THE Long 1980s never seems to ever end, but a sign of that era’s departure into the rearview mirror came this week with the announcement of the retiral (ish) of Rupert Murdoch. No-one personified the era of conflict, strife and the debasement of public life than Murdoch and his rancid media empire.

Rupert Murdoch (below) was born on March 11, 1931, in Melbourne, the second of four children of Sir Keith Murdoch (1885–1952) and Dame Elisabeth Greene (1909–2012), of English, Irish, and Scottish ancestry. His Scottish-born paternal grandfather Patrick John Murdoch was a Presbyterian minister.

Despite (or because of this) background, when Murdoch bought the struggling Sun newspaper in 1969, he informed his newly appointed editor Albert “Larry” Lamb: “I want a tearaway paper with lots of tits in it”.

The National: Rupert Murdoch pictured at his summer party in London earlier this year

Murdoch had also acquired the News of the World and innovated by printing both newspapers on the same press. Twenty years later, by 1987, The Sun had 10 million daily readers.

It’s not clear who was the parasitic host, Margaret Thatcher (below) or Murdoch, but it is true that neither’s success would have been possible without the other – smashing unions and promoting an unprecedented populist rhetoric against the feckless poor and a media diet of casual misogyny racism and homophobia that set the standard for public discourse from the on.

At the time of the investigation into the debacle of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal, Murdoch was seen jogging in central London donning a cap marked ROSEHEARTY. Rosehearty was the fishing village on the Aberdeenshire coast where his family had come from, and been Free Church of Scotland ministers.

The National:

But as Tom Roberts tells us, the cap was from Murdoch’s superyacht Rosehearty.

In The Making of Murdoch: Power, Politics And What Shaped The Man Who Owns The Media Roberts describes how: “World leaders had been guests on that yacht, and had seen the dining room with its wall-wide map of the world – with America at its centre – the scene of secret unrecorded meetings.

“It was the stateless zone of the super-rich where deals could be struck and the media and political world carved up beyond the reach [the irony] of the telephoto lens.”

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If Murdoch’s sordid empire spawned the paparazzi and page three, Richard Littlejohn and a hundred toxic columnists, a politics of hate, the hacking of the phones of dead schoolchildren, and a clandestine network of a political and media class – and it did all of this and more – it did something far worse.

If Murdoch’s empire metastasised into “entertainment” and broadcasting across continents, it is not the worst aspect of his legacy.

In 2008, having tired of support for New Labour, Murdoch flew (then opposition leader) David Cameron by jet to meet him on Rosehearty. With his support, Cameron would win the forthcoming election and we’ve been under Conservative rule ever since.

But what is worse than Murdoch’s tabloid culture here and their courting and cultivating of the political far-right is the extent of global reach – the completely unregulated global media power that such individuals wield. It is the “stateless zone of the super-rich” that we have witnessed emerging in the last two decades, the era of Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, and Jeff Bezos, the tech giants and the media moguls.

It is this stateless range that defines the Murdoch era, an immigrant Scot to Australia who naturalised to American citizenship to satisfy media-ownership laws but who conducts affairs at sea, making and breaking political candidates, premiers and prime ministers.

It is a dark paradox that an individual who regularly stokes the enmity of nationalism and racism – Trump’s election and Brexit would not have been possible without him – operates beyond and above national borders and controls.

Such is the power and powerlessness at play little of this other than the individual faces will change. In a departure letter to staff, Murdoch made it clear that he would be placing his third child and eldest son in charge.

“My father firmly believed in freedom, and Lachlan is absolutely committed to the cause,” he wrote about the new chair of his media empire. Lachlan, we are told, is even more libertarian and right-wing than his father. If you can believe it, the Lachlan transition will lead the Murdoch empire further to the right.

Murdoch has had a decades-long influence in media across the world. It has caused millions of Americans to fall into the grips of Trumpism and millions of people in Britain to fall into a politics of hate and blame. The damage to our democracy cannot be overstated, nor can the damage to the concept of truth itself. The tabloidisation of our society and our culture is damaging beyond description.

Labour came under the spell of Murdoch despite seeing Michael Foot, Neil Kinnock (and later Jeremy Corbyn) be mauled by the Murdoch media. No more craven example of this can be seen than former Labour deputy leader Tom Watson who gushed: “Congratulations to Rupert Murdoch for pulling off a seamless transition within the family’s global media empire — something no UK political leader has ever achieved at Number 10”.

Watson added: “It’s the son what won it.”

Watson may be a particularly supine individual but even this is crass for his political class. The reality is as another former deputy leader, John McDonnell said: “Murdoch dragged journalism and politics into the gutter where truth and basic journalistic standards were rendered irrelevant. He debased the quality of political discourse in this country.”

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What can you do but watch and weep and chart the descent?

Well, a vision of some basic media regulation and some basic aspiration to pluralism in ownership models and forms survives.

In the 1980s, Ted Kennedy fought Murdoch over a rule established by the Federal Communications Commission in 1975 that prohibited ownership of a newspaper and television company in the same market. If such a claim seems quaint and un-worldly nowadays, that is precisely why such laws should be re-evoked, writ large and pursued.