Climate Manipulation and Murdoch’s PR Machine

Mill, Junction City, Oregon. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Western democracies and their respected societies appear to be incapable or unwilling of solving global warming. At least partly, this might be because voters in most countries have been lied to by the corporate media for decades on end. Much of this is due to one very rich and very old man – Rupert Murdoch. The shaping of public opinion takes place in a world in which very rich and very powerful men – they are always men – make their own rules, define their own issues, help getting their people elected, and make sure that global warming remains down the list of voters’ most pressing concerns.

It is a world in which the most powerful want to create their own reality. This reality is presented in their media outlets. No matter if it violates laws, rules, norms or simply decency and courtesy, they get their ideologies pushed because of the gigantic media apparatus they own. At times, they have certain things in common with certain politicians. Putin and Murdoch, for example, have much in common.

Murdoch, Putin, Europe, and Brexit

There are incidences where Rupert Murdoch’s media even hold the very same positions as the Kremlin’s well oiled propaganda machine. In Britain, for example, Putin and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp media empire worked, rather successfully, together on Brexit as well as the election of Boris Johnson. The role of conservative press in the UK among which Murdoch’s papers are the shining tower has been explained by the editor of the Ceasefire Magazine, Hicham Yezza. Here is what he said:

Print media hostility is an occupational hazard for most Labour leaders, but the ferocity of attacks against Corbyn over his four years as leader has been unprecedented. Labour was especially damaged by persistent attacks over its record on anti-Semitism, while the Tories’ failures in tackling Islamophobia received considerably less attention. A 2019 survey found nearly half of Tory party members said they would prefer not to have a Muslim prime minister. A study by Loughborough University found press hostility to Labour in 2019 was more than double the levels identified in 2017, while negative coverage of the Conservatives halved. Media hostility increased throughout the campaign, peaking in the final week, and was particularly damaging in painting Corbyn as unpatriotic and weak in the face of the nation’s enemies. Johnson encouraged this, repeating the false claim that Corbyn planned to abolish MI5 and wanted NATO to disband. Five days before the election, the Sun newspaper published an online piece purporting to show Corbyn was at the heart of a spider’s web of extensive contacts…from Marxist intellectuals to militant groups and illegal terror organisations. Sources included Aryan Unity, a neo-Nazi site, and The Millennium Report, an anti-Semitic conspiracy website. The piece was soon taken down, without explanation or apology. Voters’ negative views of Corbyn, expressed on social media and doorsteps, often echoed the headlines. These framings were not incidental.

Meanwhile in the US, Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News and Putin’s hackers fought for Donald Trump – and won. Putin has his intelligence, propaganda forces, hackers, and troll farms doing everything they can to divide and destabilise the West. This strategy seems to have worked in the case of getting the most divisive US president in living memory elected as well as hitting the European Union hard through Brexit. Globally, Murdoch’s media always promote what the patriarch considers to be “conservative”, neoliberal, and, above all, profitable. Disharmony does not seem to bother Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch simply creates his own version of truth.

Trump’s Ministry of Truth

For Donald Trump, Fox News is what Russian broadcasters Channel One, Rossyia, and NTV are for Putin: Without these propaganda channels, Trump’s and Putin’s approval ratings are likely to plummet quickly. For many voters, television still remains a central instrument of power, despite the Internet, Facebook, and Trump’s favourite propaganda tool: Twitter. There is a clear link between watching Fox News and believing that Donald Trump is a great president. Viewers think Trump is an unimpeachable president. Fox News creates a toxic political atmosphere in which everything Trump claims is true. Simultaneously, the most obvious truth is framed as partisan – as propaganda. For many Fox viewers it remains impossible to find out what is true and what is not. For many, whatever Trump says is the truth. In other words, Fox News is something like Trump’s very own Ministry of Truth. In the 2019 TV series The Loudest Voicestarring Russell Crowe as Fox CEO Roger Ailes – you can see what kind of people make Murdoch’s media and how they are. Some might have seen this already during Rupert Murdoch’s 2005 to 2007 phone hackings scandal in the UK.

