Tag Archives: Rupert Murdoch

More on Rupert Murdoch’s media conspiracies

Peter Beinart at Open Zion takes on Rupert Murdoch’s tweet from last night:

It’s offensive to journalists because it implies that institutions of the “press” should reflect the ideological biases of their owners. Reading Murdoch’s tweet, it would be logical to conclude that he believes that any newspaper he owns should reflect his right-wing views, even in its news coverage. The FCC might want to consider that when evaluating Murdoch’s reported bid to buy the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times.

Murdoch’s tweet is offensive to Jews because he’s suggesting that when it comes to Israel, Jewish media-owners should let their Jewishness guide their journalism. In the last couple of years, some on the left have gotten into trouble for using the phrase “Israel-firster,” thus implying that some American Jews place loyalty to Israel above individual conscience or loyalty to the United States. Murdoch seems upset that Jewish media owners are not Israel-firsters. He wants their tribal loyalty to a Jewish state to trump their professional obligation to oversee fair-minded, unbiased journalism.

As a smart friend points out, Murdoch’s tweet is the equivalent of saying “Why don’t Jewish bankers loan more money to Jews?” What’s offensive is the suggestion that Jewish bankers should make professional decisions not as bankers, but as Jews.

The twist, of course, is that Murdoch is upset at Jewish media owners for not favoring Israel. It’s possible, therefore, to read his tweet as a back-handed acknowledgment that Jewish media owners do act according to professional obligation, not tribal loyalty. That, however, would be too charitable. Had Murdoch merely observed that the “Jewish owned press” isn’t “consistently” pro-Israel, the implication might be that, true to journalistic obligation, Jewish media owners let their reporters follow the facts wherever they lead.

But Murdoch said something different: that the “Jewish owned press” is “consistently” anti-Israel. The implication is that Jewish media owners do indeed let their Jewishness define their Israel coverage. That’s why the coverage is “consistently” anti-Israel in “in every crisis.” It’s just that journalistically, their Jewishness expresses itself as hostility to Israel.

The joy of Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal

Yesterday’s online Wall Street Journal edition included a column by Daniel Henninger, its deputy editor of editorials. The article, titled “Memo to the Youth Vote,” begins by asking: “Why would anyone under the age of 25 vote for Barack Obama in November?”

This seems an unlikely question to ask. A Harvard poll released about a week ago revealed that Obama leads Romney among the young by 17%. So perhaps the more appropriate question would be, “Why would anyone under the age of 25 vote for Mitt Romney in November?” But even leaving aside this curious opening line, Henninger later uses economist Robert Lucas to critique Obama’s economic policies:

He then looked at the levels of U.S. social-welfare commitments, including the new Obama health-care entitlement, and ended with a simple observation: “Is it possible that by imitating European policies on labor markets, welfare and taxes, the U.S. has chosen a new, lower GDP trend? If so, it may be that the weak recovery we have had so far is all the recovery we will get.”

In what alternate universe has Obama imitated European policies on…any of these things? European tax systems are different, welfare is extremely different, and in general the labor markets are more rigid on the Old Continent than they are in the U.S. Going a step further, Obama’s stimulus package is proof positive that he differed strongly from his European counterparts, who have united behind the austerity-advocating trifecta of David Cameron, Angela Merkel, and Nicolas Sarkozy.

But Henninger doesn’t stop there. He then proceeds to discuss the disarray of European universities, never bothering to devote a single sentence to how this relates to the U.S., which has most of the best universities in the world. He finally closes by suggesting that, given high unemployment levels, young Americans may end up needing ObamaCare after all. Indeed they might, Henninger. That’s kinda the point of universal coverage.

Bill Keller: Democracy is dangerous. Maybe we should tone it down.

If nothing else, New York Times executive editor Bill Keller’s resignation from his position to return to writing columns has accomplished this: instead of inferring his stupidity from years of the Grey Lady’s questionable editorial choices, we can now confirm it directly by reading his essays. After vaingloriously confronting Arianna Huffington — including his now-infamous, yet not inaccurate disparagement of her as “the queen of aggregation” — and variously deriding new media as vapid and emotionless, Keller has now set his sights on the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.

Whether Keller’s latest column, “Why Tyrants Love the Murdoch Scandal,” was penned out of faux-modesty or genuine concern is at once an academic debate and one for which either answer is equally terrifying. For it is not the motive behind his words, but the fact that they exist at all — and in the pages of the vaunted New York Times, no less — that imbues them with such awesome power.

The first signs of trouble appear immediately. Notice, for example, that signature Kellerism: the cloying way he simultaneously feigns to refrain from, while gleefully leaping into, criticism of an arch-nemesis, News Corporation’s Rupert Murdoch. “Nor is this the place to celebrate a rival’s troubles,” he writes, before adding, “True, I did pull from my files and savor the indignant letters we received from News of the World’s top editors last year as we prepared to publish an investigation of the paper’s phone-hacking culture and Scotland Yard’s timidity — work that has been fully vindicated in recent weeks.”

But even such condescension is little more than a distracting aside. His real problem lies in the substance of his column. Keller inexplicably uses the fall from grace (from acceptance? from toleration?) of Murdoch’s News of the World to make a broader point about freedom of the press. Apparently, the police and parliamentary investigation of Murdoch’s publication represents some sort of threat to the democratic principle of free expression. We know this because Keller quotes an anonymous South African friend, who notes that his native country, which is already growing increasingly hostile to an unfettered media presence, may indeed find justification for its repression in the goings-on of the phone-hacking scandal. “‘You can be sure they will use the phone-hacking fallout to help make their case,'” Keller’s bizarrely unnamed friend informs him. “‘Nobody pays much attention to the effect of something like this on little countries like ours.'”

Indeed one doesn’t. And that is precisely because the effect is insignificant, if it exists at all. “Despots love to see a free press behaving badly,” Keller solemnly intones. And yet they seem to do just fine in its absence. There is no more enduring truism of totalitarian states than that they will, and do, seize inspiration for their tyranny in the most absurd places. To censor one’s perfectly legal, and even morally necessary, actions in order to appease the beast beyond our shores is patently insane. Paraphrasing Voltaire, if the phone-hacking scandal did not exist, it would be necessary — for dictators around the world, at least — to invent it. By this logic, perhaps Norway should think twice about imprisoning Anders Behring Breivik, for fear this may inspire crackdowns on political protest in Uganda.

Holding sacred democratic institutions hostage to the whims of dictators would seem to be anathema to the current executive editor of the New York Times, which is why its implied advocacy is so shocking. No one is suggesting — even in Britain, where press restrictions are more in vogue — that a nation should block access to the independent media or prevent it from expressing controversial viewpoints. In fact, Keller admits as much: “I’m not terribly alarmed that either Britain or the United States will significantly roll back the protections that allow us to hold our governments accountable — up to and including the hot scrutiny of stories like the WikiLeaks disclosures.”

What is taking place, however, is the mandatory legal process necessitated by News of the World‘s culture of disdain for the laws of the nation in which it operated. To ignore their incursions would be a far greater abandonment of democratic ideals, and would thus provide correspondingly greater fodder for the consistently bad intentions of undemocratic regimes.