There is an embarrassingly elementary fallacy that undermines so much otherwise learned analysis of the so-called War on Terror, American/Muslim relations, and international affairs in general: Observers ignore the many powerful class interests that are shared among elites around the world regardless of which side they inhabit of cultural, political, religious or geopolitical fault lines. Few journalists peddling the Clash of Civilizations worldview bother to explore how, thanks to similar relationships between them and with their surrounding societies, the wealthy the world over tend to display remarkably similar core values and priorities.
In short, money trumps ideology, culture, religion, language, politics, and so on. A factory owner in Karachi tends to have the same underlying priorities as a factory owner in Boston or Bombay (and the latter even in time of war) than with his neighbor. With a few honorable exceptions, rich people are basically Republicans, even if they consider themselves Democrats, Islamists, or Marxists. That’s not a slur–it’s an immutable law of nature.
This is an insight that’s been basic to Marxian social analysis for a long time, which is presumably why the most stimulating and innovative social theorists tend to be some variety of Marxist or ex-Marxist (in fact, modern Sociology would not exist were it not for Karl Marx, hate him or love him).
One sees examples both mundane and dramatic of this all the time, but I think the recent news that Saudi Prince Waleed ibn Talal is ready to declare jihad to protect Rupert Murdoch from a hostile takeover bid of Fox News takes the cake.
In an interview on CNBC Tuesday, Alwaleed said he has communicated his strategy to Murdoch and was "mobilized and ready" to further boost his voting stake "if we feel that the strategy of Mr. Murdoch and his son and his family is being threatened by any outsider." He added: "Clearly, this is something we will not accept, because we are very happy as shareholders with what Mr. Murdoch is doing."
Now, perhaps there is more to this, but it’s hard not to raise your eyebrows at the sight of a prominent, powerful and widely considered enlightened Muslim leader (and a Saudi one, to boot) praising the work of the architect of the rise of one of the most irresponsible and anti-Muslim forces in the American and international media.
To the average Muslim, Arab, activist, or generally peacefully inclined individual, I should think that almost any change in Fox’s leadership would seem a good thing. To the rest of us, Fox sure isn’t doing a bang-up job or improving the "bottom line". Quite the contrary, for most of the millions of Arabs and Muslims for whom the Western media would assume Prince Waleed to be a spokeman, Fox under Murdoch has been an abysmal performer whose dividends have been increased war, prejudice and sensationalism.
Now, my guess is that Mr. Malone (the robber baron from whom Prince Waleed is chivalrously defending robber baron Murdoch) is at least reasonably competent and unlikely to bankrupt Fox, so what is the prince so concerned about Malone changing? What about Murdoch’s vision is so valuable that he must remain at the helm at all costs, I wonder?
The answer is so simple that it seems cliched. This is about money. It’s also about a host of of incredibly rarefied considerations from a plane of reality that most of us will never glimpse, much less enjoy. People inhabiting that realm have the same interests and priorities, regardless of where they live, what language they speak, or what god they worship.
This lesson applies to more than just the Davos-going captains of industry. While I think globalization causes this phenomenon to be most marked among the extremely wealthy–Bill Gates and the Sultan of Brunei probably subscribe to the same yachting magazines and bump into each other at the same soirees on the French Riviera–it undoubtedly applies to all strata of society to one degree or another.
Note: Thanks to the Moderate Independent for pointing out the irony of this alliance.