That many on the left should harbour mortal animosity towards Murdoch is perfectly understandable, given Murdoch's role in attacking the working class, both in the media and in actuality, over the last few decades. But the problem is that this hatred is now being recuperated by left-liberals in defence of the status quo. For campaigning MPs like Labour's Tom Watson, the humbling of Murdoch and his political supporters represents a victory for the forces of democracy and transparency over the corrupt networks of power represented by News International and its political allies. It also, we are assured, demonstrates the adamantine impartiality of the British state. As Timothy Garton Ash enthuses in today's Guardian: 'Imagine a fiercely independent judicial enquiry, a cross-party parliamentary committee and a largely free press all investigating the Bo Xilai case in Beijing'.
It is indeed a heartening narrative if you believe it. Unfortunately, however, the story of Murdoch's fall from grace attests less to the marvels of British freedom and democracy than to the ability of the state to discipline elements that fall out of step with its agendas. Let's be clear about what happened last year: a dominant faction of the British establishment, clustered around the figures of Gordon Brown and Vince Cable, had grown increasingly anxious about News Corporation's market share and the organisation's pro-US politics - and went gunning for Murdoch. They finally brought down their prey on the eve of News Corp's bid for BSkyB. Ever since then, parliament, the judiciary and the press - far from exercising their independence, as Garton Ash maintains - have largely fallen into line with the Murdoch-bashing consensus.
In short, the humiliation of Murdoch was a classic take-down in which all of the apparatuses of state played their part. And the beauty of it all - from the ruling class's perspective, at least - is that, as in the case of Watergate forty years ago, a state-orchestrated campaign to discredit a political faction has been presented to the public as a moral crusade that demonstrates the virtues of a 'free press' and a democratic, self-regulating state.
None of this, of course, is to defend the Murdochs or their newspapers, as a few rogue Conservative Party politicians, such as Louise Mensch, and some journalists working for the Murdoch press, like David Aaronovitch, have been trying to do (as a cheerleader of the Iraq invasion, Aaronovitch has something of a history of defending the indefensible). But we should not confuse the state's battles against its enemies with our own struggle for a free, classless society and a genuinely democratic media.