In this seven part series of articles we will examine the detrimental effect Rupert Murdoch’s style of journalism (The Murdoch Virus) has had on the once noble profession of journalism, as well as society and democracy not only in Australia, but also in Britain and The United States. The second part (“Hillsborough”) will look at one of the most shameful episodes in the Murdoch Empires catalogue of sins. “Outfoxed” is the title for part 3, and will focus on Fox News and its effects on US politics and journalism. Part 4 “Hackgate” will look at the ongoing scandal enveloping Newscorp in the UK, and part 5 looks at the biggest threat to the Murdoch Empire in “Murdoch And The Internet”. Part 6 (“The Right To Lie”) looks at how the Murdoch Empire has transformed the right to free speech into the right to publish and broadcast lies. “Kingmaker” is part 7, and looks at how Murdoch has claimed the right to determine who gets elected in Australia, the U.K. and the U.S.
The Murdoch Virus Part 1 – The Virus
Gloria Healey, a concerned citizen, coined the term “Murdoch Virus” in a question to recently retired Greens Party leader, Dr Bob Brown on QandA special aired on the ABC on Monday April 23 2012. Her question asked if this virus had infected the Australian branch of the Murdoch Empire (ie News Limited).
Here is a video of Gloria’s question and a follow up from an unnamed gentleman as well as Dr Brown’s responses to them:
Well Gloria, this “virus” was actually germinated in Australia and has now spread to other parts of the world, in particular the UK were an inquiry is being conducted into Mr Murdoch’s activities in light of the “Hackgate” scandal which emerged in 2011. This article will look at how Murdoch’s outlets have habitually “made shit up” without any regards to the damage their falsehoods have had on their targets.
Award winning journalist, John Pilger, a long time critic of Murdoch, wrote in The New Statesman on July 23, 2009 the following:
The Murdoch “ethos” was demonstrated right from the beginning of his career, as Richard Neville has documented. In 1964, his Sydney tabloid, the Daily Mirror, published the diary of a 14-year-old schoolgirl under the headline, “WE HAVE SCHOOLGIRL’S ORGY DIARY”. A 13-year-old boy, who was identified, was expelled from the same school. Soon afterwards, he hanged himself from his mother’s clothesline. The “sex diary” was subsequently found to be fake. (source: Lies, Damn Lies )
Richard Neville, an editor of Oz, asked Murdoch about this incident and it’s fatal consequences, and Murdoch’s response was, “We made a mistake”. In other words, a fourteen year old girl had her reputation ruined and a 13 year old boy killed himself, and all Murdoch could do was say, “Oops”.
Not long after Murdoch bought the News Of The World (NOTW) tabloid in the UK, this pattern was repeated, when NOTW (which will feature more prominently in part 4 of The Murdoch Virus), also published a made up “sex diary” this time resulting in the suicide of a 15 year old British girl.
And thus the seeds were sown for “making up shit” about anyone Murdoch and/or Newscorp didn’t like, or who they felt had crossed them, and bugger the consequences.
The Murdoch Virus has been responsible for a range of defamation lawsuits against various Newscorp outlets, including singer songwriter Sir Elton John, long before the multitude of lawsuits caused by the recent revelations of systemic phone hacking in the UK.
Even more dangerous is the practice of attacking various politicians in Australia, the UK and US, whiile singing the praises of those who will further Murdoch’s agenda.
Newscorp’s Australian arm (News Limited) has been running an attack campaign on the Australian Labor Party (ALP) since they took office in 2007. Steve Lewis, a journalist at Murdoch’s low-brow Sydney tabloid, The Daily Telegraph was instrumental in a bogus campaign against then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, known as “Utegate“. The debunking of this bit of frippery led to the downfall of Malcolm Turnbull as Leader Of The Opposition.
Since the 2010 election in Australia, Murdoch’s outlets have been particularly vicious about the “legitimacy” of Julia Gillard as Prime Minister, as well as conducting attacks on the Greens Party and key Independent MP’s Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor. These attacks continue despite Australia having one of the best performing economies in the world.
