Conspiracy Theories

Blows Against the Murdoch Empire


The London-based contrarian Brendan O'Neill doesn't like Rupert Murdoch -- "I am not a fan," he writes, "and I believe that the phone-hacking antics at the News of the World were deplorable and indefensible" -- but he doesn't like the paranoid narrative that has dominated the British reaction to the scandal either:

Grace Slick! thou shouldst be living at this hour

The childlike glee with which respectable hacks have greeted Murdoch's travails speaks to their belief that he was singlehandedly holding back British democracy. In recent years, their attacks on the 'Murdoch Empire' have sounded borderline David Icke-like. Murdoch has 'extraordinary power' which he uses to 'manipulate officialdom', said Polly Toynbee in 2009. She writes of 'the malign influence this man has had on our politics for the past 30 years'. Other commentators describe the links between Murdoch and politicians as 'a shadowy influence-mart' ('shadowy' is a favourite word of conspiracy theorists). One goes so far as to say that 'the huge failure of my generation' was to 'allow Murdoch to enmesh our politics, media and police'….

Of course it's true that Murdoch is influential, and it's also true that in the 1980s and early 90s his British papers supported Thatcher and, far more reluctantly, John Major, before switching their allegiance to New Labour in 1997. Yet the notion that he exerted an authoritarian 'malign influence' was simply a way for left-wing thinkers to dodge getting to grips with some profound shifts in the British political landscape at the end of the twentieth century. It wasn't Murdoch who stole working-class tabloid readers from Labour and handed them to the Tories; Labour had been losing working-class support for years before the 'Murdoch invasion'. Labour's support amongst the manual working classes (many of whom read tabloids) fell from 62 per cent in 1959 to 38 per cent in 1983. Bashing Murdoch became a way for Labourites to avoid analysing their own disarray….

It's the Sun wot won it!

Murdoch was only as powerful as politicians allowed him to be. Consider his relationship with Tony Blair, easily the cosiest of all his hook-ups with PMs. It wasn't that Murdoch used Derren Brown-style powers of persuasion to co-opt Blair; rather, Blair, being the leader of an aloof political PR machine that was utterly bereft of meaningful grassroots support, saw in Murdoch a way of connecting with 'the public'. It was Blair's distance from ordinary people, his instinctive (and correct) feeling that New Labour was cut off, which led him to see Murdoch and his papers as some kind of conduit between him and us, a magic channel between the political elite and the little people. In the late 1990s and the 2000s, Murdoch's so-called power wasn't a product of his own warped ambitions - it was a byproduct of the desperation of a political class which believed the only way it could connect with the blob of unusual people 'out there' was by publishing occasional columns in the Sun titled 'WHY I AM JOLLY ANGRY ABOUT PAEDOPHILES'.

Which brings us to the present day and the harebrained idea that loosening Murdoch's alleged grip will liberate and re-populate with principle the British political sphere….The respectable commentariat has effectively declared war on a man who was merely the beneficiary of historic political fallout, not the orchestrator of it. Remove him from the picture and those various profound problems - the emptying out of both left and right ideologies, the aloofness of the political class, the transformation of politics into a purely elite pastime - will still exist. Our politicians will still have nothing of substance to say, just fewer tabloids in which not to say it.

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  1. I know right? The way people talk about Murdoch you'd think he was a Jew or something...

    #49 Havalina

    1. Not Jewish (of course) but I wouldn't downplay the degree to which Murdoch being from Australia tics off the British establishment. Many Britons still hold a degree of contempt for the "colonials" & to have someone from one of the former colonies dominating their media probably sticks in their craw.

      1. I wonder how they would react if he were French - or even worse - American.

        1. The left wing establishment, all of whom attended Oxbridge, and that's who truly despise Murdoch, love the French. Despite being unable to pronounce Houston or Juan correctly (King djew-on Carlos) they always speak proper French and show proper respect for their golden socialist paradise.

        2. Not only is Rupert Murdoch an Australian, he's also an American citizen. Double whammy.

  2. Murdoch just bulldozes his way through reasoned public discourse.

    1. St. Pancake has spoken!

  3. Murdoch has blood on his hands

  4. He's poisoning the well of objective journalism.

    1. There's no such thing as "objective."
      Except my statement.

  5. Can't we just get rid of this scumbag and let the totally unbiased and objective BBC have its monopoly back?

  6. I think you can understand where people's glee at watching the downfall is coming from - you can also understand people's concern for the influence of Murdoch's crew in the UK - to re-cap:

    The Top Cop in the UK and his 2nd in Command who also led up counter terrorism resigned over ties to Murdoch's crew
    Murdoch's crew regularly bribed the police and hacked thousands of people's voicemails with tacit consent from the police
    10 people have been arrested at
    Murdoch's paper on some fairly serious offenses - that nay just be the start
    *Murdoch runs the largest media empire in the UK
    Murdochs held weird seccession ceremony recently:

    I can see why people are a bit up in arms, conspiratorial and happy to watch Murdoch's crew get battered.

