Will the last person at News Corp please turn out the lights

by Chris Bertram on July 13, 2011

With the news that the BSkyB bid has been withdrawn, a pretty amazing week in British politics (with ramifications beyond) seems to have come to a climax. Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, who had, frankly, looked pretty hopeless only a few days ago did a superb job on the Tories and the Murdoch empire, and kudos to people like Tom Watson and Chris Bryant who have had the courage to stand up to a threatening and vindictive organization and respect also to the great journalist who really cracked it, Nick Davies. Hard to know what the future holds, because so many of the assumptions recycled by Britain’s lazy commentariat depend on the fixed notion that Britain’s politicians have to accommodate themselves to Rupert Murdoch (that Overton Window thingy just changed its dimensions). Even the erstwhile victims of Stockholm Syndrome, like Peter Mandelson, are now declaring that they were always privately opposed. Well of course! Enjoy for now.



Chris Bertram 07.13.11 at 2:19 pm

Let me add, of course: Justice for the 96.


Chris Brooke 07.13.11 at 2:43 pm

Let me add, of course: Justice for the 96.

It is an intriguing biographical detail that Brian Leveson is a Liverpudlian who seems to have spent a decent chunk of his working life there.


Sandwichman 07.13.11 at 2:56 pm

What puzzles me is why there appears to be no repercussions so far in the U.S. for Fox News and the Wall Street Journal.


Daragh McDowell 07.13.11 at 2:57 pm

Its fantastic news of course, but lets not forget that Labour in power was even more slavishly devoted to Murdoch than the Tories (Cameron at least TRIED to escape the Murdoch grip in 2005-07.) Miliminor has certainly done well in the crisis, but he was pretty happy to munch canapes with Uncle Rupert and Aunti Rebekah a few weeks ago when the revelations about NI’s cosa nostra like corporate culture and behaviour was just common knowledge amongst parliament and Fleet Street, rather than national news.

I know you hate them Chris, but it might just OK to give a little credit to the Lib Dems in this instance, as the only party that consistently opposed the Murdochracy, and has consistently paid a political price for doing so.


marcel 07.13.11 at 2:58 pm

Are the two Davies, Nick and Daniel, related?


mds 07.13.11 at 3:00 pm

Sigh. Hurrah for the UK, but selfishly I wish the implosion had happened in the US first. Instead, I’ve been informed by my Fox News-swallowing parents that Rupert Murdoch and his British operations are being attacked because of their conservative truth-telling. All of the “evidence” is phony, especially given that Tony Blair [sic] is involved in the accusations. So as the Stalinist propaganda operation’s grip loosens slightly in Britain, it only becomes stronger in America.


Chris Bertram 07.13.11 at 3:05 pm

Daragh, I know it wasn’t my most erudite of posts, so I forgive you for not reading it properly, but I did refer to Lord Mandelson as a victim of Stockholm Syndrome. As for the Lib Dems, well whatever their past (consistent or not) they’ve been pretty inconsequential here ever since old Vince’s vanity led him down a path that handed the whole matter over to Jeremy Hunt – and that would certainly have led to a disastrous outcome without the work of Nick Davies and the Guardian.


mds 07.13.11 at 3:05 pm


What puzzles me is why there appears to be no repercussions so far in the U.S. for Fox News and the Wall Street Journal.

I composed my comment before your contribution appeared, but I refer you to it for at least part of the answer. Now, Senator Rockefeller has called for looking into this, but expect him to be attacked relentlessly by House and Senate Republicans as well as the press if he pushes the matter.


Chris Bertram 07.13.11 at 3:07 pm

#5 I believe they’re brothers: the disinherited offspring of Ray Davies, the well-know songsmith.


CharlieMcMenamin 07.13.11 at 3:21 pm

To our American friends: don’t despair – I suspect you may yet be surprised at how a particular kind of very strong stench can waft across the Atlantic.

It’s not ‘all over over here’ yet by a long way, but something very, very important has shifted today and the outlook is currently all downhill for News Corp. That judicial inquiry may yet grind exceedingly small; it has very, very wide terms of reference, sufficient to keep a steady stream of revelations coming if it puts its’ mind to it.


Pete 07.13.11 at 3:23 pm

The worry is still that the judicial inquiry will attempt to whitewash or underinvestigate, or fail to adequately condemn e.g. Scotland Yard’s complicity in the whole thing.


CharlieMcMenamin 07.13.11 at 3:28 pm

#11 – what you say is possible of course.

But I refer you to the telling point made by m’learned friend at #1.


Matthew Stevens 07.13.11 at 3:29 pm

Sandwichman: I don’t expect any repercussions for Fox News because its sins are very different from Murdoch’s British tabloids. Fox doesn’t break the law to get a story; it’s a far lazier organization that, as far as I know, doesn’t have a single real scoop to its credit. Andrew Breitbart is a closer analogue to News of the World in this respect.


