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The socialist inside Rupert Murdoch (buffy mention)

Zoe Williams

Tuesday 24 January 2006, by Webmaster

From The Simpsons to his assault on high taxes, Murdoch’s always been the little guy’s friend

Personally, I feel embarrassed when newspapers think they can swing elections. It’s like when your granny thinks "swizzle stick" is a word she made up in her teens ... hubristic, unfalsifiable, atmospherically wrong. It strikes me as just about possible that the Sun and the Times, with their perplexing mix of breasts, bigotry and bandwagon jacking, might foster a degree of torpor and overall disenchantment, but whether that could be pressed into the service of any particular party I doubt. Besides which, for every undecided voter swung by these papers, I’ll bet there’s another whose sense of mischief and anti-authoritarianism is triggered by The Simpsons or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for which Murdoch is also responsible, if distantly: I bet his net contribution to the global political outlook is actually further to the left than any political party we in the developed, TV-watching world have the option of voting for.

Still, it is diverting to learn about Murdoch toying with the idea of coming out for David Cameron. It’s a little like a celebrity courtship, conducted through the pages of a tabloid. These two had three meetings. Murdoch allowed it to be known that he found the meetings "charming". There remain a couple of hurdles, namely David’s proposed tax burden. "They have got to shrink taxation in many ways to get better rewards for people who are prepared to risk everything," said Murdoch. Incidentally, this is a totally stupid idea - most of the people who risk everything end up losing it, by definition: otherwise it wouldn’t be a risk. They’re much happier with very high taxation, so they can be repeatedly bailed out from the mess they get themselves into.

But Rupert’s wrongness is not the thing that’s diverting me. I want to know why he cares so much about tax burdens. It’s like some kind of obsessive compulsive disorder. It’s possible that by showing him lots of really, really high tax bills, he might get over it, but that’s a suggestion for those closest to him.

Just to recap - this man doesn’t live in the UK; he’s been a US citizen for two decades. His personal tax burden, in other words, has nothing at all to do with who’s leading the Tory party, nothing to do with the UK whatsoever. The corporate tax burden of News Corp, Murdoch’s company, is a well-worn international joke - one biographer, Neil Chenoweth, found that between "1992 and 1997 the News Corp accountants had moved A$4.8bn of income past the tax authorities in Britain, the United States and Australia". That’s just a figure plucked at random; here’s another: Murdoch was paying below 10 cents in the dollar throughout the 90s. Not because he was on a different rate of tax, but through sheer "ingenuity".

I bring all this up not to highlight his hypocrisy (it is a hackneyed crime), but just to ask who, exactly, he is fighting for. He is an object lesson in the fact that the true entrepreneurs, the sky’s-the-limit business geniuses, do not give a stuff what the taxation rates are in any country. They would wriggle out of their one and only skin to avoid them. The psychometric profile of a businessman resembles nothing so much as that of a delinquent, and the more successful he (or she) is, the more that profile shades into psychopathy.

Murdoch is not fighting for people like himself, those with accounting panache, since they do not care what the highest tax bracket is. If he’s on a crusade for anyone at all, it’s the non risk-takers, the head-down types who earn a fair amount through honest grind and pay up because it would be dishonest not to. He’s very nearly, give or take the socially excluded, fighting for the little guy. Could he be losing his steely edge in his old age? Might he be morphing into a socialist? How amusing this will be to watch ...