Rupert Murdoch, Global Tyrant



This city is now recovering from the November visit of a global tyrant, on whose rampages the sun never sets. His name is not George Bush but Rupert Murdoch.

Bush, acknowledged as their legitimately elected leader by at least some of his fellow citizens, presented so frail a political physique that it seemed faintly ludicrous to impose on him even the conventional honorific, "leader of the free world", let alone the robust dignity of "tyrant".

The president’s arrival in the United Kingdom was preceded by interviews with British newspapers in which he paid humble respect to those democratic traditions permitting Britons to assemble in vast numbers and to cover him with ridicule and abuse. He allowed himself to be scheduled for a possibly humiliating session with relatives of British soldiers killed in Iraq.

The entire state visit, the first by an American President since Woodrow Wilson visited these shores in 1918, was depicted in virtually every newspaper as an vast political embarrassment to prime minister Tony Blair who issued it many months ago when he supposed that the two could preen over a successful operation in Iraq. It most certainly represented a low point in the esteem here for the United States, at least as a nation led by a man regarded by a third of all Britons as perilously ignorant, running neck and neck with North Korea’s Kim John Il as a threat to world peace.

How different has been the brief tour of his British assets by Rupert Murdoch, on hand to crush a rising by some shareholders in British Sky Broadcasting claiming that the company was being run by Murdoch as a private fiefdom in a manner injurious to their interests.

At BskyB’s annual general meeting on Friday November 14, Murdoch conducted himself in a manner that would have won the approval of Vlad the Impaler, snarling at one dissident that if he didn’t like it he should sell his shares, bickering openly with BskyB’s chief executive, his son James. Investors irked by a share price dead in the water for six years and virtually nothing offered in the way of dividends, did make their views clear. Murdoch was quoted by the Guardian’s man Jeremy Warner as complaining to his wife at the end of the session that some had been "bloody insulting" and "seriously nasty", but he carried the day, at least for now.

The global tyrant still had time that Friday to grant an interview to the BBC in which he placed Tony Blair on notice that the loyalty of Murdoch’s newspapers was not to be taken for granted.

Referring to himself respectfully in the first person plural, Murdoch was kind enough to intimate that "we will not quickly forget the courage of Tony Blair" but then made haste to emphasize that he also enjoys friendly relations with the new Tory leader Michael Howard.

On the mind of the global pirate is a topic in which one would have thought he would have had scant interest, namely national sovereignty. Murdoch professed himself exercised by the matter of the EU constitution. Slipping on the mantle of Britishness, Murdoch pronounced that "I don’t like the idea of any more abdication of our sovereignty in economic affairs or anything else."

The Guardian found this altogether too brazen and editorialized the following Monday that "Rupert Murdoch is no more British than George W. Bush. Once upon a time, it’s true, he was an Australian with Scottish antecedents. But some time ago he came to the view that his citizenship was an inconvenience and resolved to change it for an American passport. He does not live in this country and it is not clear that he is entitled to use ‘we’ in any meaningful sense of shared endeavor. To be lectured on sovereignty by someone who junked his own citizenship for commercial advantage is an irony to which Mr Murdoch is evidently blind."

Then the Guardian got a bit rougher: "Readers have to be put on notice that the view expressed in Murdoch titles have not been freely arrived at on the basis of normal journalistic considerations."

For a very extended gloss on what the Guardian editorialist was driving at we can turn to The Murdoch Archipelago, (just published by Simon and Schuster in the UK) by Bruce Page, a distinguished, Australian-born journalist who has lived and worked in England for many years, perhaps best known for his work leading the Insight team at the (pre-Murdoch) London Sunday Times.

Page’s detailed and compelling case, based on his investigation of Murdoch’s operations in Australia, Britain, the USA and the Chinese People’s Republic, amounts to this: as an international operator, Murdoch offers his target governments a privatized version of a state propaganda service, manipulated without scruple and with no regard for truth. His price takes the form of vast government favors such as tax breaks, regulatory relief, monopoly markets and so forth. The propaganda is undertaken with the utmost cynicism, whether it’s the stentorian fake populism and soft porn in the UK’s Sun and News of the World, or shameless bootlicking of the butchers of Tiananmen Square.