Daragh McDowell 07.13.11 at 3:52 pm

I did refer to Lord Mandelson as a victim of Stockholm Syndrome.
A highly charitable diagnosis at best.

old Vince’s vanity led him down a path that handed the whole matter over to Jeremy Hunt
Actually no, it would be things he said in the belief that he was having a private conversation with constituents (with all the privileges that implies) obtained in an unethical, and clearly politically motivated, sting by the Torygraph. You’ll note they tried to leave all the News Corp stuff out of the original story so it wouldn’t damage the Barclay brothers’ commercial interests…


Daragh McDowell 07.13.11 at 3:54 pm

that would certainly have led to a disastrous outcome without the work of Nick Davies and the Guardian.

True. But I’d love to see where the political support and inside info necessary for Davies work came from. In any case, the notion of Miliminor making this his crusade is laughable on its face, as is the idea that Labour can credibly assure they won’t let this happen with the NEXT press baron who rises up, like Marlo Stanfield succeeding Stringer Bell.

Oh and apologies for second post – hit submit too quickly.


ajay 07.13.11 at 3:57 pm

Fox doesn’t break the law to get a story; it’s a far lazier organization that, as far as I know, doesn’t have a single real scoop to its credit. Andrew Breitbart is a closer analogue to News of the World in this respect.

Except that the News of the World has actually managed to get scoops that are true, while Breitbart has, as far as I know, just made stuff up.


JM 07.13.11 at 4:07 pm


The only thing Breitbart hasn’t had to make up was a sex scandal without any actual success. As for the American Privatized Pravda, FOX doesn’t need to find out anything. The memos tell them what to push. It’s amazing that they can sell advertising to fund content that is also advertising, but this is the US, after all.


JM 07.13.11 at 4:07 pm

Correction: “The only thing Breitbart hasn’t had to make up was a sex scandal without any actual SEX.”

Don’t know why I made that mistake. I usually like sex.


Chris Bertram 07.13.11 at 4:08 pm

_Actually no, it would be things he said in the belief that he was having a private conversation with constituents _

In order to ingratiate himself with a couple of young women he’d never met before, he tried to make himself look clever and brave and in doing so disclosed a bias in a commercial matter in which he had a quasi-judicial role. Sure, the Telegraph sting was dreadful, but the man showed himself to be an idiot.


Daragh McDowell 07.13.11 at 4:10 pm

Well Chris I suppose we’ll have to agree to disagree – though I’m sure you’ve never said anything in a conversation you had every right and expectation would be made private that could later be used to make you look exceedingly stupid.


Chris Bertram 07.13.11 at 4:14 pm

I’m sure I have, and many times, but then I’m not a cabinet minister with the job of adjudicating on major takeovers. I suspect that my penchant for gossip and indiscretion would rule me out of such a role, but I think that even I would have the good sense to keep my trap shut in such circumstances. Vince, however, did not have the necessary good judgement.


hartal 07.13.11 at 4:52 pm

It would be worth determining the demographic for Fox News and all the Murdoch products. Right wing radio has a huge audience. I check in once a month for about five minutes, and the same themes are always expressed in a weird kind of weary outrage:

1. They are resentful of our success through hard work and want to expropriate the fruits of our labor through reparations, progressive taxation, affirmative action and social services for illegal immigrants.

2. They won’t let us be who we are out without guilt tripping us. So we can’t put up Christmas ornaments; and the pc police catering to the new furin-born audience won’t allow us to watch at all hours of the day reruns of Bonanza and Gunsmoke.

3. We are not supposed to use methods to protect our own that they already use.

4. We saved the world from fascism but the world still hates us, the shining city of the hill.

5. There is no economic problem that more economic freedom and free markets cannot solve.

5. Behind the liberal agenda are gays who want to destroy the family, blacks consumed with resentment to make up for their own failures, and illegal immigrants who hate this country only to take advantage of it our expense.


hartal 07.13.11 at 5:00 pm

Oh yes there is Christian right wing radio which is probably not a Murdoch product. I have never really listened to it.


P O'Neill 07.13.11 at 5:17 pm

#22 — I made the mistake of briefly tuning into Fox and Friends (the breakfast show) this morning and guest Tucker Carlson was explaining how stimulus money was being spent by lazy teachers to guilt trip students about the sins of white people , which was a way to get 1, 2, and 6 in one go.

Since this is the active Murdoch thread, as good a place as any to note the NYT went to AC Grayling for some perspective last week and he wrote among other things

He already owns 39 percent of BSkyB; his reason for wishing to own it all is, as he has publicly indicated, to make it more like its American counterpart, Fox News.

