By now, the shock and awe of Rupert Murdoch’s December 14 sale of 21th Century Fox to Disney has set in, so it’s worth a look back at how Murdoch built Fox into the mammoth film and television force it’s become today. Born in 1931, the Australian-born Murdoch has he left an indelible mark on the media industry. After inheriting his father’s media empire, he eventually acquired a slew of television stations, as well as the iconic movie studio 20th Century Fox from oil magnate Marvin Davis.
By now, you’ve probably heard the news. The Walt Disney Company has announced a definitive mega-deal to merge with Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, which includes the FX cable channel and – more importantly – the 20th Century Fox motion picture studio. The deal is worth over $50 billion, and is set to close by the end of next year. It does not, however, include the FOX Broadcasting Company, FOX News, FOX Business, and channels such as FS1 and FS2 — all of which will be spun off into an independent company.
According to New York Times media reporter and columnist Jim Rutenberg, only the right side of the media aisle is trying to make news, while the dominant mainstream side (including his newpspaer) is as fair and objective as can be. Rutenberg launched another attack on Rupert Murdoch’s media empire for failing to ignore Russia-related controversies on the Democrat side of the aisle, in his Wednesday column, “Closing Ranks, Murdoch Empire Sows Doubts on Russia Inquiry.” It’s the latest piece suggesting Rutenberg is not a fan of investigative reporting -- at least when it risks hurting Hillary Clinton. He also let CNN, which has gotten many anti-Trump stories wrong, praise itself for working in the public interest.
The Twitter website has become the go-to place for people in the “mainstream media” who have said things they wish they hadn’t stated on television. They can then apologize in a format that far fewer individuals will notice. A perfect example of this principle took place on Tuesday, August 22, by Bret Stephens, a right-of-center columnist for the New York Times who was also hired by NBC News and MSNBC on Wednesday, June 28.
It’s always nice when someone remembers your birthday, but Marc Lamont Hill -- a liberal commentator for the Cable News Network -- took the tradition in a bizarre direction on Sunday, July 16, when he commemorated the 70th birthday of Assata Shakur, a convicted murderer and known terrorist, in a series of tweets posted on the Twitter website.
The front page of Friday’s New York Times featured a graceless goodbye to former Fox News chairman and chief executive Roger Ailes (and an insult to Fox News viewers): “A Fighter Who Turned Rage Into a News Empire” by Clyde Haberman. Even upon his passing, the Times maintained its hostility toward a man who found a wide and instantly receptive audience who latched on to a point of view clearly absent from the mainstream media’s liberal universe.
The front of Wednesday’s New York Times sported a 2,600-word enterprise piece by Katrin Bennhold with a peculiar focus on fellow journalists, those of the allegedly right-wing tabloid irresponsible variety: “Did Tabloids Cause ‘Brexit’? It’s Covered With Inky Fingerprints.” Bennhold condescendingly blamed the right-wing tabloid press for Brexit (while her paper steadfastly denies its own pro-Clinton, anti-Trump slant throughout the last presidential campaign).
If there’s ever a Donald Trump-centric TV channel, it’s likely that not all of its big names would be from the populist right, hinted What Liberal Media? author Alterman in his column for The Nation's November 14 issue. Alterman claimed that MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough “has made some of the most egregious pro-Trump arguments heard anywhere during this election cycle” and, regarding Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin, wrote, “The famous inside-baseballer has bathed himself repeatedly in Trump’s orange glow, posting romantic-style selfies with the nominee from his helicopter and defending his racist arguments about Mexicans and guns, among many other outrages.”
Ben Carson seems to be joining the likes of Michele Bachmann and Howard Dean on the list of presidential candidates who generated a lot of early buzz but became distant also-rans well before a nominee was chosen. According to Washington Monthly blogger David Atkins, Carson’s campaign also offers yet more proof that conservatives tend to be easy marks for scammers.
“The libertarian-conservative ethic of ‘get rich any way you can’ combined with a stubborn dismissal of objective fact makes political conservatism especially ripe for con artistry,” argued Atkins in a Saturday post. “It’s no accident that the tea party has been home to one grifter after another making a quick buck…Fox News itself is a long con perpetrated on fearful, older white Americans with the goal of making Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes rich while keeping Republican politicians in power.”
Rupert Murdoch is in a pickle, and the famously abrasive lefty writer Taibbi is loving every minute of it. In a Tuesday article for Rolling Stone, Taibbi portrays Murdoch as “desperate… because he senses his beloved audience of idiots” abandoning Fox News in favor of Donald Trump, “a onetime Fox favorite who is fast becoming the network's archenemy.”
Taibbi argues that Fox News must routinely dumb itself down in order to stay popular; Murdoch and Roger Ailes, he writes, “know they've spent a generation building an audience of morons. Their business model depends on morons; morons are the raw materials of their industry, the way Budweiser is in the hops business…[But] you have to keep upping the ante to make it work. Trump is…going to places now that make even Rupert Murdoch nervous.”
ABC, NBC and CBS on Thursday immediately pounced on a tweet by Ruper Murdoch in which the Fox News chairman suggested that Ben Carson would be America’s first “real” black president. These same networks stayed silent this week after a major college professor smeared Carson by calling him a “coon.”
There are two points here. First, Rupert Murdoch has spent a lifetime working relentlessly on a stunning accomplishment. Murdoch’s relentless attention to detail has created a media empire that now, a decade and a half into the 21st century, spans not only the globe but every means of communication from satellites to television, film, newspapers, books and, of critical importance in the new century, the digital.
The second point? Along the way Murdoch - with the not inconsiderable gifts of Roger Ailes - has broken the once seemingly unbreakable iron grip of the liberal media in America. For good.