    The bigger question for Reason readers - does this threaten RedEye?

    1. RedEye sucks. The only reason they exist is because they please The Jacket.

    2. The point to bear in mind here is that if one journalist from the "News of the Screws" bungs 500 UKP at some corrupt plod in HM Panopticon Office to snoop on some poor schlub's voice mail, what's to stop The Guardian's journalists from doing exactly the same thing.

      Well, apart from journalistic ethics, of course.

  7. Yet the notion that he exerted an authoritarian 'malign influence' was simply a way for left-wing thinkers to dodge getting to grips with some profound shifts in the British political landscape at the end of the twentieth century.

    Instead of simply seeing the obvious: That people were fed up.

  8. This is fun (via Ann Althouse). It's paintings of women losing their panties.

    1. A grave warning on the dangers of ineffective elastic.

    2. That's awesome.

    3. Perhaps these paintings were peddled at Bean-Grower conventions, where men got a big chuckle out of women whose flatulence was so powerful it knocked their skirts perpendicular.

      Celery sez: you go first boys, I'll be along later


    4. Far superior to Kinkade.

    5. Art Frahm

      James Lileks has had that amusing tribute up for around 10 years or so

  9. Saw this on Wikipedia:

    On 8 May 2006, the Financial Times reported that Murdoch would be hosting a fund-raiser for Senator Hillary Clinton's (D-New York) Senate re-election campaign.[45]

    In a 2008 interview with Walt Mossberg, Murdoch was asked whether he had "anything to do with the New York Post's endorsement of Barack Obama in the democratic primaries." Without hesitating, Murdoch replied, "Yeah. He is a rock star. It's fantastic. I love what he is saying about education. I don't think he will win Florida... but he will win in Ohio and the election. I am anxious to meet him. I want to see if he will walk the walk."[46][47]

    In 2010 News Corporation gave $1M to the Republican Governors Association and $1M to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.[48][49][50]

    Murdoch also served on the board of directors of the libertarian Cato Institute.

    My point? He's an odd duck, and not exactly an arch-conservative. Looks to back whoever is in power or will be in power in order to protect his empire. With Faux, er Fox, News, he saw a business opportunity and took it.

    1. Roger Ailes is the arch-conservative and affects Americans far more than Murdoch ever will.

    2. Yeah I've been saying this for a long time. He has no real ideology beyond making money.

    3. His papers largely supported Labour in the UK for 10 years as well...

    4. I thought it was generally known that he wasn't actually a consistent conservative, particularly by American standards. I know some lefties equate him with Fox News, but I could swear he flat out said that the reason for Fox being more centrist-right (whatever that means) is that the American media, at the time, had left untapped a very large percentage of American consumers who wanted news without the leftwards bias most media exhibited.

      1. So... he's someone who identified a market segment which was underserved, and he then proceeded to serve that segment in a way which vastly increased his wealth. And he did it all without government compelling him to do it, or compelling people to use his service.

        And we wonder why TEAM BLUE hates him?

    5. Yeah Murdoch isn't particularly Conservative, he is just a good businessman in filling the gaps in the market, in this case the lack of a news source that isn't filled with left wing nutters like the BBC and the US alphabet soup media.

  10. Somehow I have a feeling he will come out on top.

  11. Grace Slick is alive and well.

    1. She was replaced by a pod person sometime before the release of "We Built This City." Everyone knows that.

      1. I took the kids to see Winnie the Pooh this weekend. There was a trailer for The Muppets. In the trailer, the Muppets sang that "song."

    2. Take off that jumpsuit; you look like Grace Slick.

  12. Murdoch just cream pie-d at hearing by Tory UnCut activist - Murdoch's Wife News Now - She knows how to slap and ain't afraid to show it.

    UK Uncut is a group of Tories lobbying and protesting for more tax money in the coffers of the conservative lead coalition government.

    1. Thanks for the clarification in the second sentence. At first I thought they pied him because he was circumcised.

  13. The shrill, arm-flailing British editorials vociferously insisting "anti-right wing political bias" is the chief reason anyone might look askance at the behavior of Murdoch and his crew remind me in many ways of the craven contemporary American editorials insisting "anti-lefty anti-union bias" is the chief reason anyone takes umbrage at the TSA's mandatory molestation policies. Perhaps the right-wing defenders of Murdoch and the left-wing defenders of the TSA could all get together in a big love feast, and if the participants all choke to death on each other in flagrante soixante-neuf the world will be infinitely richer for their loss.