Which is pretty sloppy. BSkyB is not the same as Sky News, which is what the Murdoch quote actually referred to. I don’t think Murdoch wanted BSkyB for the political platform. He wanted it for the cash.


imajoebob 07.13.11 at 5:43 pm

#3 – No one’s going after Fox News (in earnest) because they’re afraid. The NewsCorp propaganda machine has no equal; not NBC, not CBS, not ABC, not the NYT or Washington Post. Not even all together can they match the infrastructure that Murdoch has in place from Fox News to his newspapers to his local TV to (yes) the Republican Party. It’s suicide (as Dan rather found out) to go up against them, even with the facts on your side.


Chris Bertram 07.13.11 at 6:00 pm

#25 but that’s why no-one went after News International in the UK. Everyone was afraid, until a conjunction of events such that they weren’t afraid any more, and then the whole thing collapses. A bit like Romania 1990, or Tunisia 2011.


praisegod barebones 07.13.11 at 6:08 pm

I’m glad that the BSkyB bid has been withdrawn, but feel that it won’t be time to declare victory until Rupert Murdoch has been asked to spend a little time assisting whichever police force is investigating this with their enquiries. (Or did that actually happened and I missed it?)


CMK 07.13.11 at 6:15 pm

Nick Davies is now claiming that there is evidence emerging of NI tapping landlines and organising break-ins to gather material. Sue Akers stated yesterday that in addition to the almost 4000 mobile numbers there were 5000 landline numbers. It’s clear that there is a money trail linking the criminals involved to at least Coulson and Brooks and it’s almost certain that that money trail reached all the way to Murdoch himself. It’s inconceivable that the financial resources required to keep the NI surveillance apparatus running were allocated without Murdoch’s knowledge. One thing is for certain, the last few years of his life are not going to be pleasant.


belle le triste 07.13.11 at 6:17 pm

It’s true that one of the many enjoyable aspects of the last week has been the collateral damage quietly visited on Continuity Blairism.


mds 07.13.11 at 6:28 pm

but that’s why no-one went after News International in the UK.

Until you can convince me that there’s the equivalent of masses of teabagging, permanantly-aggrieved dumbass theocrats receiving explicit political marching orders from the Fox News Shit Funnel on an hourly basis, I’ll remain skeptical. As I said, Fox News is already out in front spinning this as an attack on freedom and conservatism manufactured by big-government leftists. UK pols from Cameron to New Labour bootlickers are certainly sweating a bit right now; meanwhile, I guarantee that none of the US pols who partially owe their seats to Fox News propaganda are feeling particularly defensive. If pressed, they’ll simply double down on argleblargle about how any inquiry oppresses Real True Christians.


JM 07.13.11 at 6:43 pm


Just because FOX will keep their cattle in the barn doesn’t mean the wheels won’t turn in DC. Besides, income disparity is straining the relationship between the two halves of Nixon’s southern strategy coalition at the same time that the anti-government insurgents in the capital are caught between their nationless paymasters, who don’t want default, and their bone-in-the-nose base, which would rather burn the place down than see a dime go to the mud people.

The latter group will still tune in to FOX because being lied to is all the comfort they’ll ever know. But that doesn’t mean Murdoch’s private Pravda is safe.


Pete 07.13.11 at 7:03 pm


“Because the purpose of Murdoch’s BSkyB bid is essentially so that he can set up a UK version of America’s most popular news channel Fox News. Fox News acts as the conscience of the right in the US: it’s one of the things which made the Tea Party possible. A British version would achieve the same over here, destroying the crushing hegemony enjoyed by the BBC, restoring a balance to the political debate in Britain which for decades has been so sorely lacking – whatever the BBC’s supposed charter to commitment to fairness and balance might pretend.”

(That’s Delingpole, so he thinks this is a good thing)


Chris Bertram 07.13.11 at 7:18 pm

Delicious news circulating on Twitter that Murdoch and Brooks were refused a table at the River Café (who also sent a cake to the Guardian newsroom in congratulation at their achievements). One person remarks that it is like the final scene in Dangerous Liaisons when Glenn Close is shunned at the opera.


Zephyrus 07.13.11 at 7:19 pm

Wait, conscience of the right? I thought Fox was Fair and Balanced ™.


JM 07.13.11 at 7:20 pm

With people like Delingpole, I have to wonder if they:

(1) are cynically exploiting stupidity
(2) aesthetically prefer a certain kind of stupidity
(3) just really are that stupid


mds 07.13.11 at 7:27 pm

Just because FOX will keep their cattle in the barn doesn’t mean the wheels won’t turn in DC.

Your subsequent description of how the US is being brought to the brink on the debt limit increase thanks to the disproportionate influence on the Republican Party of pig-ignorant Fox News cultists weakens this reassurance somewhat. The wheels have already nearly come off in DC thanks to the Fox cattle.

“… restoring a balance to the political debate in Britain which for decades has been so sorely lacking …”

Yes, that balance which has been sorely lacking for all those decades in which Thatcher languished in the Loyal Opposition, Tony Blair’s Tory-Lite capitulations were dead on arrival, and PM John McDonnell is currently leading a partisan witch hunt against Rupert Murdoch. Sweet Jeebus, but they really do use the same conservative victimhood talking points everywhere, don’t they?


