Murdoch succeeded where Putin failed. Time for a Fox hunt
Rupert Murdoch – Australia’s biggest media mogul – succeeded where Vladimir Putin failed. He turned Americans against each other, promoting anger, hatred and lies. Murdoch knew Donald Trump’s claim that the election was stolen was a lie but his Fox News network persuaded millions of Americans that it was true.
And so he created the environment that made January 6, 2021 possible; thousands of Americans assaulting the Capitol and trying to overthrow the election. If this mob had found speaker Nancy Pelosi or vice president Mike Pence they might well have killed them. That was their stated intent.
Trump supporters near the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Credit:Getty
Putin must have been hugging himself in delight. No amount of Russian interference could have achieved this.
It wasn’t a surprise to read the troves of emails, texts and sworn depositions in the Dominion Voting Systems case, where the Murdochs and their Fox News employees acknowledge that Trump’s conspiracy claims were “really crazy stuff”. But the fact they wrote it down, cynically agreeing that they must spread it to protect their ratings and revenues shows how utterly unaccountable they believe themselves to be.
These events alone justify the rigorous inquiry that only a royal commission can bring. Just this week Australians have been reminded of how dependent we are on our American ally. Indeed, the AUKUS agreement has doubled down on that dependence. So the subversion of American democracy threatens Australia, and Australian security, as much as it threatens the United States.
No wonder Joe Biden has called Rupert Murdoch “the most dangerous man in the world”.
Donald Trump, Rupert Murdoch, Tucker Carlson.Credit:AP
In the wake of these latest revelations, Murdoch’s Fox News (echoed by its Australian mini-me, Sky News) has shown contempt for the public with a series of Orwellian broadcasts claiming the fatal Capitol attack was not an assault on democracy. Whatever we all thought we saw, these were mostly “sightseers” who entered the Capitol so they could “revere” the building.
This has serious consequences for Australia. Not only does our long-term economic and national security depend on the stability of our US ally, but the same corporate culture exists in Australia, where News Corp accounts for more than half the media industry. So we can no longer avoid the question: could News Corp do the same thing here? If you’re paying close enough attention, you’ll see that it already is.
Murdoch’s News Corp long ago abandoned its commitment to truth. Newsrooms once staffed by the nation’s best journalists have been hollowed out, replaced in many cases by extreme political activists. The company’s claims of editorial independence are farcical; do they seriously expect us to believe that every Australian newspaper editor decided independently to suppress any coverage of Rupert’s evidence to the US courts?
Sky News is booming. It’s Fox with an Aussie accent, importing its addictive angertainment and distributing it to new audiences across free-to-air television, streaming video and social media. All media outlets have their unique political outlook, but News Corp stands apart for its willingness to simply make stuff up.
Most Australians, like many Americans a decade ago, would barely have noticed this happening. They don’t watch Sky or buy Murdoch’s newspapers. News Corp’s power to decide elections has diminished. But politicians remain fearful of News Corp’s retribution, its power to set the broader media agenda, and its influence on the political right is growing. The burgeoning Sky-aligned faction is driving moderate voters away from the Liberal and National parties, or encouraging self-radicalisation in order to fit in. And that poses a major problem for our democracy.
For the Coalition parties, this is a crucial moment.
The pace of this transformation over the past five years has been breathtaking. As seasoned leaders in politics, it has surprised even us. The game has changed. Our democracy is still one of competing parties but, unless action is taken, it risks becoming one of competing realities.
We believe a royal commission into media concentration is now needed to defend our democracy. That is why we have agreed to join Australians for a Murdoch Royal Commission as its co-chairs, succeeding Kevin Rudd.
This is not a Left-Right issue, we come from both sides of the political divide. Freedom of the press is sacred, but it can no longer be a shield of convenience for bad-faith actors who knowingly lie. We do not presume to have the answers – that’s what the commission is for – but we do know that the Foxification of Australia won’t be halted by piecemeal media reforms that can’t pass parliament unless they are signed off by Rupert.
We stand ready to make this case, and we need the continuing support of all Australians who value our democracy to help deliver the message to Canberra: if you have the courage to act, we will support you.
Former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and former ACTU president Sharan Burrow are the incoming co-chairs of Australians for a Murdoch Royal Commission.
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