    1. But think of the smell!

      1. Screw the smell! Are there no landfills? Are there no crematoria? Somewhere in all of Great Britain, I'm sure there's at least one funeral director with experience in taking care of corpses before they start to stink.

    2. I think there's a difference between being disgusted and hoping for criminal charges against the guilty, which all decent people should do, and making malfeasance in a UK tabloid the top rated news story for the past day or so in the U.S.

      As an American, I have bigger shit to worry about on this side of the pond (e.g., my government arming terrorists and gangsters to justify further restrictions on our civil rights, or the tard-off over the debt limit), and until there's some evidence that Fox is implicated in this, all the salivating over this story seems to be a combination of diversionary tactics and wishful thinking from a left-wing establishment that finds even a lone dissenting TV news source to be a terrifying threat.

      1. I think there's a difference between being disgusted and hoping for criminal charges against the guilty, which all decent people should do, and making malfeasance in a UK tabloid the top rated news story for the past day or so in the U.S.

        As opposed to the important, relevant-to-us-all, newsworthy topics that usually hold the coveted "Top rated story in the US" spot, you mean?

        "Sexy movie star has marital problems." "Sexy female celebrity gets pregnant." "Sexy celebrity couple seen frowning at each other over dinner at snazzy LA eatery." "Pregnant female celebrity photographed in bathing suit; appears fat, non-sexy." "Sexy celebrity couple files for divorce." "Sexy white non-celebrity female goes missing." "Formerly sexy pregnant celebrity gives birth." "Sexy celebrity mom shares her diet secrets: 'How I Got My Pre-Baby Body Back.'" "Celebrity couple photographed with adorable infant offspring." "Celebrity photographed with adorable toddler offspring." "Adorable toddler celebrity offspring wears expensive shoes." "Is adorable celebrity toddler spoiled? Dr. Phil's childcare experts weigh in ...."

        1. What about sexy baby killer was only 2 years late for her legal abortion?

        2. Yes, from the U.S. perspective, it's roughly as important as Casey Anthony. I suppose I gave slightly more of a shit about the tabloid thing for whatever reason, but with shit-giving rates that low, the noise swallows up the signal.

          1. Isn't she a Republican?

  14. Right-wing billionaires have no influence on public policy? Got it.

    Seriously, what's wrong with laughing at a big shot getting his ass kicked? For decades, Murdoch's papers have specialized in pack journalism. Well, now he's Bambi, with the wolves chasing him. Don't dish it out if you can't take it, sweetheart.

    1. Flail at the wind much, Anal?

  15. To extend the get out of the kitchen metaphor - The problem with Brendan O'Neill's whinging about other journalist whinging is that Brendan O'Neill has never been near the kitchen - at most he's been allowed to stand in a poorly insulated foyer in a cottage near the Arctic Circle

  16. I did not read it, but I saw a link to a MSNBC article on Google News which apparently was about how Murdoch looked like a doddering, decrepit old man, who could barely comprehend what was happening around him.

    For some reason, I suspect that was merely wishful thinking on the part of whoever wrote it.

  17. From an article in sfgate there is this line "For decades, British lawmakers lived in fear of the influence of Murdoch's media empire". I searched in bing for these keywords and found hits, but when I click on the link these lines are not present. Isn't this strange? Were they removed?

    Could it be that it's just News Of the World that did illegal things. People are talking about Murdoch's entire empire crumbling, which I'm sure thrills the left, but seriously is it fair to want this?

    One of the things bothering me is that FoxNews is not talking at all about the scandal. I do see some articles about it on the website. But MSNBC mentions it at least once every hour.

  18. Gee I wonder why the Newscorp/Murdoch story has recieved 10,000 times as much media attention (in this country) as has the BATF gun smuggling story or the Atlanta school system cheating story?

    The Newscorp tabloid has been shut down and lots of people fired but of course it's not enough for the MSM who want the whole corporation shut down merely because they hate it.

    Meanwhile, has anybody been held to account at the BATF or the Atlanta school system? Not that I've heard. Nor do the media care about that.

    In fact they're far more inclined to make excuses for those folks - as in claiming that the gun smuggling operation is somehow the fault of the NRA and the Atlanta cheaters are to be excused because, well because what are they expected to do when there's a system that's supposed to actually test achievement?

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