Happy Bastille Day: Murdoch, the Sun King, Faces Media Revolution

Retweet after me: "Vive la Revolution!"

By , Columnist

Today's July 14 national holiday in France celebrates the day in 1789 when the French stormed the Bastille and ended the ancien régime by forcing the French king, Louis XVI, to flee his throne in Paris and seek safety in Versailles.

Today, the British Parliament stormed Fortress Murdoch by summoning its King, who had previously declined, to appear before the judge-led inquiry into the phone hacking scandal. The Media Revolution has begun.

Murdoch may not be vain enough for a wig (Rupes, don't rule it out; your Photoshopped self as Louis XVI is...well..not exactly handsome, but certainly less reptilian), but he would be well advised to learn some lessons from a King who lost his by the blade of the guillotine when he refused to accept the will of the people.

In 1789, the French were suffering as a result of a prolonged financial crisis, with rising food prices and a war-weary, near-bankrupt economy. Sound familiar? Louis XVI had failed to follow in his great-grandfather's (Louis XIV, known as the Sun King by his subjects who adored him) footsteps and had found himself out of touch and indifferent to the real world around him.

For too long Murdoch has ignored the increasingly sophisticated tastes of the Internet-savvy public and has instead continued with the tabloid response of 'Let them read lies!' Now the world has turned on him; he has withdrawn his takeover bid for UK broadcasting company BSkyB. His cross-media stranglehold reign over a dumbed down media is over.

Although the turnaround seems as sudden as the mob which sprung into action to take the Bastille, the building blocks of the media revolution have been laid for some time. For decades, politicians, celebrities, and ordinary people have been storing the indignities and insults they have suffered at the hands of News Corp. in an armory of revenge. Now they have taken the chance to draw their weapons.

Like the period of intellectual enlightenment which preceded the French revolution, the Internet provides a global coffeehouse or salon in which ordinary people are able to comment on and even shape the news. The credibility of any news story now has to stand up to the Twitter test'. It is simply harder to pull the wool over everybody's eyes. Murdoch failed to grasp the resulting social and political shifts and as a result will lose his media crown.

Before we all anoint ourselves the new media victors, however, the French revolution has some lessons for us, too. The void left when Louis XVI lost his head was filled with something far more sinister to the ordinary person than an out of touch oligarch - the Reign of Terror. The ruling, liberal elite who took over the reins of the French republic turned out to be a blood-thirsty dictatorship, far worse than the monarchy which had preceded it, which guillotined its way through tens of thousands of heads.

Fears over what will fill the News Corp void are beginning to grow. Will bloggers, who can hide behind their computer screens, turn the news into a sniper's bloodbath? Can online journalists keep their facts tight and sources squeaky clean? In an environment where traffic anoints those who rule the Web Republic, will political/investigative articles on the web ever be able to compete with the current ruler of hits - celebrity news and gossip?

Either way, it is too late for King Rupert. He can wear all the wigs and drink all the coffee he wants, his fortress has suffered a fatal blow on Bastille Day at the hands of the media revolution and it will never again reign over the world's news.

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Victoria Robertson is a freelance current affairs columnist and founder of thecolumnista.com. With her back foot firmly planted in some commonsense and a lively swing of the bat, she knocks today's big news stories straight out of the park.

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