James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What does Murdoch want?

What does Rupert Murdoch want?

Murdoch, as almost every literate person around the world knows, is the ruler of News Corp., a media empire without borders, operating in more than 50 countries.

He owns roughly 200 to 300 newspapers, from local weeklies to major dailies. He owns more magazines than I've had time to count. He has at least 15 movie and television production studios, and broadcast, satellite and cable outlets, both entertainment and news-oriented, in the United States, Britain, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Turkey, Georgia, Israel, Latvia, Israel, Italy, New Zealand, all over Latin America, Germany, Spain, China and more.

And, he controls the misnamed Fox News, the cable television outlet that spews nothing but right wing propaganda 24 hours a day throughout the United States.

This is your duty as a citizen: Take a deep breath and try to watch and listen to Fox for a half hour or so at a time, at various times of day. More if you can stand it. You'll rarely catch even a single story that is not twisted to fit an extreme right view of the world.

Don't take my word for it or accept that the widely-held view is correct; screw up your courage, batten down your brain and watch. And remember that nothing that happens in the Murdoch empire is done without his approval; he doesn't personally vet every story, of course, but he approves the tone and the approach and the views expressed.)

Many of Murdoch's other outlets in this country, and the several I have seen abroad, also push listeners, viewers or readers to the right, but generally more subtly. Even the entertainment outlets tend to lean a bit to the right in the films and shows they feature. Most of the rest feature mindless crap, often with an adolescent and smarmy sexual twist.

The Fox News in-your-face style, with shouting obvious propagandists such as Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, apparently is rooted in the belief that the American audience for the lies it sells is too ignorant and stupid to absorb anything even slightly subtle.

That's probably an accurate assessment.

The Wall Street Journal, which always leaned to the right in its editorial and op-ed pages, was highly respected for its fair presentation of news until Murdoch got hold of it in 2007. (Confession: I wrote many news articles for the Journal as a freelance contributor in the 1970s and '80s; I was often assigned stories by the paper's editors.) Since Murdoch took over the Journal, the editorial/op-ed views have gone even farther to the right -– extreme, some might say, at least in some cases –- and the right wing views of the owner have crept into news operations at an accelerating rate.

Murdoch is not one who does anything for what he thinks is the public good. Even a quick look at his life reveals a man whose only real interests are himself, his wealth, self-promotion and, especially, power. An Australian by birth and most of his life, he became a citizen of the United States quite obviously because to do so would benefit his empire.

(No doubt he took the classes and the tests sitting side by side with people who fled places like Somalia and Georgia and Serbia in search of a merely violence-free life. Yeah sure, you betcha.)

A young Orson Welles could have turned the Murdoch story into a wonderful movie about the son of a small-time Australian newspaper publisher who rose to enormous wealth and aimed to rule the world.

But Rupert Murdoch is 79 years old as of March 11. While he may not quite believe in his own mortality –- many megalomaniacs before him have had the same blind spot –- he cannot believe he's actually going to live long enough to, in fact, be the behind-the-scenes ruler of much of the world.

Murdoch arguably already is the most powerful man in the world. He certainly influences many powerful people and undoubtedly controls some, and he can reasonably be said now to control one the the two biggest political parties in the United States through the people who work for him at Fox News, but he doesn't yet simply lay down the law here, or even in Australia.

Is that what he wants? To rule?

I don't know. I do know that in addition to being enormously powerful, he is enormously dangerous to countries that want to live by rule of law, and to people who want to live where ordinary men and women have influence through democratic processes. He's pushing the rule of the rich for all he's worth, and in financial terms he's worth almost unimaginable sums.