Saturday, July 16, 2011

Rupert Murdoch: The Kingmaker and Political Manipulator

Rupert Murdoch is a Republican politician. He doesn't hold office, but he's a politician, nevertheless. He doesn't sit in the House of Lords but he acts like a Lord with all the privileges and powers that go with office. But not a Lord in the British House of Lords as its been in the last 100 years or so. He's from the House of Tories, circa 1776. He's tea party. Except, of course, the tea party Republicans are really Tories defending lies, corruption and privilege to the hilt. They want to kill Medicare, but pretend on Tuesdays and Thursdays that they don't. They want to kill Social Security but pretend on Mondays and Wednesdays that they don't. They want the economy to fail under Obama, but pretend that they don't on Thursdays and Saturdays.

They do, however, admit that they want to cut the budget to the bone. And that makes them job killers seven days a week.

But I digress, though Lord Murdoch is certainly a tea party Tory if there ever was. He was a Tory in Australia, where he was born and inherited a small newspaper empire—and privilege. He was a Tory in the U.K., where he began to accumulate wealth—and privilege. Being greedy, he moved on to the U.S. and remains a Tory both in the U.S. and the U.K.

I sort of met Rupurt Murdoch once. We were invited to the same event along with many other people. I never said a word to him, nor did I have any desire to do so. But I watched as he entered with his entourage and his enormous ego, dripping with disdain, not only for his sycophants but even for those at the event. I watched the sycophants vie with him for attention, nervously and aggressively, while Murdoch played a kind of power game with them. The group and their 'Lord' went to the farthest corner away from everyone else and did not pay the least bit of attention to the event they were invited to. They were all more important than the rest of us. These were people from Fox News and, who knows, perhaps there were two or three people from the British tabloids that Murdoch owns.

All too often the ethics of organizations reflect the ethics of the owners. The tabloid scandal in the UK undoubtedly flows from Murdoch's values (see Carl Berstein's article in Newsweek). It's apparent he likes to twist arms, particularly if he can make a lucrative deal. He was hoping for a lucrative deal through British Sky Broadcasting. But he appears to have overreached. Here's just a small taste, from the BBC:
Under pressure from the entire British political establishment, Mr Murdoch has also dropped plans to buy out the rest of British Sky Broadcasting.

And on Friday he saw Rebekah Brooks resign, the chief executive of his UK newspaper business News International - the very executive who he explicitly wanted to keep in the job.

Now Mr Murdoch's business faces investigations in the UK and potentially the US and Australia, risking further revelations that could harm his reputation.
Make no mistake. Mr. Murdoch is a bean counter. There is no way that he could have failed to notice where the money was going for some of the illegal activities of his so-called 'reporters.' To get 'scoops' as often as his reporters did can only happen in a corrupt environment where reporters feel free to break rules not so much for newsworthy, need to know stories, but largely as an instrument of power.

Anyone who doesn't think Murdoch is willing to throw his weight around to get what he wants, take note of this story on The Huffington Post:
Under assault in a phone hacking scandal, News Corp. has met a self-imposed deadline for reporting its 2011 political contributions online.

(snip)

The company's board approved a new disclosure policy for its political giving in April after two donations by Rupert Murdoch, the Australian mogul who controls the company, raised concern among shareholders. Murdoch gave $1 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and $1.25 million to the Republican Governors Association.

That's a lot of money for a political campaign from a single donor. I strongly oppose the rich and powerful being able to make such huge contributions. You cannot have a democracy for long if wealthy 'Lords' have that much power. The real patriots of 1776 felt that way. They were being hindered by the Tories in America and the Tories in Britain who acquired their power through birth, privilege and corruption. And those Tories didn't mind breaking their own rules to accumulate more power and wealth.

Some might argue the the scandal in the UK has nothing to do with Murdoch's behavior here. Think again. Here's another story, from the AP:
The AP is reporting that the Justice Department is looking into the allegations that News Corp. hacked into the cellphones of 9/11 victims. We're told to expect a statement from DOJ shortly. More when we have it.

These days, the leadership of the Republican Party is trying to turn the United States into a third world country. The rich get richer and everyone else falls further and further behind as consumers get screwed and jobs get sent to China and elsewhere. There's no excuse for this behavior. We are a democracy and though it doesn't feel like it sometimes, we're still a free people. For the hundreds of millions who live in third world economies, they barely manage the necessities of life and they rarely feel free. Instinctively, without knowing what a third world economy was, the patriots of 1776 were fighting the very policies that even today would turn us into vassals of the rich and powerful.

The paragraph above makes the essential point of this post. But it's worth noting one last point. The scandal in the UK is proof of what many of us have know for some time: Fox News is the product of the best bullshit that Mr. Murdoch's money can buy.

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