John Quiggin 07.13.11 at 7:30 pm

If the claimed hacking of 9/11 victims turns out to be true, News International will have plenty of US pain to contend with, perhaps enough to force the breakup of the whole empire. In particular, the WSJ would be more valuable now without the tainted Murdoch assocation.

Fox probably wouldn’t be much affected in the short run, but the general critique of Murdoch’s misuse of political power at least as applicable there as in the UK.


JM 07.13.11 at 7:38 pm

Your subsequent description … weakens this reassurance somewhat.

I guess I just have faith that the GOP elite know who is signing their checks. The base isn’t going to go anywhere, because moving in any direction would mean joining hands with people they hate. And the base is only actually needed every two years. So the money gets what it wants and the base will take what it’s given.

The only thing in doubt right now is what the narrative will be. It doesn’t matter if the Republicans cave on the debt ceiling, or how. There will be a narrative in place before August 2012, in time for the GOP’s increasingly impoverished base to pretend that they have a rational basis for their voting habits.


mpowell 07.13.11 at 8:03 pm

@38: As someone who has recently gained conservative relatives through marriage, I can confirm that they will tell themselves the most absurd stories to justify their political allegiances. Recently I overheard that the growth in health care costs these past 20 years can be entirely attributed to Clinton’s almost passing HCR in the 90s…


Charles H Pooter 07.13.11 at 8:09 pm

The busting of the Murdoch trust in the UK, and we might hope in the US, will be a great good. But academics might spare a thought for the thoroughbred in this tawdry stable, the TLS. It fills a position that neither the NYRB nor LRB does (though its current, Murdochian editor doesn’t quite seem aware of what makes it valuable). Murdoch seems to have looked on this politically powerless organ with, for him, a strange indulgence (while booting the THS and THES). A post-Murdoch closure of the TLS would be a significant loss. But who will catch it if News Corp falls is unclear to me.


JM 07.13.11 at 8:31 pm


No, they don’t tell themselves these stories. They are fed them like any other marketing content.

Those perpetrating the frauds of American healthcare, the real estate/MBS bubble, etc. have to repackage the consequences of their scams as the result of government interference, in order to prevent their victims from using the power of their own government to prevent further exploitation. A congressional committee, for instance, just cancelled a hearing because the evidence they actually found challenged this narrative.

There’s no way you can trust your victims to produce that narrative on their own, and it’s more than a little funny when they try (e.g., http://gawker.com/5820916/tea-party-vs-manatees-its-on). That’s where the tabloids come in.


bert 07.13.11 at 8:54 pm

bq. … news circulating on Twitter …

… tweeted by the daughter of Sir James Goldsmith.
The conceptual knots are worthy of Adam Curtis.
I’m rather glad that, being dead, Sir James is no longer quite so enthusiastically on my side.


tomslee 07.13.11 at 9:02 pm

Chalk one up for conspiracy theorists.

Nick Davies has all the necessaries to be labelled one. NPR says he “values his quiet” (ie, is reclusive), and quotes him as saying “People kept on saying that I was obsessive, and maybe that’s true”, and “A blind man in a dark room could see that the official version of events didn’t make sense” and “Powerful groups like a news organization, the police, politicians, will just spontaneously take it upon themselves to collude with each other. It’s like I don’t think anybody had to tell Scotland Yard to back off and leave the Murdoch empire alone. Power recognizes power.”


ejh 07.13.11 at 9:23 pm

The sole reason the Lib Dems never sold themselves to Murdoch is that they weren’t important enough to buy.


Phil 07.13.11 at 10:33 pm

And the use they’ve made of their independence from Murdoch is… anyone? Bueller?


Nick L 07.13.11 at 11:05 pm


And chalk one up for the power elite theory of politics. C Wright Mills was right all along!


Martin Bento 07.14.11 at 12:17 am

Peter King (R-NY) is calling for an FBI investigation into the hacking of 9/11 victims. The significance is that Peter King:

a) while he predates the tea party is hard right, not “moderate”.
b) is both head of Homeland Security Committee and from a district that lost 150 people in 9/11. He has formal and moral status to push this.

Murdoch has done a lot for King, so why the betrayal? My guess is that there is some skeleton King knows about, and he’s trying to get out ahead and distance himself now.


bert 07.14.11 at 12:32 am

This would be staunchly-antiterrorist IRA-apologist Peter King, would it?
I’d imagine the secret something he knows is that under the rock are some nasty-looking British insects who would benefit from a crowdpleasing stomping. I wish him the best.
I doubt he’ll use his moral status to spread the blame to Fox, though.


