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‘I have never asked a prime minister for anything,’ Murdoch told Lord Justice Leveson in one of the most memorable moments of his inquiry into the British press. And perhaps there is some truth in it: he simply did not need to ask.
The story of Murdoch’s obsession with politics and behind-the-scene details of his manipulative operations on the global political stage are told in David McKnight’s latest book. Differing from many preceding volumes on the magnate, McKnight’s book demonstrates that politics for Murdoch was not just instrumental to his business interests and that spreading his fervent devotion to neoliberal ideology was his foremost personal ambition. As Murdoch himself admitted: ‘I am not just a businessman working in a very interesting industry. I am someone who’s interested in ideas.’
The book elucidates how the magnate communicated and infused his political credo within his crusading News Corporation and far beyond. It illustrates how his loyal executives were chosen and groomed within a deeply political corporate culture aligned with the supreme boss’s right‑wing values. McKnight demonstrates that, despite Murdoch’s efforts to create a personal image of himself as a rebel and a rival of dominant elites, he and his loyal management have always been part of the same establishment that dictates countries’ agendas and destinies. Far from being outsiders, they shared dinners, country clubs, yachts and policy ideas with prime ministers and MPs.
Besides presenting a lucid account of Murdoch’s influence, the book has another undoubtedly momentous merit: it reveals how unchecked, concentrated, and unaccountable media power can alter the conduct of democracy. It was this disproportionate power that secured Murdoch his unprecedented political leverage and led to the numerous journalistic abuses documented by the Leveson inquiry. McKnight’s account of Murdoch’s role in shaping the values of the world we live could not be better timed or needed.