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A Streetcar Named Rupert Murdoch

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Big news in the world of Rupert Murdoch and the Dow Jones: at long last, it looks like the Bancrofts are going to finally going to get a room with Murdoch, and have a discussion about selling the Dow and the Wall Street Journal.

It's somehow fitting that this is all playing out as the summer starts to heat up, because there's always been something so Tennessee Williams-esque about the whole back-and-forth between the two parties. Part of it has been watching these two worlds slowly collide. Part of it has been the way one set of values has slowly succumbed to another, competing set. And from jump, there's been something downright seamy about the whole thing--the Bancrofts have been largely cast as innocent, virginal idealists who are all: "Ahh dee-clayuh! We ain't never had much experience" in dealing with Murdoch's brand of vulpine seduction.

That's basically what Williams' dramatic oeuvre has been about: brash, untamed outsiders invading the domain of hidebound patricians, cutthroat modernity having its way with outmoded politeness. And, for a long while, nothing much seems to happen. There's plenty of sweat and fuss, heaving chests and passionate brayings, and everything seems gauzy and languid. It's only after everything is well past the point of no return that you realize that the seducer has gradually and systematically worn down the seducee's defenses. To borrow a joke from Chris Durang, a year from now, we'll look back on this curious tete-a-tete and we'll be unable to discern if the whole thing was a "trick of memory, or the memory of some trick."

The New York Times is calling the Bancroft's decision to sit down with Murdoch a "remarkable about-face," but let's face it, the Bancroft family never really closed the door on Murdoch after rejecting his initial offer. And while that door was ajar, here's what happened--the Dow's value rose from $36 a share to yesterday's close of $53.31 (and then, it "rose as high as $59.79 in after-hours trading.") Beneath the battle of platitudes that's played itself out in the press, the Dow's share value is really the only metric worth watching.

Now, it looks likely that Murdoch is going to have a chance to stage his whole Gentleman Caller act: gain an entree to the Bancroft family domain, praise their lovely collection of glass unicorns, utter a bunch of shallow banalities about big business and editorial independence, and then size up whether it's worth closing the deal with the crippled girl.

And, in the end, maybe it won't be worth it. But Murdoch's effectively driving the wagon, now, and, more and more, his ending up with the Dow and the Journal is looking like an inevitability. News of the Bancrofts' decision to meet with Murdoch won't be welcomed by Murdoch's army of detractors — the Dow Jones union today called for the Bancroft family to guard the delicate flower of their maidenhead against Rupe's advances, and the family has stated that they would continue to "consider other bidders and options for the company." But, as of this writing, no white knight alternate purchaser has expressed an interest in defending the Dow's honor.

And, sorry, but that's what you get when you're always depending on the kindness of strangers.