MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Has Rupert Murdoch Doomed Us?
Many Americans don't know that the newspaper heritage handed down to Rupert Murdoch from his father has been largely built upon tabloids, an appeal to the basest sensational instincts of readers (and now television viewers). It is only in recent decades, as Murdoch expanded his fortunes that he branched out into respectable publications such as the Wall Street Journal and the Times of London. He also extended his holdings into expanding the FOX empire (including the film studio 20th Century FOX and the FOX entertainment cable channel; FOX News is really only a relatively small portion of his revenue empire). Then there is DirectTV and BskyB, among other holdings. Murdoch even owns the book publishing giant Harper Collins.
But Murdoch's first big purchases in the UK around 1970 were the now infamous hacking tabloid, News of the World, and The Sun, famous for its page three photos of bare-breasted women.
All of Murdoch's media ventures have been inextricably intertwined with his "friendships" with prime ministers, presidents, and leaders of any nation in which he holds a media stake. The investigation of the News of the World hacking scandal revealed that current UK Prime Minister David Cameron was both a social friend and professional ally. Yesterday, BuzzFlash at Truthout wrote about the ease with which FOX is willing to insert itself even into the selection process of Republican candidates for president, let alone employing GOP political farm team members on its television staff as consultants.
In 1976, Murdoch bought the lurid money-losing tabloid The New York Post, whose most telling sensationalistic headline, among a treasure trove of blaring seedy front pages, is generally regarded as "Headless Body in Topless Bar."
This week, however, Murdoch's Post (which is still hemorrhaging money, but Rupert keeps it for the pedestal it provides for influencing politics in New York and in DC) moved from sensationalism to the "snuff photo" genre when it posted a shot of a man about to be killed (he was) by an MTA train running him over. The headline on the front page was "Pushed on the subway track, this man is about to die: DOOMED."
Who took the photo? A New York Post photographer who happened to be in the subway when an altercation resulted in the soon-to-be dead man being thrown into the path of the train.
An uproar has ensured about why the freelance Post photographer, or other bystanders, didn't rush to pull the man onto the platform. Yet, another troubling question is why the New York Post editorial staff would choose to run such a vicarious death thrill photo, interview the photographer , and provide extensive coverage of the incident, almost equal in volume to its Murdoch-affiliate blaring out Benghazi conspiracy theories 24 hours a day.
Perhaps the to-your-gut disturbing Post cover represents symbolically the death rattle of democracy as the Murdoch-led plutocratic train of propaganda races down the track, despite the Democrat victories in 2012. What is most disturbing about Murdoch is that he can work with Democrats or Labour Party members (he was a big buddy of Tony Blair) because he can shape public perception through his media empire and, as a result, play a role in delivering votes. He is the kingdom and the power in many ways.
When push comes to shove, as it did on a New York subway, Murdoch is a creepy eminence grise across several continents.
Other oligarchs have amassed more money, but like his Italian cousin in using broadcast and print ownership to keep the masses in place (Silvio Berlusconi, perhaps soon to be in jail), Murdoch is the outsized version of a power that is worth more than money to the Masters of the Universe who seek to influence elections; Murdoch has the platform to persuade low-information and self-serving voters to accept fiction as fact and to reinforce their self-perceptions that they are the victims of "liberal" socialists scheming to deprive them of their money, while inciting the notion that his readers and audience members are victims of a pluralistic conspiracy.
The man who was killed as he was rammed by an MTA train, Ki Suk Han, 58, was one of the "others," a Korean immigrant, allegedly pushed on the tracks by a black man during an altercation.
Is there a metaphoric message in the Post front page that has the word "DOOMED" (in caps) towering over it?
Afternote: It has been reported that Murdoch's News Corp. is in preliminary negotiations to purchase the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times. The FCC is also considering easing its cross-ownership restrictions, allegedly to allow for Murdoch to expand his media holdings in given markets in the US.
(Photo: World Economic Forum)