Rupert Murdoch addressed the students and faculty of Georgetown University this afternoon, explaining the "creative destruction" wrought upon the news and entertainment industries by changing technology. Murdoch cast himself as a relentless competitor, which he is, who has taken on entrenched monopolies and oligopolies around the world, which is also true. (FishbowlDC's Patrick W. Gavin live-blogged the event.)
As speeches go, it neither electrified the crowd nor induced itchy posterior syndrome. Murdoch got off a couple of good jokes about the similarities between the Jesuits, who founded Georgetown, and his company, News Corp.
"The Jesuits and News Corp. attract highly talented people from all over the world. The Jesuits and News Corp. like to challenge the status quo. And both the Jesuits and News Corp. have a reputation of independence and innovation. Of course, there are some differences. I don't want to discourage anyone from considering the priesthood, but I will tell you that at News Corp. we don't insist on vows of poverty or chastity," Murdoch said. "And as chief executive, I can tell you I'm not sure about the degree of obedience, either."
The rotten old bastard did his best work while taking questions from the crowd after his 20-minute set, answering candidly about his ambitions to buy Newsday (it would make a good business fit with his struggling New York Post), why he won't be buying Yahoo (he says he doesn't have as much money as Microsoft's Mr. Gates), and press bias (he thinks a thousand points of view should bloom, or something like that).
He miscued, however, at a couple of junctures. While talking about political bias and the news, he said:
The Washington Post [company] has a site called Slate, and the guy who runs that calls me the Antichrist.
Jacob Weisberg, the guy who runs Slate, has never called Murdoch the Antichrist, according to Nexis. Nor have I. Perhaps he was confusing Weisberg with the guy who runs the New York Times? A September 2007 Vanity Fairpiece by Michael Wolff reported that Times Executive Editor Bill Keller once "angrily confronted" Murdoch lieutenant Gary Ginsberg and said, "How can you work for the Antichrist?"
Keller says he didn't "confront" the Murdoch employee, whom he had known for a while. And he wasn't angry.
"I greeted Gary, smilingly, with something like, 'So I gather you've gone to work for the Antichrist.' It was a joke," Keller writes via e-mail. "Maybe it's true, as someone said, that there's no such thing as a joke. But it was a joke."
The only question to derail Murdoch was a politely worded query from a Chinese student who wanted to know what steps News Corp. would take to support freedom of speech, human rights, and democracy in China.
"I'd better be careful answering this—I always get into trouble when talking about China," Murdoch said to many laughs. "Especially from my Chinese wife."