WHAT a remarkable week it has been for those exotic creatures we once called media moguls.

Jeff Bezos had a lucrative Monday making more money in a single day than many of his predecessors amassed in a lifetime. The billionaire Amazon CEO set a record when the value of his shares jumped by $13 billion (£10.2bn), taking his estimated worth to $189.3bn (£148.2bn). All that money and the bars in Silicon Valley still insist on face masks.

Bezos, who is the world’s wealthiest man, is now worth more than the GDP of Iceland, Tunisia, Jamaica and Estonia combined, a comment that should be matter of international concern rather than rich-list masturbation. Meanwhile, poor and discredited, Rupert Murdoch squirmed his way through a new documentary series The Rise of the Murdoch Dynasty (BBC2), which led inevitably to the most “humble day of his life” when he appeared before MPs to answer questions about phone hacking.

Murdoch remains a powerful man in global media, but the world of digital algorithms and streaming media that Bezos has pioneered has weakened his importance. There is a whiff of yesterday’s man about Murdoch and the BBC series shows the once-swashbuckling Australian entrepreneur as an unflattering figure already in decline. A mood of curious nostalgia permeates the series.

It is a series with few heroes. I watched entranced by how ancient the days of New Labour now appear. Tony Blair’s smarmy and ingratiating persona, which was for some reason seen as telegenic and appealing to voters, curdles on screen. What an awful crew they were. A glorious moment shows excruciating archive footage of Peter Mandelson dancing along to D:Ream’s Things Can Only Get Better, a song which now sounds like a sad parody, taunting us for having the audacity of hope.

The story begins with Blair’s infamous visit to a Murdoch business conference on an Australian island, where a British prime minister in waiting prostrated himself to gain the support of The Sun newspaper. It showed how Murdoch inveigled himself into British politics, laying down ultimatums to both John Major and Blair. “You had to make sure the Murdoch papers weren’t anti-Labour”, John Prescott explains, “... I just didn’t like the price you pay.” One man who emerges with at least some dignity is the shambling Gordon Brown, who is portrayed as a brooding outsider who is respectfully unconvinced by the glamour that Murdoch sprinkled around New Labour. He was right, but of course paid the ultimate price.

What is astonishing is that many of the characters that populate the story now feel antediluvian – Andy Coulson, Rebekah Brooks, David Cameron and the “Chipping Norton set”. Most archaic of all is the despicable News of the World, which the ageing patriarch Murdoch closed to save his own leathery skin. As the phone-hacking scandal shifted from celebrity to the grotesque torture that the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s family had to ordeal, Murdoch sensed that his flagship Sunday rag was a cancer that had to be cut out.

For me, the BBC series overdoses on the story of familial succession, imagining that audiences are universally fascinated by Murdoch’s offspring and the dynasty he was planning to put in place. To put it crudely, many of us, especially here in Scotland, were only ever interested in his downfall – not how his empire might survive.

Press barons, both past and present, are masters of rank hypocrisy, trumpeting western democracy whilst trying to fix elections, dragging the personal lives of ordinary people into their papers whilst insisting on the utmost personal privacy for themselves, and most galling of all, exposing the inadequacies of public service institutions whilst hiding their wealth from taxation.

History is littered with grotesque men who were once feared and revered: E. W. Scripps, Randolph Hearst, Harold Harmsworth, Lord Rothermere, The Barclay Brothers and Murdoch stand out. All of them at some stage raged about the importance of the free press whilst promoting the worst contaminations of the free market. Amazon’s Bezos is slowly but surely wearing that cap. He was once described by the New York Times as “a brilliant but mysterious and cold-blooded corporate titan” – a description that could have been used to describe press barons throughout the twentieth century.

The word that follows Bezos wherever he goes is “disruption”. He is seen as the master of disruptive technologies that challenge and displace traditional businesses. Amazon has devasted the bookshop trade, forcing the culture of “browse and buy” into a cost-cutting machine. Publishers and authors now have next to no control over the price that books sell at and yet are forced to use Amazon as a sales platform since it now accounts for over 75% of total book sales. Even the dusty world of second-hand books, once the domain of doddering eccentrics and backstreet experts, has been taken over. Amazon is the owner of the e-commerce company Abe Books, the biggest trading platform for used books.

In 2013, Bezos literally became a press baron too when he acquired the Washington Post, one of the flagships of American publishing and the newspaper that famously forced President Nixon’s impeachment over the Watergate scandal. To his credit, Bezos has already shaken new life into the venerable newspaper, improving its digital availability, strengthening its 24-hour storytelling, and driving subscription revenues via the web. Despite hand-wringing anxieties, there has been no diminution of quality and if anything, the Post’s coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic has been world class. His stock was in the ascendancy as Murdoch’s worst days were paraded across prime-time television.

Bezos has had what callous analysts call a “good virus.” Against the backdrop of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, hundreds of millions of people around the world found themselves trapped at home by coronavirus lockdowns and so turned to online delivery to keep themselves fed and entertained. It was good news for Amazon.

His soaring personal fortune underlines a widening wealth gap in America. Recovering share prices have bolstered fortunes at the very moment that tens of millions of people have lost their jobs. Bezos himself was forced to back track a little after fielding thousands of complaints about ending what the American describe as “pandemic hazard pay” – literally the danger money paid as bonuses to front-line staff.

Retaliation is mounting. The idea of taxing the rich until they squeal is back in fashion. Oxfam has called for a windfall tax on huge profits made during the pandemic to help pay for recovery from coronavirus. Irit Tamir, director of Oxfam America’s Private Sector Department, claims that the leap in Bezos’s fortune exposes a wealth gap and inequalities that the Covid-19 pandemic has only exacerbated.

One of the most unlikely advocates of tougher taxation is filmmaker Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of the Walt Disney Corporation’s co-founder Roy Disney. She has launched a campaign that is refreshingly left-of-centre for the super-wealthy, arguing that the best way for the United States to fund its Covid-19 relief efforts is by taxing multimillionaires like herself.

Disney has convinced eighty other super wealthy figures and has gone to war with the cult of philanthropy where rich benefactors like Bezos and Bill Gates squirrel their wealth into trusts, protected from tax, in order to do good deeds around the world. In a letter sent to all the candidates running in the current Presidential campaign, Disney opened her arguments with an amazingly simple proposition – “America has a moral, ethical, and economic responsibility to tax our wealth more.”

Taxing the rich is a powerful but heretical thought, one that would never gain the support of Rupert Murdoch, or his newspapers. But maybe that no longer matters anymore; maybe the vice-like grip he held over democratic politics is over and democratic politics can decide.

His malign influence will not be missed.

The Rise of the Murdoch Dynasty (BBC2, Tuesdays, 9pm) is also available on iPlayer.