Friday, 1 March 2013

The Murdoch conspiracy

Murdoch’s Politics
By David McKnight
Pluto Press
Pbck. £12.99

Julius Streicher was the founder and publisher of the nazi newspaper Der Sturmer, which became a central feature of the Nazi propaganda machine. This book prises open the iron doors of secrecy surrounding Murdoch and his empire to chillingly remind us of how his role so closely resembles that of Streicher, but done more subtly.
Those who automatically pooh-pooh conspiracy theories will be seriously disabused by this book. McKnight doesn’t anywhere spell-out that Murdoch is involved in a worldwide conspiracy, but the facts and information he conveys leave one with no alternative conclusion. Murdoch uses a semi-secret network of right-wing ideologues all over the English-speaking world to promote his virulently right-wing perspective and to manipulate the political process to ensure he gets his way business-wise as well as ideologically.
As McKnight demonstrates perceptively, Murdoch doesn’t so much tell his readers and viewers what to think, as set the agenda for political discussion in the English speaking world. Murdoch himself admits that his papers and TV stations aim to do this. They help fashion a climate of opinion – from bringing down Hilary Clinton’s health service reform bill in the States, fighting positive action to fuelling speculation about Obama’s American credentials.
While Murdoch is first and foremost a businessman out for profit, he is more insidiously a highly manipulative and clever operator on the political stage; his self-declared aim is to influence public opinion.
Most of the flagship newspapers he owns actually make a loss, but are cross-subsidised by the lucrative entertainment arm of his global business. He uses them to open doors to the political elite.  He is not interested in facts or journalistic ethics, as was well demonstrated during the Levenson enquiry, but in promoting right-wing ideas and peddling scurrilous gossip. His Fox television station and papers use very few journalists and instead employ key conservative opinion formers. He doesn’t have to tell his editors and journalists directly what to say, he simply appoints those who are subservient enough to agree with him.
Research in the States shows that viewers of Fox News – the virulently right-wing ‘news’ channel - are more misinformed than those who use other sources for their news. When liberal media go to great lengths to check facts and to debunking or ridiculing material used on Fox News, the latter just shrug it off once again as ‘liberal bias’. His news outlets were instrumental in fuelling the hysteria leading to the Iraq War and providing media support for George Bush’s crusade. Interestingly, while liberal and left-wing media are continually outraged by the excesses, the calumnies, distortion and rampant right-wing agenda propagated by his media, it is simply water off a duck’s back for Murdoch and his acolytes. They simply shrug it off as yet more evidence of the dominating ‘liberal bias’.
His media aggressively push stories that they want taken up by the political class – and they usually succeed. What is less well known about Murdoch is how he uses his enormous wealth to fund right wing think tanks and candidates for government office, from Reagan, Thatcher, Howard in Australia to Sarah Palin and the Tea Party. This book is a wake-up call to everyone who values the idea of a free press and informed political debate to ensure that Murdoch’s empire is toppled before we do one day wake up in a Murdochian neo-nazi world.