- For Big Media, truth is a scare commodity and in times
of war it's the first casualty, or as esteemed journalist John Pilger noted:
"Journalism (not truth) is the first casualty (of war). Not only that:
it('s)....a weapon of war (by its) virulent censorship....by omission (and
its) power....can mean....life and death for people in faraway countries,
such as Iraq."
- Famed journalist George Seldes put it another way by
condemning the "prostitution of the press" in an earlier era
when he covered WW I, the rise of fascism, and most major world and national
events until his death in 1995 at age 104. He also confronted the media
in books like "Lords of the Press." In it and others, he condemned
their corruption, suppression of the truth, and news censorship before
the television age, and said "The most sacred cow of the press is
the press itself, (and the press is) the most powerful force against the
general welfare of the majority of the people."
- Orwell also knew a thing or two about truth and said
telling it is a "revolutionary act in times of universal deceit."
Much else he said applies to the man this article addresses and the state
of today's media. He was at his allegorical best in "Animal Farm"
where power overwhelms freedom, and "All animals are equal but some....are
more equal than others." And he observed in "Nineteen Eighty-Four"
that "Those who control the present control the future (and) Those
who control the future control the past."
- Today's media barons control the world as opinion makers.
Like in Orwell's world, they're our national thought control police gatekeepers
sanitizing news so only the cleansed residue portion gets through with
everything people want most left out - the full truth all the time. They
manipulate our minds and beliefs, program our thoughts, divert our attention,
and effectively destroy the free marketplace of ideas essential to a healthy
democracy they won't tolerate.
- None more ruthlessly than Murdoch and the infoentertainment
empire he controls. Its flagship US operation is Fox News that Fairness
& Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) calls "the most biased name in
news....with its extraordinary right-wing tilt." In response, Murdock
defiantly "challenge(s) anybody to show me an example of bias in Fox
News Channel" because in his world the entire political spectrum begins
and ends with his views. For him and his staff, "fair and balanced,"
we report, you decide" means supporting the boss. Alternative views
are biased, verboten and rarely aired. But they're hammered when they are
as the "liberal" mainstream that's code language for CNN and
other rivals at a time all media giants match the worst of Fox and are
often as crude, confrontational and unprofessional.
- Distinguished Australian-raised journalist Bruce Page
wrote the book on Murdock called "The Murdock Archigelago." It's
about a man he calls "one of the world's leading villains (and) global
pirate(s)" who rampages the mediasphere putting world leaders on notice
what he expects from them and what he'll offer in return. It's "let's
make a deal," Murdock-style that's uncompromisingly hardball. Acquiesce
or get hammered in print and on-air with scathing innuendo, misinformation
and outright lies. Few politicians risk it. Others with alternative views
have no choice, and world leaders like Hugo Chavez are used to this type
- He mostly worries about the other kind and with good
reason as long-time Latin American expert James Petras reported November
28. Four days before a crucially important constitutional reform referendum,
he published an article headlined: "Venezuela's D-Day - The December
2, 2007 Constituent Referendum: Democratic Socialism or Imperial Counter-Revolution."
- In it, he reported that the Venezuelan government "broadcast
and circulated a confidential (US embassy) memo to the CIA" revealing
"clandestine operations....to destabilize (the referendum) and coordinate
the civil military overthrow of the elected Chavez government." It's
because independent polls predicted the referendum would pass even though
they proved wrong. The dominant media readied to pounce on the results
but instead went into gloat mode on a win Chavez called a "phyrric
victory" but Murdock headlines trumpeted "Chavez's president-for-life-bid
defeated." This is the type vintage copy Page covers with reams of
examples in his book.
- Its central theme is that the media baron wants to privatize
"a state propaganda service (and manipulate it) without scruple (or)
regard for the truth." In return he wants "vast government favors
such as tax breaks, regulatory relief, and monopoly" market control
free from competitors having too much of what he wants solely for himself
and apparently feels it's owed to him.
- Because of his size and media clout, he usually gets
his way and mostly in places mattering most - in the biggest markets with
greatest profit potential in a business where truth is off the table and
partnering with government for a growing revenue stream and greater influence
is all that counts.
- The Murdock Empire from Inception
- Murdock's empire is vast and is part of his News Corporation
that was incorporated in Australia in 1979 (Murdock's home). It was then
reincorporated in 2004 in the US in the corporate-friendly state of Delaware
with its headquarters in New York. The company was huge when media experts
Robert McChesney and Edward Herman wrote about it in their 1997 book, "The
Global Media Giants." Back then, it ranked fifth in size among the
giants (it's now third after Time Warner and Disney) with $10 billion in
1996 sales when the authors called the company "the archetype for
the twenty-first century media firm....and the best case study (example)
for understanding global media firm behavior."
