Thursday, October 28, 2010

Rupert Murdoch: Media emperor at large

SHOULD THERE be any remaining doubt among you (excluding those who would sleep soundly during a tornado) about who has taken predatory control of the media, allow me to recommend a piece in the November issue of Harper's Magazine titled Triumphant Murdoch. The headline is deceptive only to the extent that it understates Australia's gift to empire-building, Rupert Murdoch, while much of the remaining media world is simply trying to hang on.

We all know Murdoch as the Sugar Daddy of his News Corp, the unthreatening alias of a sprawling rightwing network that reaches from London to the U.S. and deeply into the pockets of politicians and other friendly allies who expertly handle the cash.

I was once told by a fellow in Palermo, Sicily, that the Mafia was so skillful in disguising its dark work that one could have lunch with a well-dressed Cosa Nostra operative without sensing that he was a hoodlum shielded in a maze of streets and alleys where the real business was being taken care of.

Step by step, Marvin Kitman's article traces the careful journey, often without raising suspicions by a majority of voters, through closed-fist media control - Fox News, for one - that has made Murdoch a zillionaire and drawn politicians to him like islets in an archipelago. If you think about it, the names of his allies in the political and business class aren't surprising.

Shall we begin with Newt Gingrich, the old warhorse who has been carrying out a pathetic nomadic tour in the belief that he ought to be president. Shortly after Gingrich was at the top of his game with the Republican sweep of 1994, Murdoch paid the speaker-elect what was then described as a "social visit". But it only took a few months for the game plan to unfold as key Republican congressmen began to bow to Murdoch's fervent need to have the FCC pull back from an investigation of foreign ownership of U.S. Media. GOP House chairmen saw no need to press the matter further and money began to arrive in their campaign accounts, Marvin Kitman tells us.

Miurdoch reached farther in conditioning the public to the validity of his friends by hiring Roger Ailes, the Republican escort to the party's presidents, to shape the content of Fox News. Again, it was money well spent as O'Reilly, Beck and Hannity became the cutting edge of what is now widely regarded as the TV arm of the Republican Party. As New York mayor at the time, Rudy Giuliani, supported giving Fox broad freedom deserving of a good citizen, describing the Fox channel 's value to the city as "incalculable." For the first time, a single network exists to do the bidding of one political party. Such voices in other countries used to be called Pravda.

Still, Murdoch doesn't leave anything to the slightest chance as the owner of a network, 17 television stations, six cable networks blah blah blah. Plus the Wall Street Journal, Sunday Times of London. New York Post blah blah blah. He's now dumping tons of money into the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Republican Governors Assn., a million to each, who pass it on to the friendly candidates who need it the most. But Murdoch says he has no idea what they do with the money after it arrives. You can bet, however, that it wouldn't go to even a middle-of-the-road Democrat.

The Murdoch phenomenon was given enormous help by the U.S. Supreme Court's wisdom to let the cash explode as a kind of carpet bombing in the notorious 5-4 Citizens United decision supported by 5 GOP appointees.

Kitman does give us a pointed epilogue to the court's decision by dissenting Justice John Paul Stevens:
"While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Scary stuff, Abe, scary stuff indeed. To borrow a line from the Teabaggers, "I want my country back".