The chairman of News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch, has endured many decades as a right-wing purveyor of tabloid pseudo-news enterprises around the world. His power and influence has been felt in the halls of governments and the boardrooms of corporations. His opinions have been sought after and received with great deference. But that’s all over now.
In an appearance at a forum for the public affairs TV series, The Kalb Report, Murdoch exhibited clear signs that he has lost touch with reality. Sam Stein of the Huffington Post was there and reported some examples of Murdoch’s mental decline. It begins with the ludicrous assertion that the staff at his competitors MSNBC and CNN “tend to be Democrats” but that his own Fox News presenters “are not Republicans.” He did not, however, bother to identify a single Democrat at his rivals’ networks, and when pressed, he was also unable to name one on his own.
More importantly, Murdoch seems to have completely forgotten that he employs the most recent vice-presidential candidate of the Republican Party, Sarah Palin, as well as a candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, Mike Huckabee. And let’s not forget other avowed Republican Fox Newsers Karl Rove, Rick Santorum, Dana Perino, Newt Gingrich, Dick Morris, Laura Ingraham, John Bolton, Dan Senor, Linda Chavez, and Oliver North. Fox is lousy with Republicans, but in his diminished capacity Murdoch is so confused about the political affiliation of his crew that he can declare aloud and in public that there aren’t any such people working for him.
In another departure from reality, Murdoch was asked if it was ethical for Fox to promote the Tea Party movement. For anyone paying attention it is clear that Fox became a virtual publicity machine for the Tea Baggers.
They aired numerous interviews of Bagger spokespeople including their chief strategist and fundraiser, Dick Armey. They had reporter Griff Jenkins riding along on the Tea Party Express bus. They dispatched their top anchors, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Greta Van Susteren, and Neil Cavuto, to host Tea Party events across the nation. They even branded branded some of the events as “FNC Tea Parties.” But Murdoch’s response to the inquiry was rife with bewilderment:
“No. I don’t think we should be supporting the Tea Party or any other party. But I’d like to investigate what you are saying before condemning anyone.”
Either he never watches his own network or his memory and comprehension skills have utterly collapsed. He must also not be paying much attention to that Internet thing. For several months Murdoch has been promising to put all of his online news content behind a pay wall. He has spoken out harshly against what he deems theft by news aggregators like Google. Never mind that he can stop Google from indexing his web sites anytime he wants with just a few lines of code. At the Kalb forum he reiterated his opinion saying…
“We will be very happy if they just publish our headline or a sentence or two and that’s it. Followed by a subscription form.”
You would hope that someone on his staff (or his nurses) would advise him that that is exactly what they do now. If you search Google for news content, you will get only a headline and a couple of sentences. Then you can click the link to go to the full story on the content owner’s web site. Contrary to his misconception, this drives traffic to Murdoch’s site, it doesn’t steal anything. And what Murdoch doesn’t acknowledge (if he even remembers) is that he owns web sites that actually do steal content from other news sources. His Fox Nation, for example, is a news aggregator that does not pay for the articles it features, but reprints much more than a couple of sentences from them – sometimes the whole article.
The general tone of this interview ought to be disturbing to Murdoch’s family and doctors. He really appears to be suffering from an acute cognitive failure. These are not the sort of logical missteps made by someone who has built an international media empire. Murdoch is either profoundly distracted or is losing the mental acuity to perform his duties. It may be time for him to consider stepping aside and let his kids screw up the world for awhile.
Addendum: Additional reporting on the Kalb interview reveals that Murdoch…
- …doesn’t consider Sarah Palin to be a journalist. (Duh!)
- …believes that Greta Van Susteren is a Democrat. (Never mind her adoration of Sarah Palin for whom her husband is an advisor)
- …thinks the iPad will save newspapers. (Right. A $600.00 device possessed by a fraction of American households, that will charge extra for subscriptions, is going to replace a news source that was delivered for pennies a day to any American doorstep)
Keep ’em coming, Rupert.