- Gross revenue today tops $28 billion, operating income
is nearly $4.5 billion, the company has over 47,000 employees, it operates
on six continents, 75% of its business is in the US, and one industry analyst
told McChesney and Herman 10 years ago "Murdock seems to have Washington
in his back pocket" as he keeps getting favorable rulings to do what
he wants. And that was under Bill Clinton who signed the outrageous 1996
Telecommunications (giveaway) Act for Big Media and Big Telecom that let
them consolidate further through mergers and acquisitions and be able to
squash competition and diversity.
- In those days and earlier, Murdock aimed high to control
"multiple forms of programming - news, sports, films and children's
shows--and beam them via satellite or TV stations to homes (around the
world with) Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone (once saying) Murdock 'want(ed)
to conquer the world.' " Other media chiefs said he was doing it,
and he's "the one media executive they most respect and fear, and
the one whose moves they study."
- Murdock inherited his father's Australian News Limited
newspapers in 1952. He had no journalistic background but compensated by
cultivating political influence through favorable electoral coverage. He
became managing director of News Limited in 1953 and then took over running
Adelaide News in 1954. He founded News Corporation in 1979 but years earlier
concentrated on acquisitions and expansion to build his business. In 1964,
he launched Australia's first national daily, The Australian, later acquired
The Daily Telegraph in Sydney, and in the late 1960s entered the UK market
by snaring The News of the World. In 1950, it was the world's most popular
English language newspaper with a peak circulation of around 8.4 million.
It was about six million when Murdock got it in 1968.
- More acquisitions followed. They included The (London)
Times and The Sunday Times in 1981, and by the 1980s he was a dominant
force in the US. He bought the film studio, Twentieth Century Fox, that
launched Fox Television and now notorious Fox News.
- Today, the company is in everything media-related (except
music) and describes itself on its web site as "Creating and distributing
top-quality news, sports and entertainment around the world." That's
in the eye of the beholder where there's considerable disagreement with
the official company position. Nonetheless, the site lists a vast array
of News Corporation operations:
- -- Filmed entertainment: 20th Century Fox, 20th Century
Fox Espanol, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 20th Century Fox International,
20th Century Fox Television, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Fox Studios Australia,
Fox Studios Baja, Fox Studios LA, Fox Television Studios, and Blue Sky
- -- Television: Fox Broadcasting, Fox Sports Australia,
Fox Television Stations, FOXTEL, MyNeworkTV, STAR; and the newest entry,
Fox Business, to compete with CNBC and Bloomberg;
- -- Cable: Fox Business Network (just launched), Fox Movie
Channel, Fox News Channel, Fox Sports Channel, Fox College Sports, Fox
Sports Enterprises, Fox Sports En Espanol, Fox Sports Net, Fox Soccer Channel,
Fox Reality, Fuel TV, FX, National Geographic, Channel United States, Channel
Worldwide, Speed, and Stats, Inc.;
- -- Direct broadcast satellite television: BSkyB, DirectTV,
and Sky Italia;
- -- Magazines and Inserts: Big League, Inside Out, donna
hay, ALPHA, News America Marketing, Smart Source, The Weekly Standard,
and Gemstar - TV Guide International Inc.;
- -- Newspapers: 21 in "Australasia" including
the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, Herald Sun and Sunday Herald
Sun, Post-Currier, Sunday Mail, Sunday Times, The Australian, The Mercury,
and the Weekly Times; 6 in the UK including The Times, The Sunday Times,
The Sun, and News International; and two in the US - the New York Post
(the Columbia Journalism review calls "a force for evil") and
Wall Street Journal as of December 13 when News Corporation announced the
completion of its acquisition of Dow Jones & Company;
- -- Books: HarperCollins Publishers, Australia, Canada,
Children's Books, United States, United Kingdom, Zondervan;
- -- Other assets: 25 are listed including Broadsystem,
Fox Interactive Media, IGN Entertainment, FoxSports.com, Fox.com, News
Outdoor and others.
- News Corp. even claims to be addressing climate change,
says it's "committed" to "lowering the energy use of its
businesses" across the globe, will "switch to renewable sources
of power when economically feasible," and will "become carbon
neutral by 2010." True or false, it's likely the company does address
its energy consumption to cut costs as most other businesses also do, climate
change or not.
- Bruce Page picks up the story in "The Murdoch Archipelago"
published in 2003. Even while attacking the media baron, he says he and
others do some good. Murdock, for instance, "exposes numberless sexual
peccadilloes, and much lesser crime - but not dud military campaigns or
Enronesque frauds." He specializes in sensationalist pseudo-journalism
that distorts the truth on the news and loads it with juiced-up reports
on murder, mayhem, mishaps, celebrity gossip and soft porn. Page goes on
to say "the world would be better off without News Corp." and
before he ever bought it "There's certainly a good case that he should
not own The Wall Street Journal."
