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Frank Rich: It’s The News Corp. Corruption, Stupid

Reported by Ellen - August 1, 2011 -

Frank Rich has a must-read article in New York Magazine explaining why - phone hacking or not – Americans have already been victimized by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. From using its media bully pulpit to intimidate and silence critics to its cozier-than-cozy symbiosis with the GOP, Rich points out that News Corp. has already hacked into our democracy.

Rich notes that teen murder victim Milly Dowler is far from the only everyday person deliberately preyed upon to serve News Corp.’s financial or political self-interest. Rich relates how when he got into the News Corp. crosshairs, it “incited the most explicitly violent and virulently anti-Semitic threats of my career. It was only one of two times in seventeen years as a Times columnist that I sought security advice. (The other was when I wrote critically about Scientology some years earlier.)”

Furthermore, he noted,

As a figure in Murdochian history, I hasten to add, I am merely a footnote—like countless other News Corp. journalistic nemeses. Even a Times reporter who wrote a routine news story on a Fox News ratings lull was punished by having his headshot distorted into an anti-Semitic caricature worthy of Der Stürmer for display on the morning show Fox & Friends (a misnomer if ever there was one). Other victims have had it far worse, including the often-­defenseless obscure citizens who cross O’Reilly’s radar screen because they have views he abhors, at which point his producer stalks them for an on-camera ambush. (It was left to the Post, however, to trash a former O’Reilly Factor producer with whom he settled a sexual-harassment suit in 2004.) O’Reilly’s now-departed tag-team partner in Fox News vigilantism, Glenn Beck, excoriated the nearly 80-year-old CUNY sociologist Frances Fox Piven so often in the past few years (mostly for an essay she had written about poverty in 1966) that she had to fend off death threats. George Tiller, the Wichita abortion doctor who was called a “baby killer,” among other epithets, on 29 episodes of The O’Reilly Factor, was assassinated while at church in 2009.

Rich argues that to dismiss News Corp. behavior as merely “tabloid tactics” is to deny what it really is:

News Corp. bullying has inflicted real damage on America no less than on England. And as the British were in denial concerning the severity of Murdoch’s impact until the Guardian uncovered the Milly Dowler story, so America still is in denial. We’ve become so inured to Murdoch tactics over the years—and so many people in public life have been frightened, silenced, co-opted, or even seduced by them—that we have minimized his impact exactly the way his publicists hoped we would, downgrading News Corp. misbehavior merely to tabloid vulgarity and right-wing attack-dog politics. But there’s a real difference between the tabloidization of ­America—which is, and no doubt always will be, ­unstoppable—and the Murdochization of America, which still might be stopped.

Rich goes on to highlight Fox News’ relationship to Republicans and adds, “This isn’t mere partisanship—which ­MSNBC also practices­—but tantamount to a GOP–Fox News merger.

But Rich explains it’s not just Fox News. Remember this incident from Newt Gingrich's past?

One classic example occurred in 1995, after the Federal Communications Commission questioned whether Murdoch had misled it in 1985, when News Corp., then based in Australia, secured Fox broadcast licenses despite a federal law limiting foreign ownership of local stations to 25 percent. The matter died soon after the News Corp. book division HarperCollins offered the then–Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, a $4.5 million advance. True to form, Murdoch claimed to have no idea that the book deal was ever in the works—even though he conceded having met with Gingrich just a few weeks earlier to discuss the FCC inquiry. (The ensuing ruckus shamed Gingrich into forgoing the advance.)

Citing the recent New York Times report on News Corp. computer hacking in the U.S., Rich says,

"If Murdoch is to be undone in America, as in England, it won’t be politicians who take the lead. It will take aggressive journalism, law enforcement, and civil actions to force jettisoned News Corp. executives to sing. The latest so-called independent 'management-and-standards committee' commissioned by Murdoch to conduct an internal investigation is particularly laughable, even by his standards. Its scope is limited to News Corp. behavior in England. Its chairman, Tony Grabiner, a London commercial lawyer, reports to Joel Klein, who in turn reports to Viet Dinh, a former Bush-­administration lawyer who, in what one hopes is an unintended sick joke, is best known for embracing government phone hacking in his role as principal author of the Patriot Act. Both Klein and Dinh are on the News Corp. board. Klein’s News Corp. compensation this year is expected to be in the neighborhood of $4.5 million."

In other words, it's going to take people who refuse to be bullied or bought and still willing to stand on principle.

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