Indeed, a 2019 study shows that there are significant differences between Republican voters who regularly watch Fox News and the rest. These might be called “Fox-Republicans”. On a range of social, environmental, and political issues, these “Fox-Republicans” take more extreme positions than the rest. Such extreme views are formed by Fox News. In line with the positions of the broadcaster, they favour more guns, less taxes, and even racism. On average, Fox-Republicans are older and less educated. Donald Trump once said, “I love the poorly educated,” Trump knows why. Seventy-eight per cent of Fox Republicans think Trump is the “best president of all time”.

Global Danger Man – Rupert Murdoch

Shortly after the election that brought Trump to the White House, 40 per cent of Trump voters said that Fox News was their main news source. Unsurprisingly, Trump voters prefer FOX over any other media. The strong preference for FOX is unique to this group of voters. Still, next to Fox there is Facebook. Much has been said and written about Facebook’s complicity in Trump’s election victory. This includes Facebook off-sider Cambridge Analytica. Despite Facebook, Twitter, and Cambridge Analytica, there is much to suggest that Murdoch’s sinister propaganda channel played an even more important role in giving the world Donald Trump – not as a real estate mogul and a TV presenter but as the President of the United States of America. It is not only since recent times that Murdoch’s media empire poses a far greater danger. Since quite some time, Murdoch’s media empire has a global reach. On both sides of the Atlantic as well as the Pacific, Murdoch’s broadcasters and newspapers are actively working to eliminate any serious climate policy.

Disinformation in the face of the fire disaster

For decades, Murdoch’s News Corp media has been one of the most persistent advocates when it comes to sowing doubts about man-made climate change. Despite some recent “fig-leaf operations” to give the appearance of taking climate change a bit more serious, Murdoch’s denial, belittling, and de-recognition of the inevitable has been an ideological strategy of the Murdoch press since decades. A typical example comes from the recent bushfires in Australia – Rupert Murdoch’s former home country. In the face of Australia’s huge, catastrophic, and highly lethal bushfires that came after years of extreme drought and heat, Murdoch’s News Corp’s commentators blamed the bushfires on arsonists and even the Greens. In a Ping-Pong like process, Australia’s religiously conservative Prime Minister worked in tandem with Fox News to convince Australians that bushfires had nothing to do with global warming.

Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison is locally known as Scomo or Scotty from Marketing. Until recently, Scomo tried to deny the link between climate change and bushfires. More recently, he moderated his hard-line stance as a global warming denier. While officially giving the appearance of accepting “some” link between bushfires and global warming, Scomo is pushing ahead with the expansion of coal production in his country. He feels supported by Donald Trump and Boris Johnson, and, above all, by the Murdoch press. But today, there are serious voices, including two former prime ministers, who believe that Murdoch personally determines who runs the government in his country of birth.

In the world of Murdoch, Trump and Morrison, the man-made climate crisis is still a question of faith. This is a political position among many. To them, admitting to the realities of global warming means putting in place obstacles on the way to even more power and even more money. The 88-year-old Murdoch’s private wealth is estimated to be seven to eight billions of dollars. Murdoch’s son and heir-to-the-throne Lachlan also reportedly shares daddy’s view. Meanwhile Rupert himself publicly denies it.

Physics is not interested in propaganda

However, the method of engineering a parallel reality only works to a limited extent when gigantic areas of Australia are on fire and even inhabitants of distant cities have to breathe smoke and soot. Mr. Morrison may have a formidable propaganda machine in Murdoch’s press and virtually no opposition at the same time, but his moral authority is dwindling. At the same time, Rupert Murdoch has never had moral authority. Today, the brutal facts of the rising climate catastrophe have led to News Corp employees and even members of the Murdoch clan publicly resenting the denial machine. Rupert’s own son turns away; his son James and his wife, Kathryn told a spokesman this week about their views on the physical facts of climate change and their frustration with parts of News Corp and Fox’s coverage. The US magazine The Daily Beast quoted an unnamed News Corp executive saying, the majority of people who work here agree with James. We hope that this is the point at which things are tipped. The rest of humanity wishes him to be right. Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch remains the most dangerous man in the world.


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Thomas Klikauer is the author of Managerialism (Palgrave, 2013).

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