Note: The following was originally published as a Facebook note November 19, 2009
Keith Rupert Murdoch didn’t start his vast communications empire the “old-fashioned way,” by “earning it.” He was born into it in March of 1931.
His father was a newspaper magnate in Melbourne, Australia. Rupert Murdoch went off to study at Oxford University, his father died when Rupert was 22 years old, and Rupert left school to take over his father’s role as managing director of News Limited.
From there, acquisitions became the name of Murdoch’s game throughout Australia. Tabloid newspapers were his style. In 1964, he started The Australian, the nation’s first daily national newspaper in what was known to be a serious attempt at making him a respected publisher of a quality newspaper. Editors found it difficult to work for him. The paper leaned toward sensationalism. It gave him greater political influence.
Murdoch’s acquisition of Australian tabloids continued in the 1970s. As his publishing empire grew, so did his political power. He reached into Great Britain and took over the Sunday News of the World, boasting Britain’s largest circulation. The purchases of other British dailies raged on. He became known as the “King of the Tits” for topless photos of beautiful women on page 3 of the Sun. What was by then known as News Corporation was becoming a media giant, reaching into the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, the Virgin Islands.
In the early 1970s, Murdoch went to the United States and purchased the San Antonio Express-News. From there came his launch of the supermarket tabloid The Star. In 1976, he bought the New York Post, known for its sensationalistic headlines. He became a U.S. citizen in 1985 to address the issue that only American citizens could own American television stations. He dodged a legal bullet in 1995 when the Federal Communications Commission ruled that Murdoch’s ownership of the Fox Network was in the best interests of the public after there had been concern over his News Ltd.’s Australian base making his ownership of Fox illegal.
The dealings continued. In 1996, Murdoch launched the Fox News Channel to battle head-to-head with Ted Turner’s Cable News Network. Murdoch then expanded into Asia. In 2007, he purchased Dow Jones, owner of the Wall Street Journal … the daily Bible of the corporate world.
Today, Murdoch’s News Corporation reaches into every aspect of the global media with its news, sports, and entertainment television channels; the Fox film studios; book publishing (HarperCollins, Zondervan Christian book publishing); numerous magazines; satellite television (DirecTV being the biggest); the Internet (holdings such as Hulu, Photobucket and MySpace). In short, Rupert Murdoch’s influence and reach into global media is nothing short of stunning.
In a profession where accuracy, objectivity, fairness and balance are meant to be followed closely in its code of ethics, to say that Murdoch and his news outlets have a conservative bias is an understatement of epic proportions. All one has to do is look at his New York Post for examples. In 1980, the Columbia Journalism Review cited the Post as “no longer merely a journalistic problem. It is a social problem – a force for evil.”
And that’s just the New York Post.
What about the Fox News Channel? For that, Roger Ailes needs to be brought into the discussion. Ailes is the president of the Fox News Channel and chairman of the Fox Television Stations Group.
He served as a media consultant under presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush. In 1988, Ailes and Lee Atwater were the driving forces behind some of the nastiest media presentations in modern presidential campaign history which helped Bush overcome a double-digit deficit to Democratic challenger Michael Dukakis and go on to win the presidency. Atwater himself was a tragic figure, shaping the way “dirty campaigning” is run to this day. He took no prisoners, pulled no punches. Atwater was ruthless. He died of a brain tumor in 1991.
Just before he died, in a February 1991 article for Life magazine, Atwater wrote:
“My illness helped me to see that what was missing in society is what was missing in me: a little heart, a lot of brotherhood. The ’80s were about acquiring — acquiring wealth, power, prestige. I know. I acquired more wealth, power, and prestige than most. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty. What power wouldn’t I trade for a little more time with my family? What price wouldn’t I pay for an evening with friends? It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth, but it is a truth that the country, caught up in its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime. I don’t know who will lead us through the ’90s, but they must be made to speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul.”
But Roger Ailes carried on.
It was Ailes who gave Rush Limbaugh his big break on the national scene, helping to pull him from radio into television and serving as executive producer of Limbaugh’s late night syndicated show which ran from 1992-96. Rupert Murdoch hired Ailes to launch Fox News Channel in 1996. The “Ailes Touch” has been all over the channel from its inception. Part of its “draw” has always been the motto “Fair and Balanced,” along with “We Report. You Decide.” Fox News has always portrayed itself as the only media outlet to be “fair and balanced.” It’s branded itself as the only news outlet that America can and should trust, and millions of people now share that belief.
But a look at the direction that is given to Fox News staffers from internal memos sheds a different light, using techniques not seen in many or any other news departments outside of tabloid journalism. For that, we need to look at Fox Senior Vice President, News Editorial John Moody. Let’s look at some of the memos Moody passed on to his staff at the beginning of each day:
“[T]he pictures from Abu Graeb [sic] prison are disturbing. They have rightly provoked outrage. Today we have a picture — aired on Al Arabiya — of an American hostage being held with a scarf over his eyes, clearly against his will. Who’s outraged on his behalf? It is important that we keep the Abu Graeb [sic] situation in perspective (5/5/04).”
“[Th]e president is doing something that few of his predecessors dared undertake: [pu]tting the US case for mideast peace to an Arab summit. It’s a distinctly [sk]eptical crowd that Bush faces. His political courage and tactical cunning ar[e] [wo]rth noting in our reporting through the day (6/3/03).”
“The so-called 9/11 commission has already been meeting. In fact, this is its eighth session. The fact that former Clinton and both frmer [sic] and current Bush administration officials are testifying gives it a certain tension, but this is not ‘what did he know and when did he know it’ stuff. Do not turn this into Watergate. Remember the fleeting sense of national unity that emerged from this tragedy. Let’s not desecrate that (3/23/04).”
“Gas prices are at all time highs in the US. There are reasons for the surge, some economic, some mere business tactics. Remember: US prices, while they seem high to us, are a half or less the cost of gasoline elsewhere (3/16/04).”
“For everyone’s information, the hotel where our Baghdad bureau is housed was hit by some kind of explosive device overnight. ALL FOX PERSONNEL ARE OK. The incident is a reminder of the danger our colleagues in Baghdad face, day in and day out. Please offer a prayer of thanks for their safety to whatever God you revere (and let the ACLU stick it where the sun don’t shine) (3/24/04).”
This isn’t an editorial board deciding what stories are going to be covered that day and what pages or priority the stories are going to receive. These are marching orders with angles, deciding how the stories are going to be presented to the public … deciding each particular slant. It’s reporting AND deciding.
And do you remember the John McCain volunteer who claimed to have been violently assaulted by a black attacker who carved a backwards letter “B” into her face, ordering her to vote for Obama in the 2008 campaign. Moody claimed that this “had to happen” and, if true, would cause voters to “suddenly feel they do not know enough about the Democratic nominee. If the incident turns out to be a hoax, Senator McCain’s quest for the presidency is over, forever linked to race-baiting.” Within hours the story was exposed as a fabrication, and Moody was accused of attempting to stir up a racially based voter movement away from Obama.
An article by Matea Gold from the March 6 Los Angeles Times also sheds some interesting light on Roger Ailes and the direction he gives his troops at Fox News.
“Before Glenn Beck started his new show on Fox News in January, he sat down with Roger Ailes, the network’s chief executive, to make sure they were on the same page,” Gold’s article says.
“’I wanted to meet with Roger and tell him, ‘You may not want to put me on the air. I believe we are in dire trouble, and I will never shut up,’ ” said the conservative radio host.
“But before Beck could say anything, Ailes shared a message of his own: The country faced tough times, he said, and Fox News was one of the only news outlets willing to challenge the new administration.
“’I see this as the Alamo,’” Ailes said, according to Beck. “’If I just had somebody who was willing to sit on the other side of the camera until the last shot is fired, we’d be fine.”
The shots went off in rapid-fire style from Fox News and talk radio – led by the likes of Limbaugh and Beck – since the moment Barack Obama took the oath of office. Countless examples of outright falsehoods or half-truths at best in Fox News and talk show hosts’ statements have been offered.
One big question needs to be asked: If our nation under its current president were turning into a Communist/Socialist/Fascist/Marxist society, wouldn’t Fox News have been shut down by now? Fox News is still going as strong as ever, if not stronger than ever. The talk radio shows are still on the air. They’re fueled by the public’s curiosity, its desire to know about the “next outrageous thing.”
Who wields the real power of persuasion in America today?
“Ideas find people to spread them. The more an idea spreads and reaches all areas of life, the more it becomes a worldview. If an organization becomes the bearer of a worldview, its ultimate goal is the government, which is the bearer of the whole nation.”
— Dr. Paul Josef Goebbels, speaking at the 1927 Nuremburg Rally
Stay tuned …
- First Fox News, now Twitter. Saudis pursue “Information Jihad.” (counterjihadreport.com)
- WATCH: Maddow, Frank Rich Dissect The ‘Murdoch Primary’ (huffingtonpost.com)
- End of the world (macleans.ca)
- Steve Jobs Called Fox News a ‘Destructive Force in Our Society’ [Valleywag] (gawker.com)
- Leveson inquiry: Rupert Murdoch could be called (guardian.co.uk)
- Adweek Looks Back On Fox News’ 15 Years… And What The Future Holds For Roger Ailes (mediaite.com)