There are three reasons to forgive media magnate Rupert Murdoch. You may, of course, choose none if you wish, but they are:
1. You're a sincere Christian who prays daily, or at least weekly, to be forgiven your trespasses as you forgive those who trespass against you.
2. Despite his media empire's cruel exploitation of almost everyone, you just can't stay mad at a guy who still believed in newspapers when everyone else was selling out.
3. You recognize his role in rescuing metaphysics from the near-mortal wounds inflicted by Heidegger, Wittgenstein, and their predatory post-modern imitators.
Number one is taken as read. Number two obviously depends on an individual balancing of nostalgia, history, and currency. Number three might require some explanation.
As the normally cranky Globe and Mail TV critic John Doyle has pointed out, those now blaming Murdoch for everything but the continued existence of the French conveniently forget his enormous global cultural impact.
What Murdoch recognized more than 40 years ago, Doyle notes, was the money to be made, the power to be gained, and the culture to be shifted by the "radical realignment" of elitist attitudes through the force of working class appeal.
Out of that process of realignment came an artifact of sheer genius that has endured, with periodic gravitational wobbles as afflicts all genius, since 1989. Yes, of course, I am talking about The Simpsons. No Murdoch, no Fox, no Simpsons. QED.
It can be argued, with surface merit, that The Simpsons merely tracked the culture rather than re-shaped it. I had a journalism student once who wrote a brilliant and haunting column about laughing as young child at the antics of the funny blue and yellow family on his TV screen, then recognizing a decade later that his own divorcing parents had become the dysfunction the family watched every Sunday night.
The short retort to such an argument, however, is Heisenberg. The Uncertainty Principle binds us to the fact that we cannot observe without altering. As with elementary particles, while we were watching The Simpsons, they were altering our cultural arc. They were moving us from cultural self-consciousness to cultural awareness to the deep cultural truths that only the sharpest mirrors can expose.
Truth, by definition, can be approached only through the observations gleaned from the questions the metaphysical poses to the physical. Nowhere in the past century has there been a more piquant such observation than from Homer's mouth when Marge warns him that he will live to regret not spending more time with Bart, Lisa, and Maggie.
"That's a problem for future Homer," Homer says. "Man, I don't envy that guy."
As if giving the finishing touch to a perfect argument, he then fills a mayonnaise jar with vodka, chugs it down, and falls over.
Homer's self-embodied moral lampoon of our age of obliviousness is self-evident to the point of being too easy. What should really capture us is his ironic critique, pre-collapse, of our 21st-century indulgence in the denial of Being. We instantly recognize, when he utters it as a metaphysical assertion, the folly of believing we can be divided, ontologically, into the self-created identities of our past, present, and future selves. We know there is a true and indivisible "us" that can never be transformed into some other, unenviable "that guy" as fate demands.
Yet ever since the "death of metaphysics" we have conducted ourselves exactly to the contrary as a culture and as people. We act as though the "us" that will ultimately be judged won't really be us at all.
Someone who would know something about that would be Rupert Murdoch. He may well have entertained the passing thought that "future Rupert" would someday have to account for the cruel exploitation inflicted on almost everyone by his media empire. Yet there he was, the same man yesterday, today, and tomorrow, seeking forgiveness, albeit truculently, from British parliamentarians for his misdeeds.
Should he be forgiven? Personally I don't need to go past number one above. But if I did, I'd vote that bringing back metaphysics through the mouth of Homer Simpson is pretty fair atonement.