Anatomy of A Downfall

One reason why I enjoy looking at the downfall of powerful men and women is that it’s part of the overall story.  Every beginning has its end, and the end may well be drawing near for Rupert Murdoch.  The Culture Committee in the House of Commons of the British Parliament found in a report just released that Murdoch is not fit to head his company, and the release of the report could lead to a vote in Commons that would impose sanctions on witnesses called to testify before the committee if they gave false or misleading testimony.

Murdoch’s career is long and storied.  From a provincial media mogul in Australia, he’s gone on to become the most powerful media figure in the Anglophone world, with a media and broadcast empire that stretches across nearly every single media market there is.  From newspapers to radio stations to television networks, there’s very few areas that have escaped the shadow of Murdoch.  His problem is that in building that global media empire, it’s seeming increasingly likely that he cut corners, not just a few, but a lot.  And as these stories have a tendency to continue to evolve, as has this one.

With any powerful figure, the trajectory of their downfall usually shares common features.  The mistake they make isn’t so much the original crime as it is the coverup.  From Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton to Kwame Kilpatrick, it wasn’t their original transgression so much as it was what they did to prevent their misdeeds from becoming public that led to their undoing.  After the initial discovery, the allegations usually spark broader investigations as to what else they were up to.  As the original incidents are never the only offense that the party in question committed, there’s the mounting pressure of other allegations and investigations.  All the while, the continuing denials in the face of the obvious ring ever more hollow, until the subject has absolutely no credibility left, whatsoever.

These downfalls have a cycle, and they’re fairly predictable.  Not so much for the details that emerge.  Those have a tendency to be far more lurid than anything than we can imagine.  But the initial discovery, backlash and public response to them are about as regular as the tides.  Murdoch is nearing the end of his career, for better or worse.  The more allegations that come out, the more he’ll have to deny, and the less support he’ll find amongst his longtime allies.

The fact of the matter is that these are individuals who think nothing of the means they use to reach their own ends.  Unfortunately for them, these same individuals face the same public onslaught against them as they projected during their ascent.  Such is the cycle that fells the mighty.


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