/Corporatist*  Right and liberal views is the awareness and acceptance of abstract emergent order.

If your metaphoric engagement with the world is dominated by systems of hierarchy and control – perhaps drawn from the family model  – then you will tend to personalise and “conspiracise” the way the world works.

The idea that you can create institutions that set a framework and then let it run itself is emotionally unmanageable for this type of personality. Their metaphoric view is either engineering levers or puppetmaster strings. In either case, there is a prime mover who is a person or single organisation.

It also helps explain the discomfort the Left /Corporatist  Right have with markets, which are the essence of order emerging unbidden from an impersonal framework.

And it explains the recurring tendency of the Left to accuse the centre-Right of nefarious networks and centralised planning. Firstly, hierarchy is how they think. Secondly, it’s a form of projection, since hierarchical control is far more prevalent in the Left/Corporatist  Right than in the disorganised, anti-collective, individualist centre-Right. [Do you belong to an organised political party? No, I belong to the Liberals. Boom tish]. Throw in actual conspiracies to influence from the Left (see Journolist here and here), and the projection becomes clearer.

It plays out in other ways. For the Left/Corporatist   Right, situations don’t simply exist; they exist because someone made it in that fashion. Therefore someone is to blame. And that morally justifies the sort of Marieke Hardy/Catherine Deveny personalised hate that so often appears from the Left, and the generalised group hate, frequently racist, that appears on the Far Right.

So Murdoch-phobia isn’t just about an emotionally satisfying explanation for the Left’s failures; it’s an expected result of the way the Left and Corporatist Right view the world.


*Corporatist Right as a catchall for agrarian Right, blood and soil nationalists,  theocrats, all tendencies on the collectivist right to suppress the individualism of classical liberalism.


  1. Glen Bell

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