Michael Wolff on MySpace and Why Rupert Murdoch Loves ‘Cretins’

So Michael Wolff’s long-awaited bio of Rupert Murdoch, The Man Who Owns The News, hit shelves yesterday. Portfolio has a round-up reactions (the Times did not love). Over at BusinessWeek Jon Fine says that “Wolff’s Murdoch mumbles, dissembles, has cultural sensibilities predating Elvis Presley if not Rudy Vallee.” Fine separately posted some of his conversation with Wolff, in which they argue about the viability of News Corp-owned MySpace. Apparently they are scared of Facebook! (Also, who knew sex chat rooms were the secret of AOL’s success!)

Michael Wolff: MySpace. They [meaning News Corp] know they have a huge problem. They’re quaking in their boots about MySpace. It always was a little rustling when I was there, there was this rustling.

Jon Fine: What do you identify as the problem?

MW: Facebook.


JF: [unsuccessfully stifling laughter] I don’t mean to get all Murdoch’s-kids on you [an obscure reference to an earlier part of the conversation], but if you are in a band, you are on MySpace. You have to be on MySpace. That’s a powerful driver. And second of all– if I am to accept your reasoning, even though I don’t–as the success of [News Corp’s British tabloid] The Sun will tell you, there are lot of cretins out there and you can make a lot of money off cretins. By appealing to their essential–

MW: No! That is the difference. And that is one of the interesting points of Murdoch. He wants to make money off of what he rightly saw as a rising lower class. He came to this country and he sees, that’s just not really true. No one really identifies with being lower class [in the US]. As soon as it comes to you — ‘I am lower class’ — you run, and you have to rehabilitate all of your aspirational identifiers.

JF: [mentally substituting ‘working’ for ‘lower,’ and flashing on this and this, for starters] Whatever. Evidently I’m not gonna convince you, even though you’re wrong. Anyway, MySpace is a sideshow. You barely mention it in the book. Which I kind of like.

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