Martin Bento 07.14.11 at 12:40 am

King has just kicked Murdoch in the balls. If Fox survives, he will get primaried.


iolanthe 07.14.11 at 1:05 am

King verus Murdoch is an interesting decision – whom do I loathe more? King probably for his outstanding hyprocisy in distinguishing between good and bad terrorism but Murdoch probably has done and will do more damage. Ideally of course it would be wonderful to see both their careers come to a juddering halt although the existence of King is always useful proof against that old canard that the Americans don’t do irony – head of an anti terrorism committee – you couldn’t make it up!


Martin Bento 07.14.11 at 1:21 am

What’s also interesting is that King is calling for an FBI investigation, rather than having his committee do one. It looks like he doesn’t want to give his own party control, or the ability to suppress or sanction him, so he’s handing the sword to Obama. Why would he call for an investigation that neither he nor his party could control? This is very unusual for a Republican.


bert 07.14.11 at 1:40 am

It’s less than two weeks since the Millie Dowler story, and the ground has collapsed under Murdoch in the UK. If he now wants to publicly push his corporate interests at the expense of 9/11 victims, he should go right ahead. It’s not as if NewsCorp shareholders have any reservations about how he’s been running things recently.

I understand the fear of retribution you’re referring to. It’s what had paralysed action against him in the UK up til now. I know that plenty of people on this thread will have a subtler read on the balance of power in the US than me. But it’s worth pointing out what won’t have escaped members of Congress: the politicians like Cameron who bet on Murdoch are now desperately distancing themselves, while those like Miliband who – belatedly – cashed in their chips are now happily counting their winnings.

I’m interested in your read on the situation. Can Fox really conjure a primary challenge out of thin air to counter a threat to its parent corporation’s interests? Is it widely understood that Fox can and will do this?
That would seem to be a problem that needs fixing if so. And I’d entirely understand it if you’re sceptical about the ability of anyone connected with today’s GOP to be part of the solution.


PHB 07.14.11 at 2:05 am

Except that the News of the World has actually managed to get scoops that are true, while Breitbart has, as far as I know, just made stuff up.

Not really. The News of the World was just as mendacious as Breitbart. They couldn’t do quite such a sloppy job with their fit-ups due to the UK libel laws so they were forced to use smear and innuendo rather than dishonest video editing.


PHB 07.14.11 at 2:16 am

@ bert 51

I don’t think it a coincidence that the Republicans have been retreating on their debt ceiling brinksmanship this week.

Fox News was pretty successful in embracing and extending the Tea Party. The Tea Party did not help the GOP in the 2010 general election but they did unseat more than a few somewhat moderate Republicans. Democrats had no particular reason to fear Fox but Republicans had no choice but to kiss his ring.

The dynamic I think is taking over now is that the GOP establishment are seeing an opportunity to bring Murdoch to their heel after years of being at his.


rdb 07.14.11 at 5:06 am

Slate: Prosecute News Corp. by Eliot Spitzer

Much more importantly, the facts already pretty well established in Britain indicate violations of American law, in particular a law called the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.


Guido Nius 07.14.11 at 7:38 am

It is such a courageous thing to be privately opposed. It deserves a phone hacking that is personally organized by Mr. Coulson. But I’d lend more credence to the hypothesis that Peter and Tony organized a private levy on any phone hacking that was to be duely paid to some rough characters employed by them as, say, drivers.


Cian O'Connor 07.14.11 at 8:15 am

NPR says [Nick Davies] “values his quiet” (ie, is reclusive)

I think “values his quiet” simply means that he isn’t part of the London media/newspaper social world (this is a good thing), and he lives outside London in Lewes. I don’t know him personally, but the one time I bumped into him he was very friendly. He’s always been happy to give talks locally. He just doesn’t go to parties with Jamie Delingpole.


Henri Vieuxtemps 07.14.11 at 8:17 am

Yeah, it now sounds like the establishment Republicans see this as an opportunity to marginalize the populist Republicans. Pass the popcorn.


Lemuel Pitkin 07.14.11 at 8:33 am

Can Fox really conjure a primary challenge out of thin air to counter a threat to its parent corporation’s interests? Is it widely understood that Fox can and will do this?

No, it’s not.


Henri Vieuxtemps 07.14.11 at 8:45 am

Yeah, but would they fight something like Exxon and Goldman Sachs, if that’s what it’s coming to? They are not stupid. Unfortunately, they’ll probably find a way to kiss and make up.


Daragh McDowell 07.14.11 at 8:46 am

JM @35

Delingtwat is more the kind of semi-upper class kid who remains permanently emotionally stunted and unable to make friends even amongst his own loathsome peer group due to his being an insufferable prick. The amount of venom he stores up for Cameron and BoJo is the tell – they were contemporaries at Oxford and wouldn’t let poor Jimmy in the Bullingdon club no matter how hard he begged. Hence the retreat into hyper Randianism (‘I’m so utterly special I am – Ayn understands that’) and the adoption of aggressive obnoxiousness as a literary style.

