Monday, 11 April 2011

A Love Story: Rupert Murdoch and the Establishment.

 The Yuppie Mephistopheles.

Over the last five decades Rupert Murdoch has constructed an international media empire, it began with News Ltd which he inherited in 1953 from his father and he soon sought to expanded the family business horizontally. Politicians fear his wrath as a campaign of vilification backed by Rupert Murdoch is practically unstoppable. David Cameron had a private meeting with Murdoch before being elected Prime Minister, with the full support of Murdoch's media interests in Britain. Even Barack Obama met with Murdoch before taking office and has been the subject of a destructive smear campaign run out of Fox News - accusing Obama of being a socialist - and has openly come out in support of the Republicans for 2012. The current scandal over phone hacking at The News of the World (which began back in 2006) is interesting in this context. When Gordon Brown was Prime Minister and the scandal had just erupted, Murdoch had called for New Labour to back off and then sided against Brown in 2009.

As of last year Rupert Murdoch has contributed $1 million to the Republican Party and given the Tea Party enormous support through his media interests. Just like the way James Goldsmith funded the anti-Communist campaign against unions in Britain back in the 70s. The same framework of a fight of the common man against the liberal elite and the political class is applied by Fox News against the White House to further a right-wing agenda. In the last years of New Labour the right-wing press, led by Murdoch, attacked Brown on numerous incidents. Take "Bigotgate" in which Gordon Brown was caught on tape calling Gillian Duffy a "bigot" because of comments she made about immigration. The 40% of British media owned and influenced by Murdoch led the way in the attack on Brown as an out-of-touch elitist. In a similar manner The News of the World strived to uncover the lies and sordid secrets of the Establishment. The sex life of John Prescott is the business of the public according to The News of the World and any call for his right to privacy is just elitism.

Take the case of Russell Harty, who as he lay dying in a hospital bed from hepatitus found himself hounded by The News of the World. There was an intense undercurrent of homophobia to the media frenzy, which culminated in The Sun blaming Harty for his death just after the funeral in 1988. It was in reaction to the recent attack on the Murdoch empire by the liberal elite, it came in the form of Alan Bennett who pointed the finger at the press and said "The gutter press finished him." Even though reporters had been pursuing Harty in the hospital, posing as doctors demanding to see medical notes and photographers who rented a flat opposite Harty's hotel room, it was decided Bennett had made an outrageous statement. The Sun responded "Stress did not kill Russell Harty. The truth is that he died from a sexually transmitted disease. The press didn't give it to him. He caught it from his own choice. And by paying young rent boys he broke the law. Some - like ageing bachelor Mr Bennett - can see no harm in that. He has no family. But what if it had been YOUR son Harty had bedded?"

Every US President since Truman has met Rupert Murdoch and he has helped elect a few along the way through his media empire. It was Fox News which first declared George W Bush the President-elect and the rival news outlets soon fell in line. The Bush tax-cuts that were supposedly drawn-up to benefit the middle-classes and effectively handed over $1.6 trillion to around 1% of the American population. The surplus nurtured in the Clinton years of austere cut-backs was destroyed by this approach and a huge deficit was soon accumulated. The deficit is used to call for even more cuts to welfare, social security and health-care (notice defence is always excluded) in order for another set of tax-cuts. By 2003 out of the 247 editors, who work under Murdoch as part of his media empire, none came out to oppose the Iraq war and these are supposedly "independent" editors. Even Rupert Murdoch himself has admitted that the corporation actively supported the war until it became impossible to do so - given the level of opposition among the public.   

Buccaneer of the Press.

It wasn't until 1968 that Rupert Murdoch took over The News of the World and plucked it from the arms of an old establishment family. Sir William Carr chose Murdoch over Bob Maxwell, whom Carr hated because he was a Czech, as Murdoch had promised that even after the purchase Carr would continue to have a say in the running of the paper. This appealed to the attitudes of the Establishment at the time. Maxwell warned Sir William Carr that if Rupert Murdoch is allowed to takeover the paper "You will be out before your feet touch the ground" and he replied "Bob, Rupert is a gentleman." But as soon as Murdoch had cornered the shareholders in 1969 Carr was forced out. The Establishment decided that Rupert Murdoch was not a gentleman at all, he was a sleazy and destructive buccaneer capitalist. That same year Murdoch bought The Sun, it would be transformed from a replacement to The Daily Herald to the most widely sold newspaper in Britain.

Then Rupert Murdoch announced he was going to publish the memoirs of Christine Keeler in The News of the World. Keeler had an affair with John Profumo, the Secretary of State for War, in 1963 which scandalised high society and wrecked MacMillan's government. Profumo had since been rehabilitated after he worked for a charity in the East End. The British establishment had forgiven him and the way Murdoch had exumed the Profumo affair was a blatantly cynical decision motivated only by profit. The destruction of one of their own, who had made a "mistake" but had been reformed", was intolerable. The commentariat came to the rescue and the BBC made a more probing look at Rupert Murdoch with David Dimbleby as it's tool for doing so. It was after this rejection Murdoch moved to the US where he would continue his media expansion. From where he would contine to rail against old liberal elites, like the Kennedy family. To obscure a new array of elite interests Murdoch crafted a reflexive populism capable of slinging mud at any opponent.

