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.

February 11, 2016
Bruce Lesnick
Flint: A Tale of Two Cities
Ajamu Baraka
Beyonce and the Politics of Cultural Dominance
Shamus Cooke
Can the Establishment Fix Its Bernie Sanders Problem?
John Hazard
The Pope in Mexico: More Harm Than Good?
Joyce Nelson
Trudeau & the Saudi Arms Deal
Zarefah Baroud
The Ever-Dangerous Mantra “Drill, Baby Drill”
Anthony DiMaggio
Illinois’ Manufactured Budget Crisis
Colin Todhunter
Indian Food and Agriculture Under Attack
Binoy Kampmark
Warring Against Sanders: Totalitarian Thinking, Feminism and the Clintons
Robert Koehler
Presidential Politics and the American Soul
Thomas Knapp
Election 2016: The Banality of Evil on Steroids
Cesar Chelala
Is Microcephaly in Children Caused by the Zika Virus or by Pesticides?
February 10, 2016
Eoin Higgins
Clinton and the Democratic Establishment: the Ties That Bind
Fred Nagel
The Role of Legitimacy in Social Change
Jeffrey St. Clair
Why Bernie Still Won’t Win
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Aleppo Gamble Pays Off
Chris Martenson
The Return of Crisis: Everywhere Banks are in Deep Trouble
Ramzy Baroud
Next Onslaught in Gaza: Why the Status Quo Is a Precursor for War
Sheldon Richman
End, Don’t Extend, Draft Registration
Benjamin Willis
Obama in Havana
Jack Smith
Obama Intensifies Wars and Threats of War
Rob Hager
How Hillary Clinton Co-opted the Term “Progressive”
Mark Boothroyd
Syria: Peace Talks Collapse, Aleppo Encircled, Disaster Looms
Lawrence Ware
If You Hate Cam Newton, It’s Probably Because He’s Black
Jesse Jackson
Starving Government Creates Disasters Like Flint
Bill Laurance
A Last Chance for the World’s Forests?
Gary Corseri
ABC’s of the US Empire
Frances Madeson
The Pain of the Earth: an Interview With Duane “Chili” Yazzie
Binoy Kampmark
The New Hampshire Distortion: The Primaries Begin
Andrew Raposa
Portugal: Europe’s Weak Link?
Wahid Azal
Dugin’s Occult Fascism and the Hijacking of Left Anti-Imperialism and Muslim Anti-Salafism
February 09, 2016
Andrew Levine
Hillary Says the Darndest Things
Paul Street
Kill King Capital
Ben Burgis
Lesser Evil Voting and Hillary Clinton’s War on the Poor
Paul Craig Roberts
Are the Payroll Jobs Reports Merely Propaganda Statements?
Fran Quigley
How Corporations Killed Medicine
Ted Rall
How Bernie Can Pay for His Agenda: Slash the Military
Neve Gordon
Israeli Labor Party Adopts the Apartheid Mantra
Kristin Kolb
The “Great” Bear Rainforest Agreement? A Love Affair, Deferred
Joseph Natoli
Politics and Techno-Consciousness
Hrishikesh Joshi
Selective Attention to Diversity: the Case of Cruz and Rubio
Stavros Mavroudeas
Why Syriza is Sinking in Greece
David Macaray
Attention Peyton Manning: Leave Football and Concentrate on Pizza
Arvin Paranjpe
Opening Your Heart
Kathleen Wallace
Boys, Hell, and the Politics of Vagina Voting
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail