Rupert Murdoch avoids therapy; world unhappy

There’s nothing very strange in the fact that Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng had an unhappy marriage.

There were plenty of very unusual things about their life together – Tony Blair dropping by in his jet, the multi-billion fortune, the age-gap and Wendi’s prowess as an amateur body-guard.

But it is not strange that she yelled at him a lot, was interested in other men, and apparently once shoved him against a piano. Such things are – in one version or another – the common lot of most marriages.

It was Rupert’s third marriage. Domestic frustration and unhappiness were hardly a surprise. She’d seen plenty of heartache and rows too. Part of the reason why we know about the troubles in the marriages of others is that Murdoch’s media outlets have made of thing of digging out the agonising details and telling the world about strangers’ marital woes.

Over the years, Rupert Murdoch has made a huge commercial success by meeting a completely natural desire – we like prying into other people’s lives. We’ve paid for his yacht with our curiosity.

However, the problem isn’t paying attention to the troubles of the human condition. The problem is not bothering to do anything interesting with what you find out. For all his vast intelligence-gathering machine, Murdoch has never himself tried to learn from the suffering of others; and he hasn’t tried to help us, the public, learn anything either.

His UK paper, The Sun, for instance, particularly admires vengeance in lovers. Sally Bercow, the wife of the Speaker of the House of Commons, seems to be going off the rails. Murdoch’s Sun brings us more details: A Girl clubber told yesterday how she tried to dance with the hunk who snogged Sally Bercow

The pseudo-sophisticated response is to lament interest in these things. However, the problem isn’t that we are curious. It’s what we do next that matters.

Since troubled marriages are so normal, the task is to get wiser and better at coping. We need a more therapeutic culture that is alive to what goes wrong and studies it for the sake of learning what might help. It’s not sleaze when Shakespeare takes us into the the bust up between Anthony and Cleopatra. It’s not just prying when Flaubert tells us all about Emma Bovary’s infidelities. Shakespeare and Flaubert want to help us understand our pains and seek out less catastrophic scenarios for our own lives.

Gold-digger Emma Bovary cheats on husband – news as therapy

The news doesn’t have to be so different, just because the stories are happening right now or involve actual people rather than fictional characters.

Murdoch’s media has been creating the backdrop to our lives, and it’s not a helpful one. Indeed, by a rich irony, the troubles in his marriage can be traced back to aspects of the world he helped to create. His media always downplays the psychological complexity of existence. In his vision, real life is financial. This is what men and women care about – with a side glance at technology. There’s a relentless focus on money and status. And that’s exactly what Wendy wanted and got. She was agitated from a young age by a desire to be extremely rich and to have all the luxuries of modernity. She thought of this as a genuine route to happiness. Hence the poignancy of the misery with the yacht, the shouting in the penthouse, the screaming in the LA ranch.

Murdoch’s press has always had a huge emphasis on sex; it knows that exciting libido is good for business. The problem is that seeking to be perfectly happy around sex (to always get what we want in the bedroom) is a sure route to not getting an OK marriage. Wendy Deng got very excited by a variety of men: Eric Schmidt of Google, perhaps Tony Blair and perhaps many others. The rational trade off – that she married an older man and might have to be companionate rather than sexual with him – wasn’t really an option for her, given the intellectual background partly created by News International.

Murdoch has been overwhelmingly rewarded, economically, for promoting an ignorance of how to lead one’s life in many areas. One hopes, in the future, that great fortunes can be made from people who sell us the tools to have really good, rounded lives.