At the time Rupert Murdoch had been mingling with the Mayfair Set, which included James Goldsmith, Jim Slater, Tiny Rowland, David Stirling (the man who founded the SAS), John Aspinall and Lord Lucan. The role the Set played in the shaping of the political trajectory of the late 20th Century has been well documented by Adam Curtis. Just as Murdoch was rejected by the Establishment so was the Mayfair Set. In the economic turmoil caused by the oil crisis, Slater Walker went bust in 1975 and Jim Slater was bankcrupted. Tiny Rowland was condemned by Ted Heath as the "unacceptable face of capitalism" and moved back to Africa. Lord Lucan disappeared without a trace after killing his nanny. James Goldsmith was left to pick up the pieces, but  followed Murdoch after a petty legal dispute with Private Eye. All of these men were disaffected right-wingers, who believed that the Labour Party and the media had been infiltrated by communists determined to undermine and destroy Great Britain.

Ironically these disaffected right-wingers who would undermine Britain as a nation and as a society in "liberating" the forces of the market and globalisation. Stirling had only succeeded in bringing a great deal of oil money to Britain through arms deals. Slater and Goldsmith smashed the family-ran public companies in order to make a short-term profit. The way Rupert Murdoch pursued his right-wing agenda reduced political discourse to a series of cynical exaggerations, moralising rants and politicised fear. The forces of liberal capitalism lead to a socio-economic, as well as a metaphysical, wasteland in which moral relativism (the very idea Murdoch rails against as "elitist") is nurtured. The market rationality is secular and relativistic, not to mention pragmatic, which has a subversive effect on the moral, religious and political order. This contradiction between the economic and the metaphysical is inherent to capitalism, it is inescapable. Murdoch offers a way of managing this tension, he has the power to reassert morality and nationhood that has been wrecked by the market.

At War with Elites.

The way Murdoch narrativised it, he rejected the Establishment out of a deep-seated understanding of the common man and would never "sell out" to become a "bloody press lord". To get revenge Rupert Murdoch returned to Britain in 1981 and bought The Times, to the outrage of the liberal elite and old 'One Nation' Tories. But the Thatcherites gave the take-over the go-ahead without reference to the Monopolies Commission, which was compulsory under the law. Thatcher made an exception for Murdoch on the grounds that neither The Times nor The Sunday Times made any money and he repaid her with dutiful support. In reaction the BBC, that oh so adversial pack of Oxbridge liberals, decided to shine a light on the business and personal life of Rupert Murdoch in a documentary entitled "Who's Afraid of Rupert Murdoch?" on Panorama. It was a much more hard-hitting look at the man behind the media and was followed by another interview conducted by David Dimbleby. As it turns out, the liberal commentariat hates Murdoch as much as the British establishment.

In 1986 Murdoch had moved all of his operations out of Fleet Street to Wapping. The print unions fell into the trap and went on strike, he sacked them and claimed that the unions were part of the decadent elites. The market system had to serve the people, all obstacles to market forces had to be swept away in the name of this cause. Actually the move increased the value of British papers by over 300%. The lay-offs in Britain were used to cross-subsidise the birth of Fox TV. In 1989 he helped write an editorial to celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Sun in which he wrote "The Establishment does not like the Sun. Never has. There is a growing band of people in positions of influence and privilege who want our newspaper to suti their private convenience." By 1991 Murdoch had solidified his position as a global media oligarch and he had the last laugh at Maxwell's expense, who fell off a yacht and drowned. This came after Maxwell had become one of the greatest criminals in the history of business.

As made evident in "Who's Afraid of Rupert Murdoch?" he has been consistently engaged in the take-over of intelligent newspapers only to transform them into cynical right-wing trash. These papers effectively become a propaganda wing for any political party which Murdoch latches onto out of ruthless self-interest. The opposition is immediately subjected to a destructive smear campaign, which abides no rules or moral code. In Britain this helped elect Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Tony Blair and David Cameron. He was also instrumental in the downfalls of Gordon Brown and John Major (among others). The cunning manner in which Murdoch handles politicians, to benefit his own interests, led to him receiving a massive loan from the US government just after he had endorsed Jimmy Carter. Out of a hatred of what he considered to be elitism Murdoch helped conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic undermine old institutions, which were dominated by old money elites, in order to stamp out the network of opposition to him.

Rupert Murdoch supported the Conservatives in 2010 out of the same ruthless self-interest which caused him to attack Labour in 1992 and secure a Tory victory. Kinnock announced that if Labour won the election there would new ownership stipulations introduced to the market. This could have led to the breakdown of News Corporation which would amount to Murdoch's castration. The Oxbridge liberals at the BBC, who have "fought" Murdoch so valiantly for over 40 years, have now offered themselves up on a platter like the pig who wants to be eaten. Perhaps awaiting the Second Coming of Glenn Beck in the form of Richard Littlejohn? All for the sake of free-choice the BBC seems to have caved in to a policy favouring Murdoch's interests. The BBC is the biggest rival in Britain to News Corp, so it must be undermined, weakened and broken down into edible chunks for a smooth digestion. So a freeze of the license fee would be a good start. The only thing Murdoch hates more is Ofcom and that has been highlighted as a quango ready to be cut.

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