Chris @33 – That IS just delicious. I have visions of Murdoch pers et fils plus the wicked witch of Wapping, strolling into a McDonalds in desperate search for food, only to be told by the pimply teenager working the till that they don’t fit the dress code…


ajay 07.14.11 at 9:50 am

Not really. The News of the World was just as mendacious as Breitbart.

No; as far as I know, Breitbart has actually never told the truth at all; the NOTW has, from time to time. (Indeed, even the stories it got through the phone hacking were true, no one’s disputing that; they were just illegally and immorally obtained.)


ajay 07.14.11 at 9:51 am

Murdoch and Brooks were refused a table at the River Café

Even if it’s not true, it should be true.


Chris Bertram 07.14.11 at 10:52 am

_the NOTW has, from time to time._

Well sort of. In nearly every case where I have personal knowledge of a story covered in a a tabloid paper, the arrangement of facts and the admixture of them with inventions and lies is such that the story as published is pretty unrecognizable. That goes for the Mail too (perhaps even more for the Mail in fact).

On a related matter, the judges have reserved judgement until a later date in the Chris Jefferies case.


It may be bad luck on the editors of the Sun and the Mirror that the phonehacking scandal has erupted now! I expect examples to be set.


Martin Bento 07.14.11 at 11:13 am

bert and Lemuel, yes, Fox can conjure primary threats out of thin air. They were, as indicated by a supporter above, instrumental in making something significant of the Tea Party, which in 2010 conjured easily a thousand candidates from thin air, over a hundred in the house, a half a dozen or so in the Senate (not all successful in the general), and myriad all over the country in state legislature and governors races, sometimes local too, with results now visible in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Florida, among other places (note that those are not small population states). Murdoch was more vital to that than any other individual. The Tea Party made its jump from marginal force to major entity when they had a series of rallies all over the country that were used primarily for organizing. Fox gave saturation coverage to these events and sent its own biggest guns – Beck, Hannity, Sustern – as featured speakers to draw the crowds. Not as journalists covering the events, but as speakers, though they pretended to be journalists too. It is possible to see the Tea Party making it without Dick Armey or Rick Santelli. It is even possible without the Koch brothers – there are other conservative rich people after all. But Murdoch was absolutely indispensable. So now we are supposed to believe the man who conjured thousands of primary challengers cannot summon one? If he is sufficiently crippled by the scandal, maybe not, but otherwise, hell, yes, he can.


Walt 07.14.11 at 1:55 pm

Peter King would destroy a primary challenger. Murdoch can’t unseat a popular incumbent at will, especially now. King could just tar that candidate with the 9/11 widow connection.


Chris Williams 07.14.11 at 2:31 pm

The ‘9/11 widow connection’ here is functioning the same way that the ‘Milly Dowler connection’ worked last week in the UK. However, in the UK it was the emergence of incontravertable evidence which set up the collapse of NI: so far, as I understand it, the ‘9/11 connection’ in the US is still in the realm of ‘he said’ / ‘she said’; thus if the anti-Murdoch crowd play it prematurely, the baddies will accuse _them_ of politicising the event. So we are not yet in the same place.
By the way, was the New York Post involved in destroying Spitzer’s career? Spitzer himself was remarkably heavily involved, of course.


Myles 07.14.11 at 2:31 pm

It looks like Ed Miliband is trying to use this to collapse the Coalition, via the Inquiry To End All Inquiries. He has pretty good cause, I would say.

At this point, the Coalition needs to get rid of Murdoch immediately. The longer the Murdochs/Brooks hold out, the more the inquiry would be salient. If Cameron/Clegg can force Murdoch out of the British media market entirely, they should do so now, because the scandal is at a point where Cameron/Clegg and the entire government can get dragged down with it in its continuation.

And if Cameron/Clegg were to do so, Murdoch should take their advice. While a temporary exit from the UK market and a liquidation of their UK interests would give a much-needed breather to both the Coalition and the Murdochs themselves, it would help prevent this from spilling over into their US markets, where if the regulators get involved could start really hammering them. Once both the US and UK inquiries get on their case, the information cross-feed would probably end the existence of News Corp. I’m all for ending Murdochs’ hideous influence on the world, but I’m not too keen about taking down the Coalition government with it.


Myles 07.14.11 at 2:36 pm

(Better clarify: it’s impossible for the inquiry to be structured to leave the current Coalition government out of it, unless Murdoch ownership, and thus salience of the inquiry thereof, is eliminated. If Cameron were smart, he would ditch Murdoch now.)


ajay 07.14.11 at 2:36 pm

King could just tar that candidate with the 9/11 widow connection.

Would it work, though? Would the great American public really care that much if someone mistreated 9/11 widows? It was a long time ago, after all, and they’re only New Yorkers. (Bill O’Reilly said some pretty horrendous things about them back in 2004 and didn’t really suffer any consequences at all.)


Myles 07.14.11 at 2:40 pm

By the way, was the New York Post involved in destroying Spitzer’s career? Spitzer himself was remarkably heavily involved, of course.

