Last night in my creative writing class we were talking about the importance of image in creative writing. They’re crucial. A potent image, concisely expressed can say so much about place and time and character. It can point the reader to emotions and to themes. It can tantalise and it can satisfy. We discussed the images of Rebecca Brookes we’ve seen in the last ten days - from the pale dappled beauty in a sunhat, to the harassed middled aged woman in a badly fitting shirt.
It would be easy to believe the image was everything. But it isn’t. No matter how dazzling the imagery, if the emotional or conceptual heart of a poem is flawed it won’t work. If the characters and plot aren’t convincing a novel won’t work despite the most brilliant of imagery.
It’s easy to make the same mistake in life too. We can become dazzled by the image and forget the substance. We can judge a person on first impression and not bother to go forward. We can fret with how others see us. But our sense of self has to come from within – from our values, our emotions, from authentic experience. The mirror others hold is a warped fairground mirror. It will always somehow distort. So to rely on it, or to try and manipulate it is a road to unhappiness or even madness.
Rupert Murdoch has made News Corp in his image. And if he had any affection for Rebecca Brookes, beyond dangling the effigy of a witch out of his bunker to draw the fire away from his own family, it is perhaps that she was one of the people most likely to keep News Corp going in his image, thus guaranteeing him a kind of immortality.
Murdoch is easy to hate. But he has acted to type. He has no duty to the public, unlike the other characters in this morality play. It’s no use blaming the fox for eating chickens. He’s doing what foxes do. The farmer needs to take responsibility for putting lots of chickens in the way of the fox.
If Murdoch has had unparalleled power it is because others have given it to him – all those who loved a bit of sleaze with their tittle-tattle to be sure, but more directly and more potently those who do have public duty – the police and politicians.
They have done so because they are obsessed with image. Neither of the two political parties, nor the Metropolitan police have had the courage to say “you will know us by our works”. They compulsively (even convulsively) try to manipulate the public’s image of them. Manufacturing that image has become the biggest part of what they do. We’ve watched them. We’ve watched the Met worm its way out of wrong-doing and bad decisions, rather than change things. We’ve watched politicians abandon their principles to curry favour with the press.
The person holding up the biggest and most distorted mirror has been Rupert Murdoch. Politicians and public servants have given him power because they have been obsessed with trying to manipulate that image, instead of giving service. That’s the reason for the garden parties, the lucrative contracts to ex-News International men. They’ve cared about image more than their values and more than the truth.
In short, they're institutionally narcissistic.