- Too late, now that the Bancroft family sold it to him
for the billions he offered and muscle he applied to get it like he always
does. They might have considered former Chicago columnist Mike Royko's
comment when he left the Sun-Times after Murdock bought it (and later sold
it Hollinger, Inc.'s fraud convicted Conrad Black). Moving to the Tribune,
he remarked "no self-respecting fish would (want to be) wrapped in
a Murdock paper....His goal is not quality journalism (it's) vast power,
political power." Murdock's own private joke also should have scared
them off that "God doesn't trust (him) in the dark." Nor should
anyone anywhere, anytime.
- Page's polemic traces Murdoch's history in his lengthy
book covering his rise from early beginnings to his unrivaled status in
today's media world. It's the story of power and a man who wields it ruthlessly
as a world class predator - with deception and chicanery, arrogance and
artfulness, charm and cunning and sheer muscle, will, intimidation, poisonous
influence and toadying to get his way as he generally does. Whatever Rupert
wants, Rupert gets, and nothing stands in his way. That goes for governments
and his editors as well as reporters in print and on-air. No one crosses
Murdoch. Anyone practicing real journalism gets dispatched elsewhere to
- Page explained from firsthand accounts that Murdock newsrooms
aren't fun places to work. He upbraids editors and interferes with their
work. Also, as explained above, he uses his operations for power play politics
to bend governments to his will. As his influence grows, so does the bending,
and along with it, fake journalism bearing no resemblance to the real kind.
It's a Murdock specialty by a world class pariah in a media world beset
with them, but Murdoch's the worst. He's bereft of ethics, an authoritarian
boss, and the book is full of examples of how he throws his weight around,
bullies people and prevails. It also expresses particular displeasure about
the way he cozied up to the Chinese in 1994 by removing BBC World News
(no media paragon, just classier than Murdock) from Satellite TV Asia Region
in return for special favors he got.
- Page also exposes Murdock's absurd claim to be an enemy
of the establishment, a populist, and battler for the common man. This
from someone raised in privilege, courts the powerful, represents entrenched
wealth, is now a billionaire, benefitted from nepotism, is passing his
empire to his children, smashes print unions, runs a "bordello of
papers" as the Sunday Times called it before he bought it, and has
easy access to Number 10, the White House and other seats of power.
- Page worries that media barons cause serious harm by
undermining democracy, and Murdoch's the worst of the bunch. He targets
the vulnerable, attacks disenfranchised minorities and bashes gays, Muslims,
innocent victims of war and oppression, and anyone getting in his way.
Page warns that unless we see his threat and confront it, all free societies
are at risk.
- Page also exposes the Murdock myth of an archetypical
entrepreneur whose "journalistic (and business) genius" got him
where he is. Nonsense about a man, like his father, who uses press power
for business favors to gain more power. Yet he audaciously told his biographer,
William Shawcross, to "Give me an example. When have we ever asked
for anything?" Page has reams of it exposing Murdoch's guile and mendacity
about wanting a "level (media) playing-field." Just the opposite.
He's obsessed with monopoly control and smashes competition for it.
- He also smashes editors who disobey him. One observer
called him unhinged, out of control and completely amoral while a former
Sunday Times editor, Andrew Neil, describes the "terrorism" Murdoch
spreads throughout his empire to get his way. Neil also wrote: "Rupert
expects his papers to stand broadly for what he believes - a combination
of right-wing Republicanism from America mixed with undiluted Thatcherism
- Murdoch's US Fox News Flagship
- Fox News smoothes the way for him as a round-the-clock
Bush administration commercial imitating real news. It debuted in 1996
and one of its on-air hosts explained the "Channel was launched (because)
something was wrong with news media....somewhere bias found its way into
reporting....Fox....is committed to being fair and balanced (covering)
stories everybody is reporting--and....stories....you will see only on
- Later, the Columbia Journalism Review had a different
view. It reported "several" former Fox employees "complained
of 'management sticking their fingers' in the writing and editing of stories
to cook the facts to make a story more palatable to right-of-center tastes."
One of them complained about never running into that before before while
FAIR reported "Fox's signature political news show, Special Report
with Brit Hume, was originally created as a daily one-hour update devoted
to the 1998 Clinton sex scandal." So much for "fair and balanced"
- This type attack never happens to a Republican and hasn't
for Fox's presidential favorite, Rudy Giuliani, who was sinking fast, fared
poorly in early primaries and now has withdrawn from the race. Nonetheless,
his leadership failures and marital transgressions were ignored, and so
were his ties to friend, business partner and former New York City Police
Commissioner, Bernard Kerik. He was indicted on 16 counts of federal corruption,
including bribery, conspiracy, tax fraud, and lying on his federal disclosure
forms for not reporting a $250,000 "loan" (a likely payoff) from
an Israeli billionaire that may have been sent to him for Giuliani for
- An added twist is that a former Kerik lover, Judith Regan,
sued Murdock's News Corp. and accused the company of pressuring her to
commit perjury to protect Giuliani's presidential hopes. Fox News won't
explain or cover it, but it daily airs preferential bias for Giuliani in
its slanted reporting. It's a blatant example of unethical coverage to
manipulate news for its own purpose.
