One of my media students refers to Rupert Murdoch as a human jerky because his leathery, lined skin looks like a strip of dried beef.
But looks matter little when it comes to Mr Murdoch and a new book called Hack Attack by Nick Davies, the journalist who exposed the phone hacking scandal in the UK, shows just how powerful the media mogul really is.
Davies’ book is due for release later this week and in it he analyses the 2009 wedding of Rebecca Brooks as an example of Murdoch’s power. The wedding attracted politicians from both the Conservative and Labour parties because Brooks was Murdoch’s right hand woman and thus an integral part of the News Corp empire.
Brooks, former chief executive of News International and previous editor of News of The World, the hub of phone hacking journalists, was recently acquitted for her alleged role in the scandal.
Brooks is a warrior woman but not in the Boadicea tradition. Instead, she is the red-headed sorceress from Game of Thrones who swiftly dispatches Stannis Baratheon’s rival for the throne.
If the French aristocracy still existed then Brooks would be a courtesan. She is the Madam Pompadour to Murdoch’s King Louis XV. Courtesans were clever women who juggled for position in the King’s inner circle. Not all courtesans were equally talented but those with the right combination of wit, intelligence and charm received prestige, power and the King’s protection.
The worst traits of courtiers and courtesans were deceit, self-interest and a penchant for gossip that maliciously destroyed opponents. These people thrived in the the corrupt inner circle of the ruling elite. The Court was no place for the sensitive and empathic.
The courtiers and courtesans of a previous era now manifest as the politicians and newspaper editors who fawn around the powerful media baron. They exist merely to serve the powerful despite the cost to everyone else.
Rebecca Brooks rose from humble middle class origins to become the trusted aide of one of the most powerful men on the planet.
The courtesan and the human jerky is a contemporary fairy tale but there are no happy endings here.