FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

American Media Ignore Major Murdoch News Corp Scandal

by LINN WASHINGTON JR.

America’s corporate news media love highlighting David-besting-Goliath stories…except apparently, when the fallen Goliath is major media mogul Rupert Murdoch – the billionaire owner of America’s caustic FOX News and other entities.

Arguably the biggest Goliath slaying story in the world during the past two years involved the unraveling of Murdoch’s news empire in England, where he exerted extraordinary influence over top British governmental officials from police to Parliament and even into that nation’s Prime Minister’s Office.

But disturbing documentation of wrongdoing by Murdoch minions, such as illegal hacking into telephones, arrests of top Murdoch executives and a scathing report from Parliament, elicited little sustained interest from America’s mainstream media into what is known variously as the ‘Murdoch Scandal’ and ‘England’s Watergate.” This despite the fact that Murdoch’s News Corp is also a huge enterprise in the US.

Even when one of the journalists who exposed America’s 1970s-era Watergate Scandal – Bob Woodward – broke a story in early December 2012 about a scheme by Murdoch to seize control of the US presidency, America’s news media continued focusing on celebrity fluff and the looming ‘Fiscal Cliff.’

Woodward exposed a covert effort by Murdoch and his FOX News head, Roger Ailes, to recruit General David Petraeus as a 2012 presidential candidate complete with pledges to bankroll a Petraeus campaign, plus providing on-air support from FOX News – an offer Petraeus declined.

“The Murdoch story – his corruption of essential democratic institutions on both sides of the Atlantic – is one of the most important and far reaching political/cultural stories of the past 30-years,” wrote Woodward’s Watergate reporting partner Carl Bernstein in a December commentary published in London’s Guardian newspaper. Bernstein blasted the U.S. media for ignoring Woodward’s exposé.

Although still reeling from scandals in England, Murdoch continues his efforts in the U.S. to win rule changes from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that would permit him to expand his News Corp media empire here through increased monopoly ownership.

Given the criminality explicit in the British Murdoch scandal and 24/7 FOX News savaging of U.S. President Barack Obama, why would the Obama Administration consider relaxing longstanding ownership rules to permit Murdoch to buy the top newspapers in Chicago and Los Angeles as he is attempting to do?

The London Guardian’s dogged go-it-alone coverage of phone hacking and other misdeeds within Murdoch’s English media empire led to that scandal’s unraveling, inclusive of Murdoch’s July 2011 closure of his beloved News of the World newspaper (then England’s largest newspaper).

The May 2012 report from a British Parliament investigative committee declared Murdoch “not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international corporation.”

That report blasted the Australian Media baron (he later bought a US citizenship so he could get around the rule barring foreign ownership of TV stations in the US) for “willful blindness” to the misdeeds of his underlings, whom he kept closely under his thumb until he disavowed knowledge of their misdeeds in an effort to evade accountability.

Murdoch denies knowing about the misdeeds of his News of the World employees.

One of the arrested Murdoch employees, former newspaper executive Andy Coulson, served as the press spokesman for Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron until January 2011, when he resigned due to mounting pressure from the evolving phone hacking scandal. Police arrested Coulson in July 2011.

Cameron hired Coulson in 2007 after Coulson left a Murdoch newspaper under a cloud of impropriety from an earlier phone hacking debacle. Coulson nonetheless reportedly secured Murdoch’s personal backing for Cameron’s successful bid for the PM position – the British equivalent of the U.S. presidency.

A key player in this epic mangling of Goliath Murdoch is a classic David figure – British lawyer Mark Lewis – whose representation of clients victimized by phone hacking and other illegal conduct within Murdoch’s English empire contributed to erection of scaffolding that eventually reached Murdoch’s corporate suite.

Lewis’ clients included the family of Milly Dowler, a teen murder victim.

Revelations that News of the World’s scandal-mongering reporters had hacked into the voicemail of the then missing Dowler – deleting voicemails so as to continue giving Dowler’s distraught parents the false impression that she was still alive – galvanized public opinion against that newspaper and eventually against Murdoch himself.

“Only twice in the past 70-years have political parties in Britain had a consensus: World War II and Milly Dowler,” asserted Lewis during a panel discussion on the Murdoch Scandal last spring at the Logan Investigative Reporting Symposium held at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

That Symposium featured a screening of the insightful “Frontline” documentary “Murdoch’s Scandal.” Lowell Bergman, the lead correspondent for that documentary, is an investigative reporting professor at Berkeley’s J-School.

“The thing that surprised me the most in doing this story is the amount of control Murdoch and his News Corporation had over police and politicians,” said Neil Docherty, director/producer of that “Scandal” documentary.

“One police official who said there was nothing to investigate regarding phone hacking was later forced to resign. Then he became a columnist for a Murdoch newspaper,” said Docherty.

That collusion between Murdoch employees and top officials of London’s Metropolitan Police represents one of the seamier undersides of this serial misconduct, said lawyer Mark Lewis during a TCBH interview.