There was something so megalomanic about Murdoch’s interview with the BBC that one wonders hopefully whether it has all gone to his head and soon he’ll be gnawing the carpet like other moguls before him. Probably not. Murdoch is too focused a predator for the wasteful extravagances of insanity, and he’s perhaps a shade more careful than his fellow media czar, Conrad Black, now evicted from control of his empire because sufficiently powerful stockholders took a dim view of Black and colleagues easing $73.7 million out of Hallinger under the guise of non-competition fees.

The Sun won a White House interview with George Bush, probably as a consequence of desperate pleading from 10 Downing Street to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Robert Thomson, editor of The (Murdoch-owned) London Times was invited to meet Bush at the White House Sunday night, two days before Bush’s flight to London but, so the Financial Times later reported, had to send Regrets. He’d already promised to attend an party in London hosted by Murdoch, the annual gathering of his top 70 global executives. As the FT asked, ".. well, what would you do?"

Footnote: For more extensive reflections on Murdoch and my interview with Bruce Page about the world’s most powerful media mogul, see (and if necessary, subscribe to our newsletter, which features a detailed examination of Murdoch in the current issue).

Weekend Edition
October 2-4, 2015
Henry Giroux
Murder, USA: Why Politicians Have Blood on Their Hands
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Lightning War in Syria
Jennifer Loewenstein
Heading Toward a Collision: Syria, Saudi Arabia and Regional Proxy Wars
John Pilger
Wikileaks vs. the Empire: the Revolutionary Act of Telling the Truth
Gary Leupp
A Useful Prep-Sheet on Syria for Media Propagandists
Jeffrey St. Clair
Pesticides, Neoliberalism and the Politics of Acceptable Death
Lawrence Ware – Paul Buhle
Insurrectional Black Power: CLR James on Race and Class
Joshua Frank
The Need to Oppose All Foreign Intervention in Syria
Oliver Tickell
Jeremy Corbyn’s Heroic Refusal to be a Nuclear Mass Murderer
Helen Yaffe
Che’s Economist: Remembering Jorge Risquet
Mark Hand
‘Rape Rooms’: How West Virginia Women Paid Off Coal Company Debts
Yves Engler
War Crimes in the Dark: Inside Canada’s Special Forces
Arno J. Mayer
Israel: the Wages of Hubris and Violence
W. T. Whitney
Cuban Government Describes Devastating Effects of U. S. Economic Blockade
Brian Cloughley
The US-NATO Alliance Destroyed Libya, Where Next?
Karl Grossman
The Politics of Lyme Disease
Barry Lando
Syria: Obama’s Bay of Pigs?
Andre Vltchek
Southeast Asia “Forgets” About Western Terror
Jose Martinez
American Violence: Umpqua is “Routine”?
Vijay Prashad
Russian Gambit, Syrian Dilemma
Sam Smith
Why the Democrats are in Such a Mess
Uri Avnery
Nasser and Me
Andrew Levine
The Saints March In: The Donald and the Pope
Arun Gupta
The Refugee Crisis in America
Michael Welton
Junior Partner of Empire: Why Canada’s Foreign Policy Isn’t What You Think
Robert Fantina
The U.S. Elections and Verbal Vomit
Dan Glazebrook
Refugees Don’t Cause Fascism, Mr. Timmermann – You Do
Victor Grossman
Blood Moon Over Germany
Patrick Bond
Can World’s Worst Case of Inequality be Fixed by Pikettian Posturing?
Pete Dolack
Earning a Profit from Global Warming
B. R. Gowani
Was Gandhi Averse to Climax? A Psycho-Sexual Assessment of the Mahatma
Tom H. Hastings
Another Mass Murder
Anne Petermann
Activists Arrested at ArborGen GE Trees World Headquarters
Ben Debney
Zombies on a Runaway Train
Franklin Lamb
Confronting ‘Looting to Order’ and ‘Cultural Racketeering’ in Syria
Carl Finamore
Coming to San Francisco? Cra$h at My Pad
Ron Jacobs
Standing Naked: Bob Dylan and Jesus
Missy Comley Beattie
What Might Does To Right
Robert J. Burrowes
Gandhi Jayanti, Gandhi’s Dream
Raouf Halaby
A Week of Juxtapositions
Louis Proyect
Scenes from the Class Struggle in Iran
Christopher Washburn
Skeptik’s Lexicon
Charles R. Larson
Indonesia: Robbed, Raped, Abused
David Yearsley
Death Songs
Jon Hochschartner
Does Word Policing Actually Help the Left?