On the front page of its Style section, Monday's Washington Post highlighted PR combat between two right-leaning media tycoons -- Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch and Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. Both are mired in scandal, which might explain the Post's inside headline: "How do you say 'schadenfraude' in Italian?" They might be speaking for Berlusconi enjoying Murdoch's troubles, but it better explains the liberal media's loathing for both figures.
Reporter Jason Horowitz trotted out the usual expert on the duo, Italian professor Fabrizio Perretti, a former fellow at Harvard, who proclaimed the amazingly silly media line that Murdoch has endangered his own business empire by favoring one party too closely -- as if the Washington Post has never done anything of the sort with the Democrats:
“As a media tycoon, you have to be involved in politics,” said Fabrizio Perretti, a professor at Bocconi University in Milan who studies the Italian media industry. “But when you are too close and favor one party, as Murdoch has done, or enter politics yourself, as Berlusconi has, at that point you risk losing all the things you had before.”
The Horowitz piece was headlined "Clash of the media tycoons," and the reporter highlighted how Berlusconi enjoyed painting Murdoch as too elderly and infirm to manage the family business as the Parliament hearing with the Murdochs unfolded:
“He was touched,” said Fedele Confalonieri, Mediaset’s president, who is Berlusconi’s oldest friend. He and Berlusconi talked about how Murdoch “was changed. He looked older, less hair, and also he had some difficulties in hearing.” During an interview in the 19th-century corporate headquarters of Berlusconi’s media empire here, Confalonieri likened Murdoch to King Lear, then waxed philosophical, saying, “The humiliation of a mighty person is always something that touches you.”
Confalonieri asserts that Murdoch and Berlusconi are “good fellows,” but there may be other motives for the Italians’ expressions of compassion. Berlusconi and his generals have a vested interest in depicting Murdoch as a has-been who, as Confalonieri put it, has been “weakened from the point of view of morality” by a scandal that has revealed his “true nature” as “aggressive,” “not honest” and, if the accusations against his company are true, “shameful.”
Don't think the Washington Post minded promoting this spin.