- FAIR also blasted one of Hume"s regular features
- "The Political Grapevine" that's billed as "the most scintillating
two minutes in television" as a sort of right-wing "hot-sheet."
It features anchor Hume "reading off a series of gossipy items culled
from other (generally) right-wing" sources. It's not subtle and is
blatantly partisan calling Democrats, environmentalists, the liberal media,
civil rights groups, anti-war activists and Hollywood and other liberals
"villians" while Republicans are good guys or "heros who
can do no wrong." When critics jump on Fox, it hits back claiming
a responsibility to correct the "liberal media's bias" with Bill
O'Reilly saying Fox "gives voice to people who can't get on other
networks." What it does, of course, is slant the news its way to please
the boss, and that means a distorted hard-right point of view only.
- It also means the more people watch it, the less informed
they are as News Dissector Danny Schechter explained about all TV news
in his candid insider's book "The More You Watch, The Less You Know."
That doesn't bother Murdock who spends millions for lobbying and hundreds
of thousands more for political contributions - mostly to Republicans but
also to friendly Democrats to buy and keep his growing influence. It pays
off with senators like Trent Lott once telling the Washington Post: "If
it hadn't been for Fox, I don't know what I'd have done for the news."
He means a right-wing echo chamber pretending to be unbiased.
- Long-time Republican operative Roger Ailes runs it for
Murdock with FAIR once quoting former senior Bush aide Lee Atwater saying
he operates on "two speeds - attack and destroy." He also called
Clinton a "hippie president," refers to liberals as "bigots,"
and assures all on-air programming conforms to his views. Only Republicans
get hired to air them and those screened for jobs are asked to be sure.
- As for punditry and political debate, here's how FAIR
characterizes it: on shows like Hannity & Colmes, The O'Reilly Factor
and The Beltway Boys it's like watching "a Harlem Globetrotters game
(knowing) which side is supposed to win." Or maybe pro wrestling.
The discussion is so lopsided, it's impossible hiding Fox's partisanship,
and it shows with on-air hosts like Tony Snow endorsing Republican Bob
Dole for President in 1996 and then seamlessly becoming White House press
secretary from May, 2006 to September, 2007. Other Fox "journalists"
are as bad and collect handsome fees addressing Republican gatherings and
corporate interest groups with big name ones like O'Reilly reportedly charging
$50,000 per engagement on the lecture circuit delivering red meat to audiences
that love it.
- So do hard core Fox viewers who swallow the channel's
pro-Bush, pro-war, pro-occupation America uber alles type journalism combined
with juiced-up infotainment reports imitating real news. It makes it hard
knowing where one ends and the other begins. In the mainstream, much of
it is the same, and all of it defiles what journalism should do -
- -- be the principle source of political information to
create an informed citizenry Jefferson said was "the bulwark of a
- -- provide a wide range of opinion and analysis of all
key issues affecting everyone;
- -- hold governments accountable to the public interest
and not just the privileged elite part of it; and generally
- -- "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."
- Murdock and the rest of the dominant media fail the test.
Their concentrated power blunt democracy by destroying its essential free
marketplace of ideas. Today, social control substitutes for diversity,
free expression, and an informed electorate; pro-business ideology trumps
the greater good; and the single-minded pursuit of profit triumphs over
beneficial social change. Combatting it means confronting the media barons
who are as determined as Murdoch to squash us.
- Organizations like Free Press are doing it. It's a "national
nonpartisan organization working to increase informed public participation
in crucial media policy debates." It aims to "generate policies
that will produce a more competitive and public interest-oriented media
system with a strong nonprofit and noncommercial sector" promoting
greater diversity. The more democratic our media, the more accountable
government will be to public concerns. Free Press focuses on four broad
areas to help: "media ownership" for greater competition and
diversity; "independent and public media" free from the single-minded
pursuit of profit; "internet freedom" from corporate control;
and "media reform" of a corrupted system aided by government
that must end.
- To happen, public participation is essential, and for
that organizations like Free Press are crucial. Corporate media control
is the core issue of our time along with overall corporate dominance with
governments as their handmaiden. Democracy and a free society are impossible
unless that changes. It's we the people vs. the Murdochs of the world,
and we've only just begun fighting back.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.