Spitzer made so many enemies, and was so despicably gleeful and boastful in doing so, that pretty much everyone was involved in destroying his career. It’s doubtful that NYP played any supererogatory role. Hubris was quite enough.


roac 07.14.11 at 3:04 pm

@69: But the voters in King’s district are also New Yorkers, to a man or woman. I have no idea whether 9/11 is still the ace of trumps in Nassau County, but King apparently thinks it is, and he is in a position to know.

Count me among those who don’t credit Murdoch with the ability to conjure up opposition to the right of any given Republican out of thin air. The organization of the Tea party was brilliantly done, but the raw material for it was already there.


bert 07.14.11 at 3:08 pm

It’s not the American public though, Ajay.
It’s Republican primary voters in King’s district.


bert 07.14.11 at 3:08 pm

Ah, roac got there first.


bert 07.14.11 at 3:09 pm

Here in the UK, my exposure to Fox comes almost entirely through Jon Stewart.
Martin, what you’re telling me is very serious:
* Fox has entirely taken ownership of the Republican base, at the expense of the Republican party
* Fox can mobilise the base at will, and is not subject to meaningful constraints in how it chooses to do so
* Support from Fox is a necessary condition for any Republican candidate
* Incurring the displeasure of Fox is a career-ending mistake for any Republican officeholder
If I’m putting words in your mouth, feel free to put me straight.
But if I’m not, your Murdoch infestation problem is arguably worse than the British version. He hasn’t corrupted as widely, but in at least one very important institution he has corrupted very deeply indeed.
For your sake, I hope you’re wrong. But if you’re right, you might take some comfort from the fact that over here things turned against him overwhelmingly, overnight. You’ll need a galvanising case, though. At the moment the 9/11 story looks like it needs a bit more meat to it before it can serve a useful purpose. Which is one reason to cheer on Peter King, my enemy’s enemy, as he takes a bat to scumbag limeys.


roac 07.14.11 at 3:50 pm

A brief amplification of my last: King’s district is not in New York City, but in the Long Island suburbs. The mass of the victims of 9/11 were not Masters of the Universe, but ill-paid back-office drones who commuted to work from places like that. I have read that in these communities, pretty much everyone had some connection with somebody who left for work that day and didn’t come back. The effect of a shared experience like that is not likely to die away quickly. (Bill O’Reilly may not have incurred serious damage from his comments about 9/11 widows, but he wasn’t running for office in NY-3.)


Hob 07.14.11 at 3:55 pm

@70 Myles: That sounds cool, but it’s not a very meaningful thing to say. It’s certainly possible that dozens of unrelated people were involved in getting Roger Stone to tip off the FBI about Spitzer’s private shenanigans, but you have no way to know that. Murder on the Orient Express tends not to happen in real life, where just because lots of people would be happy to stick the knife in doesn’t mean they have a knife or an opportunity.

Anyway, to answer the original question, the Post wasn’t particularly involved although they were certainly very happy to report about it; the NYT broke the story.


Henri Vieuxtemps 07.14.11 at 4:23 pm

I see now that at least 4 Democratic senators asked for an investigation. King (a very unpleasant character, BTW) did jump on the bandwagon, but what his calculations are, that remains to be seen.


hartal 07.14.11 at 4:31 pm

There’s that line from (I think) former Bush speechwriter David Frum ” We [Republican politicians] thought Fox news was working for us; instead we are working for Fox News.”


PHB 07.14.11 at 5:27 pm

Bert @74

You have me precisely right. Murdoch has had the ability to dictate policy to the GOP since the end of the Bush administration left the party without a leader.

Murdoch’s ability to ‘pull a Breitbart’ has been diminishing over the past year as the mainstream press no longer consider Fox a legitimate news provider and no longer feel obliged to cover their propaganda drill of the day. At the start of the Obama administration Fox could get an administration appointee unseated in a few days. Recently Beck has been fulminating against officials for months without success.

But within the GOP base Murdoch has several million viewers every night and can bring enough of them out to defeat even the likes of Orin Hatch in a primary. Murdoch has never had that power in the UK because Tory MP selection committees are more likely to listen to the parliamentary whip than the Murdoch press.

The scandal is spreading to the US however and through multiple sources now. The News of the World had a major spying operation going on in Hollywood. It is hardly likely that their use of criminal tactics stopped at the water’s edge. So we can expect there to be an emerging list of criminal activities emerging in the US.

Another point to consider is whether Murdoch’s books are any less dishonest than his journalism. The man clearly has no scruples about lying. If creditors decide that they can’t trust his books there may be a rush for the exits.


bert 07.14.11 at 6:05 pm

Is Beck still going? I thought they’d binned him.
I remember Dan Hannan was very upset. He did enjoy having his head patted.


