New York Times Magazine staff writer Jonathan Mahler and media reporter Jim Rutenberg teamed on a colossal, three-part investigation of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire (and family drama), using the elderly mogul’s sale of his 21st Century Fox empire to Walt Disney as the catalyst for an incredibly noxious hit piece on Fox News, which is accused of virtually everything wrong with the world.
The tone is amazingly ideological and personally hostile, perhaps the most virulent and conspiracy-minded attack on Fox News ever issued by the paper, certainly the longest one, against some stiff competition. It reads more like a paranoid left-wing screed from The Nation or In These Times than it does content for an objective newspaper.
It was posted Wednesday morning for a presumed print release in the April 7 edition of the Sunday Magazine.
The story’s sample plate of sorts, summarizing the massive story’s top-line arguments, was repugnant enough: “6 Takeaways From The Times’s Investigation Into Rupert Murdoch and His Family.” The subhead: “Using 150 interviews on three continents, The Times describes the Murdoch family’s role in destabilizing democracy in North America, Europe and Australia.”
(By “destabilizing democracy,” The Times seems to mean, “electing conservatives or Republicans and advocating policies like Brexit and immigration control that we despise.”)
The summary is by Liam Stack, a reporter whose anti-conservative hostility sticks out even at the paper (see how he twisted a religion study to mock conservatives):
Here are some key takeaways from The Times’s investigation into the Murdoch family and its role in the illiberal, right-wing political wave sweeping the globe.
Fox News has long exerted a gravitational pull on the Republican Party in the United States, where it most recently amplified the nativist revolt that has fueled the rise of the far right and the election of President Trump.
Mr. Murdoch’s media outlets have promoted right-wing politics and stoked reactionary populism across the globe in recent years.
As Stack summarized, report focused heavily on the family succession squabble between Rupert Murdoch's sons, James and Lachlan, and the state of Murdoch's media empire, much of which was recently sold to the Walt Disney Co.:
[James’] proposals went nowhere. Lachlan and Rupert opposed any change to what they saw as a winning formula and decided to stick with Fox’s incendiary programming.
But James believed he had seen firsthand the damage that outlets like Fox News were doing to the company.
(Reporter Stack has snarked against Fox News before.)
The first part of the actual investigation from Mahler and Rutenberg, threateningly named “Imperial Expansion,” as if Murdoch was a conquering dictator rather than a successful newsman, was headlined: “The Murdoch Dynasty -- How Rupert Murdoch’s Empire of Influence Remade the World” (click “expand”):
James and Lachlan were very different people, with very different politics, and they were pushing the company toward very different futures: James toward a globalized, multiplatform news-and-entertainment brand that would seem sensible to any attendee of Davos or reader of The Economist; Lachlan toward something that was at once out of the past and increasingly of the moment -- an unabashedly nationalist, far-right and hugely profitable political propaganda machine.
Across the English-speaking world, the family’s outlets have helped elevate marginal demagogues, mainstream ethnonationalism and politicize the very notion of truth. The results have been striking. It may not have been the family’s mission to destabilize democracies around the world, but that has been its most consequential legacy.
Murdoch has carefully built an image during his six decades in media as a pragmatist who will support liberal governments when it suits him. Yet his various news outlets have inexorably pushed the flow of history to the right across the Anglosphere, whether they were advocating for the United States and its allies to go to war in Iraq in 2003, undermining global efforts to combat climate change or vilifying people of color at home or from abroad as dangerous threats to a white majority.
Crossing the waters, The Times lumped Brexit backers with thuggish regimes, even Nazis:
The idea of Britain’s splitting from the E.U. had always seemed more like a nativist fever dream than a realistic political goal. But in 2016, Brexit proponents could scan the globe and see cause for optimism. Not only was Trump’s campaign surging in the United States, but reactionary nationalism was also gaining supporters worldwide: In Austria’s presidential elections, the candidate of the Freedom Party, founded by former Nazi officers, narrowly lost in a runoff. The Philippines had just elected as president Rodrigo Duterte, following a campaign during which he inveighed against the country’s business and political elites and promised to kill so many criminals that the fish in Manila Bay would “grow fat” from feeding on their dead bodies....
James Murdoch is propped up as the good son, an aggrieved centrist who wants nothing to do with Fox News’ nasty far-right nationalism:
For his part, James saw [former Fox News chief Roger] Ailes as a boorish showman who embodied many of the most retrograde impulses of the network’s opinion programming: its nativism; its paranoiac attitude toward Muslims and undocumented immigrants; its embrace of conspiracy; and, maybe most of all, its climate-change denialism.
And there was even worse to come in Parts 2 and 3.