Murdoch, Machiavelli and Measure for Measure

By July 8, 2011Business

It is a brilliant move, shutting down the News of the World, regardless of the whys and wherefores.

Here’s what Machiavelli had to say on the subject (with apologies to the purists for the Il Principe mashup): ‘One of the most powerful safeguards a prince can have against conspiracies is to avoid being hated by the populace. … The common people are always impressed by appearances and results. … If he finds that anyone for some reason holds the truth back he must show his wrath. … By making an example or two he will prove more compassionate than those who, being too compassionate, allow disorders which lead to murder and rapine.’ A textbook manoeuvre, Rupert. The RSC is about to go into rehearsal for Measure for Measure and, for those of you who don’t know the play, it’s also brilliantly relevant to this current saga, albeit seemingly in reverse. The Plot. A Duke leaves a seedy Vienna to be restored to moral health in his absence by his trusty lieutenant, Angelo. Angelo finds a convenient victim, in pursuance of Machiavelli’s advice about examples, and condemns him to death for pre-marital sex. The victim’s sister, about to enter the novitiate, pleads for him, but Angelo will only relent if she gives him her virginity in exchange. There ensues much gnashing of teeth in a Shakespearian vein, and a bed trick and a head trick, before the Duke sweeps back in to reap the benefits of his crafty ploy. Viz: a populace who have had a bit of a shock and will probably smarten up, a discredited lieutenant who can now be no threat to the Duke’s authority, an unsullied reputation for being a nice guy, and the unblemished nun, whom he marries. The cost to him? Zero. Nice one. And Murdoch? Decisive leadership. Showy sacrifice. Competitors running scared. And Machiavelli might have had this to say about the imperilled BSkyB bid: ‘Many believe that when he has the chance an able prince should cunningly foster some opposition to himself so that by overcoming it he can enhance his own stature.’ Rupert Murdoch, KSG. A Roman Catholic Knighthood whose order has this motto: Pro Deo et Principe (For God and Prince). The same Roman Catholics who banned Machiavelli’s most interesting primer…

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