Martin Bento 07.14.11 at 7:38 pm

bert, you’re overstating it a bit. I would not say Fox simply owns the Party. There are other owners, but Fox is a major shareholder. Their peak was the Tea Party business, and they are now somewhat past it. Peter King may be able to beat a challenger; all I said is there would be a challenger, and, if it is too obvious to do it now, but Murdoch remains a force comparable to what he is now in the US, there will be a challenger in 2014. The landscape that far ahead is hard to predict, but Murdoch will want to send a message. Can King withstand being Breitbarted? I tend to doubt it. No one else has, save that woman accused of discriminating against whites, and she had her own record of the events.


Martin Bento 07.14.11 at 7:52 pm

Oh, Beck. Fox has declined to renew his contract, but I’m not sure if he’s actually off the air yet. Beck is a loose cannon, and he was losing advertisers. That’s why he was canned, but Fox has not moderated its general tone to my knowledge (I dutifully endure it from time to time). Their other tools are more disciplined.


Walt 07.14.11 at 7:59 pm

Beck’s final show was last week, I think.


Martin Bento 07.14.11 at 8:07 pm

Also, in New York, there will be no problem finding talent, even if it has to switch boroughs.


Cian 07.14.11 at 9:11 pm

I would guess that a large chunk of the Republican party loathe and fear the Tea Party. Recent events on the debt probably aren’t helping.


bert 07.14.11 at 10:04 pm

From the live stream of Fox News Watch, allegedly a media criticism show:
Fast forward to 1:50.


Martin Bento 07.14.11 at 11:02 pm


Martin Bento 07.14.11 at 11:08 pm

bert, that was funny. Hope Jon Stewart uses it. Interesting how they still want to beat on Condit (who was completely exonerated, but had his political career ruined by suspicion that he was implicated in the disappearance of Chandra Levy, suspicion Fox largely fed. Guess which party Condit was.)


Martin Bento 07.15.11 at 12:10 am


“When asked how he wanted to see Murdoch punished, [Senator Frank] Lautenberg [D NJ] said ‘Well, torture is out…'”



PHB 07.15.11 at 12:12 am

Beck is off the air. But by the time he left he had already lost half his audience and his attacks were no longer being covered anywhere else.


Martin Bento 07.15.11 at 6:46 am

Well, Stewart didn’t seem to be on it, but Colbert used the clip bert pointed to above.


dsquared 07.15.11 at 9:12 am

Looks like it will be someone other than Rebekah Brooks who gets the job of turning off the lights.


ajay 07.15.11 at 9:15 am

72 et seq: good point.


Chris Williams 07.15.11 at 10:01 am

I’ve been thinking more about the potential impact of a ‘9/11 hack’ story in the US. One of the reasons that the Milly Dowler hack had such a huge salience here in the UK was that it arrived wrapped up as _truth_, and universally accepted as such: the first thing that we heard about it was that it happened, and that the NotW was not trying to say that it didn’t. This meant that literally nobody wanted to be on the side of those saying “Hey, it’s not so bad”. That’s the kind of attitude which wouldn’t only lose you an election, but would probably also mean that close relatives would start to shun you, like you’d just been done for kiddyfiddling.

In the US, though, we’re looking at a process which is far less clear-cut, where there is as yet no smoking gun. Indeed, not yet a gun at all, just a rumour of one. Thus unless that unnamed NYPD bloke turns up in front of Congress in the next few days and comes out with a _verifiable_ story, we face a period of some weeks during which it’s all going to be under investigation. There is thus time for attitudes of the usual suspects on both sides to hearden into “It probably happened and I will hate Fox more accordingly” and “It probably didn’t happen and I will hate the Leftsies more accordingly”. Each side will tend to discount future evidence.

So even if we get a smoking gun with convinces the hypothetical reasonable observer (that’s me, by the way), the Right are going to be far less likely to be greasing the skids under Murdoch than was the case in the UK. Don’t count your chickens, folks.


sg 07.15.11 at 11:15 am

I don’t understand why espionage charges aren’t being discussed more openly by the UK authorities. An American-owned corporation intercepted the communications of a British PM and bought access to the UK’s police force. Surely this is a serious crime in most countries in the world – what would the reaction be if al Jazeera had been spying on Brown?


Cian 07.15.11 at 11:45 am

@95: Plus the Milly Dowler family had just been put through the wringer by a rather nasty defence team, so there was already a lot of sympathy for them – much of it from the kind of people who read NI papers. The moment I saw that story I knew they were screwed. Short of the NotW actually running a paedophile ring, hard to think of a more lethal story.

On the other hand, I have a suspicion that if the Republicans really do end up with a debt default, the party’s going to start turning on itself, and Fox will definitely be one of the targets. Lautenberg may just be positioning himself early for that.


Eli Rabett 07.15.11 at 8:40 pm

In discussing Murdoch and US politics, the key word is Roger Ailes, and Roger has been known to set the detectives on anyone who crosses him. The path to Rupert in the US is through Roger.

Comments on this entry are closed.