Recently they have taken to attacking the Speaker of The House Of Representatives, Peter Slipper featuring a cartoon of Mr Slipper portrayed as a rat on the front cover of The Daily Telegraph. The Terrorgraph (as it is known to its detractors), is currently running a beat up about allegations that Mr Slipper has defrauded the Commonwealth over the misuse of Cabcharge dockets for travel purposes. Not surprisingly this “campaign” is being conducted by Steve Lewis of Utegate infamy.
Another of their main targets in Australia is the National Broadband Network being built by the ALP government (also backed by the Greens, and Messrs Oakeshott and Windsor), which as we’ll see in the concluding part of The Murdoch Virus, represents one of the major threats to Murdoch’s media empire.
In the US, Fox News was vociferous in its attacks on then President Bill Clinton, especially in the Monica Lewinsky affair, and anything else they could think of, despite President Clinton being extremely popular both in the US and overseas. Ironically, Clinton’s approval ratings actually increased in the aftermath of the Lewinsky “scandal”.
Similar attacks were made against Senator John Kerry during his Presidential campaign in 2004. Fox constantly referred to Senator Kerry’s activities after he served in Vietnam where he threw his service medals away in protest against the debacle that was the Vietnam War. Fox continually referred to Kerry’s actions as cowardly (despite his medals having been won for bravery) and regularly aired interviews with other Vietnam veterans who questioned his record of service. These became known as Swiftboaters.
The irony of this of course, was that their preferred President, incumbent George W Bush was a draft dodging coward who’s daddy (former President George Herbert Walker Bush), managed to wrangle his son out of doing active duty in Vietnam, and got him a safe, cushy role in the Texas Air National Guard. There is considerable controversy over whether he actually fulfilled his obligations during his service, but of course that didn’t matter to Fox, who saw it as their duty to make sure Dubya was re-elected.
And of course there is their repeated smears of current US President, Barack Obama. At various times they have referred to him as being racist, a Muslim, a terrorist sympathiser, the Antichrist, as well as questioning his legitimacy to actually be President. Fox has regularly featured members of the Birther Movement who question whether Obama was actually born in the US which would make him unable to occupy that office, without any criticism of this ludicrous conspiracy theory.
In the UK, Murdoch’s papers have regularly campaigned for politicians who would further Murdoch’s business interests (despite his claims of innocence at the Leveson Inquiry). Murdoch has repeatedly denied having meetings with former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, although these denials have been proven false as recently released documents from The Guardian have shown (The Thatcher/Murdoch Meeting Letters). This was just before Thatcher allowed Murdoch to take over The Times newspaper in the UK. Not surprisingly Murdoch’s outlets were effusive in their praise for Thatcher as Prime Minister.
After Thatcher’s downfall, Murdoch wasn’t very keen on her replacement, John Major, so switched his allegiance from Major’s Conservative Party to the Labour Party led by Tony Blair. Following Blair’s election victory, Murdoch flew Blair out from England to Hayman Island near the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of the Australian state of Queensland to address the annual meeting of Newscorp executives. Blair is also godfather to one of Murdoch’s children.
Worldwide, Murdoch’s media outlets were effusive in their support for the Iraq War led by potential war criminals George W Bush and Tony Blair. This illegal war based on the lie of Iraq having “weapons of mass destruction” was also supported in Australia by another Murdoch favourite, then Prime Minister John Howard.
At the Leveson Inquiry, Murdoch claimed all the editors of his papers have complete independence. This is blatantly untrue, as every one of Murdoch’s outlets from his newspapers to Fox News ALL heavily promoted the pro-war stance, and continued to do so even after the war threatened to become bogged down in another Vietnam style quagmire.
In “The Murdoch Virus Part 2 – Hillsborough“, we will examine one of the most shameful episodes in the history of Newscorp.
NB – The picture portraying Rupert Murdoch as The Godfather was created by Photoshop Wizard doctornonono (also known on Twitter as George Bludger). You can check out more of his works on flickr here: doctornonono
The Godfather imagery and logo (© Paramount Pictures) and the image of Rupert Murdoch are satire and/or parody and are used under the fair use provisions of various international copyright laws.