It seems that the metastasizing scandal at Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp is finally having some repercussions on this side of the Atlantic, but naturally not in the way you’d think. Although ol’ Rupert himself confirmed this week that that he is “cooperating” with the US Department of “Justice” on the FCPA implications of the hacking/bribery/influence peddling outrages that have gripped Britain for months, this is the Holder Justice Department after all, so he’s not exactly quaking in his orthopedic loafers about that.
No, what’s finally awakened American victims of Murdoch’s mayhem to the wanton sleaze of News Corp is that somehow the whole brouhaha might end up affecting the stock price. Heaven knows we can’t have that. Of course, this green eyeshades crowd uttered nary a peep when Murdoch overpaid by billions for the money pit called the Wall Street Journal and raised no kerfuffle when he poured money down the rathole of the New York Post for decades; as long as Fox News was making money, let the old man have his fun.
Back in the 70’s and early 80’s, when Rupert was snapping up still-profitable newspapers like a teabagger at an all-you-can-eat buffet, there were actual journalists in the business, and they fled in droves. Harold Evans summarily left the London Times and Mike Royko jumped from the Chicago Sun-Times to the Tribune, both leaving a trail of scathing denunciations and lost readers in their wake. What they knew, and what everyone else continues to pretend to have forgotten to this day, is that once Rupert is in charge, your media outlet will turn into a cheesy piece of propagandistic crap, pretty much instantly, with its reputation (and value) in tatters.
By now this should be obvious, but it evidently isn’t. There were no such dire warnings months ago, when the costly and ignominious shuttering of News of the World effectively ended News Corps’ hopes of grabbing another profitable cable TV monopoly in the UK. What these ostensibly savvy investors failed to grasp was that the myriad money-losing and increasingly crummy papers did was grease the skids for slimy politicians to make Rupert into a global Silvio Berlusconi, admittedly and somewhat disappointingly with fewer hookers involved.
Fox News was perhaps the pinnacle of this strategy: an aggressively dumb and flashy campaign commercial for the crony capitalism on which the Murdoch empire depends, but one that actually made money, to boot. It wasn’t always this way; Murdoch flushed a half a billion or so down the toilet of “America’s Newsroom” before shareholders saw a single dollar, but its propaganda value has repaid that in spades. So far.
A glance at the “news” Fox is pushing, just today, starkly illustrates what goes on in that bedbug-ridden but lucrative basement. Nixon fellator Monica Crowley tweets her surprise that Sandra Fluke is engaged “to a man.” Megyn Kelly spends six minutes lamenting the “War on Religion” with Catholic cuckoo Bill Donohue without mentioning that the USCCB just loudly denounced the Paul Ryan budget. Sean Hannity tells the poor to wash down their rice and beans with water instead of soda, Greg Gutfield claims, laughably, that there’s no such thing as deforestation, Stuart Varney laments the “War on Oil,” and James Inhofe is brought on to, well, be James Inhofe.
Meanwhile, America’s Least Informed News Consumers nod in agreement, and hypnotically order time shares, commemorative plates, and gold coins while they’re at it. In short, Fox News is a 24-hour Republican campaign commercial, and gets paid for it. I guess the Kochs have better uses for their money at the moment.
But the Murdoch empire is not unlike Glenn Beck’s Christmas Sweater; pull a thread and it rapidly unravels, a predictable phenomenon we’re finally seeing now. The profits and the propaganda have existed symbiotically for many years, both at least vaguely aware that one can’t exist without the other. As Dolly Parton once memorably put it, “It costs a lot of money to look this cheap.” Maybe Rupert’s shareholders are finally getting Dolly’s message.