“Murdoch bought police with wine and football [soccer in England] tickets,” said Lewis. “The big issue is that corruption in the Met came from top to bottom not bottom to top. Police corruption is a huge program in England.”

The cozy relationship between Murdoch’s media empire and the Metropolitan Police dates from a major mid-1980s labor dispute between newspaper unions and Murdoch, where strikers contend police brutalized them.

Collusive behaviors, according to a special union report published in the fall of 2011, included News of the World reporters setting up people to commit crimes and then police “would arrive to nab the culprits, usually on a Saturday afternoon, giving the paper its Sunday scoop and the police their arrest.”

John Pilger, a journalist who, like Murdoch, hails from Australia, contends phone hacking and influence peddling are not Murdoch’s most atrocious misdeeds. “The most enduring and insidious Murdoch campaign has been against the Aboriginal people,” Pilger wrote a few years ago. FOX News in America is often lambasted for race-baiting against blacks and Hispanics.

Thinking that the British Murdoch scandal in particular or media ownership in general is no big deal as long as the media provides weather, traffic, some headline news and/or favored songs/shows ignores the reality that what people hear and see in the media all too often becomes what they believe.

The FOX News Channel – the preeminent purveyors of malicious right-wing partisanship (a/k/a propaganda) and utter misinformation in America – is a prime example.

A survey released in November 2012 by researchers at New Jersey’s Fairleigh Dickinson University documented that people who only watch FOX News are less informed about facts than all other news consumers — and that’s starting from an pretty low bar. The findings of this survey mirror previous findings about ill-informed FOX News viewers.

If there is any consolation to the timid treatment of Murdoch’s misdeeds by U.S. mainstream media it is that they are following in the footsteps of British media.

“The press in England was afraid of the phone hacking scandal because they were scared of Murdoch’s power to attack them,” said lawyer Mark Lewis, who was himself the target of threats and dirty-tricks by Murdoch corporate operatives.

“Murdoch’s attacks on politicians through his newspapers pushed whole areas of policy off of public discussions.”

LINN WASHINGTON, JR. is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent Project Censored Award-winning online alternative newspaper. His work, and that of colleagues JOHN GRANT, DAVE LINDORFF, LORI SPENCER and CHARLES M. YOUNG, can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net

Linn Washington, Jr. is a founder of This Can’t Be Happening and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He lives in Philadelphia.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up (Bad News for Keystone XL)
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
Rob Urie
Boris and Natasha Visit Fantasy Island
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
Ben Debney
Outrage From the Imperial Playbook
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Michael J. Sainato
Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics
Lawrence Davidson
Moral Failure at the UN
Pete Dolack
World Bank Declares Itself Above the Law
Nicola Perugini - Neve Gordon
Israel’s Human Rights Spies
Patrick Cockburn
From Paris to London: Another City, Another Attack
Ralph Nader
Reason and Justice Address Realities
Ramzy Baroud
‘Decolonizing the Mind’: Using Hollywood Celebrities to Validate Islam
Colin Todhunter
Monsanto in India: The Sacred and the Profane
Louisa Willcox
Grizzlies Under the Endangered Species Act: How Have They Fared?
Norman Pollack
Militarization of American Fascism: Trump the Usurper
Pepe Escobar
North Korea: The Real Serious Options on the Table
Brian Cloughley
“These Things Are Done”: Eavesdropping on Trump
Sheldon Richman
You Can’t Blame Trump’s Military Budget on NATO
Carol Wolman
Trump vs the People: a Psychiatrist’s Analysis
Stanley L. Cohen
The White House . . . Denial and Cover-ups
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Marines to Kill Desert Tortoises
Farhang Jahanpour
America’s Woes, Europe’s Responsibilities
Joseph Natoli
March Madness Outside the Basketball Court
Bill Willers
Volunteerism; Charisma; the Ivy League Stranglehold: a Very Brief Trilogy
Bruce Mastron
Slaughtered Arabs Don’t Count
Ayesha Khan
The Headscarf is Not an Islamic Compulsion
Pauline Murphy
Unburied Truth: Exposing the Church’s Iron Chains on Ireland
Ron Jacobs
Music is Love, Music is Politics
Christopher Brauchli
Prisoners as Captive Customers
Robert Koehler
The Mosque That Disappeared
Franklin Lamb
Update from Madaya
Dan Bacher
Federal Scientists Find Delta Tunnels Plan Will Devastate Salmon
Barbara Nimri Aziz
The Gig Economy: Which Side Are You On?
Louis Proyect
What Caused the Holodomor?
Max Mastellone
Seeking Left Unity Through a Definition of Progressivism
Charles R. Larson
Review: David Bellos’s “Novel of the Century: the Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables”
David Yearsley
Ear of Darkness: the Soundtracks of Steve Bannon’s Films
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail