Rogue newspapers or part of a continuum?
You’ve got to hand it to the old pirate, Rupert Murdoch — he’s still at the top of his form. His performance at the “Leveson commission” in London last week was, in its own way, something to behold. Denying he seeks favors for his businesses, denying he has any influence, denying he knows anything that is happening within his company.
And Fox News is “fair and balanced.” There must be much unease within News Corp. these days, considering the number of old hands — some of whom worked there for decades — Murdoch so casually threw overboard. Before The Guardian last summer broke open the still unfolding News Corp. scandals, we were told hacking was the work of a single “rogue reporter.” Then it became the work of a single “rogue newspaper.” Next a “rogue country” perhaps? One can see where this might be headed, so Murdoch, in his two days of testimony last week, sought to head off the possibility that the, uh, whole company, might be “rogue” and so fell back on blaming his executives for keeping he and son James in the dark.
This week’s declaration by a British Parliament committee that Murdoch is “not fit” to run a major company does catch one’s attention. I don’t believe that extraordinary declaration can be separated from Murdoch’s first appearance before the Leveson commission, last year. The most common commentary then reduced his performance to personalized notions such as “doddering grandpa” in light of his long pauses and lack of answers offered. What I saw in last year’s testimony was a boss used to being unaccountable to anyone — his crisp “no’s” and clipped phrases to the questions reflected someone used to giving orders and being in charge. His own manner betrays his role as the person in charge, whether that is tightly managing his properties or creating and encouraging a distinct corporate culture.
How much influence does Murdoch truly wield? Over the political process, evidentially plenty, considering how British politicians all feared his considerable wrath, and how cravenly Republicans in the U.S. seek the favors of Fox News. Media outlets that are wielded as weapons of destruction with no regard for reality, and readerships and viewerships in the millions, is coercive to democracy.
But do such outlets truly change minds and shape public opinion? What moves public opinion is repetition, and not repetition in a handful of obviously biased publications or networks, but rather repetition of viewpoints, reporting angles and underlying themes and assumptions, across the entire corporate media. There are a vast array of institutions, including corporations, “think tanks,” schools and militaries, to suffice a society with the viewpoints of the dominant, which in a capitalist society are its industrialists and financiers.