Murdoch’s World: Book Reveals Fox News Used Fake Blog IDs To Bash Critics

A new book has exposed another nefarious and unethical activity by Fox News. NPR Media reporter David Folkenflik’s “Murdoch’s World” has exposed that Fox has deployed hundreds of fake blog accounts in order to rebut critics on the Internet. This may seem like small game for a news enterprise that has admitted to hacking into thousands of cell phones, emails, and computers, including the phone a murdered schoolgirl, but it is characteristic of the sort of unscrupulous tactics engaged in by the Fox gang of thugs and slanderers.

Be Sure To “LIKE” News Corpse On Facebook

This passage from the book tells the story of Fox’s shameless behavior:

“On the blogs, the fight was particularly fierce. Fox PR staffers were expected to counter not just negative and even neutral blog postings but the anti-Fox comments beneath them. One former staffer recalled using twenty different aliases to post pro-Fox rants. Another had one hundred. Several employees had to acquire a cell phone thumb drive to provide a wireless broadband connection that could not be traced back to a Fox News or News Corp account. Another used an AOL dial-up connection, even in the age of widespread broadband access, on the rationale it would be harder to pinpoint its origins. Old laptops were distributed for these cyber operations. Even blogs with minor followings were reviewed to ensure no claim went unchecked.”

This was apparently a sophisticated and complex operation that involved numerous people and endured over time. In fact, there is nothing to indicate that they are not still doing it. However, the part that stands out to me is the bit at the end that says “Even blogs with minor followings were reviewed to ensure no claim went unchecked.”

Might that include News Corpse? This website has made its reputation as a dedicated and effective critic of Fox News. The articles are studiously researched and documented. And it has had its share of arrogant and aggressive commenters over the years. Under the circumstances, it would not be surprising if some of them were Fox News sockpuppets sent to harass, distract, and distort the messages presented here.

Folkenflik’s book specifically mentions the Fox News communications executives who would have overseen this venture. Irena Briganti is a notorious bully who has earned the disrespect of her colleagues. Her boss, Brian Lewis, was just terminated and escorted out of Fox’s headquarters by security. That story is still unfolding. One thing that we can rest assured of is that Fox will come out swinging when they get a whiff of this news. It’s the Fox way.

Rupert Murdoch Fears That Bribery/Hacking Investigation Could “Kill The Corporation”

Rupert MurdochThe Independent is reporting that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp is under investigation as a “corporate suspect” over the charges that the company engaged in unlawful activities including bribery and hacking the phones, email, and computers of hundreds of politicians, celebrities and private citizens, including a missing schoolgirl who later turned up dead. The inquiry could have significant consequences for News Corp around the world including here in the U.S.

“The Independent has learnt the Metropolitan Police has opened an “active investigation” into the corporate liabilities of the UK newspaper group – recently rebranded News UK – which could have serious implications for the ability of its parent company News Corp to operate in the United States.”

That is not merely the opinion of the investigators and/or reporters. News Corp responded to the inquiry with an apocalyptic warning suggesting that thousands of innocents would suffer if the company were held responsible for its criminal behavior.

“A News Corp analysis of the effects of a corporate charge, produced in New York, said the consequences could ‘kill the corporation and 46,000 jobs would be in jeopardy’.

“Lawyers for the media behemoth have pleaded with the Met[tropolitan Police] and the Crown Prosecution Service not to prosecute the company as it would not be in the ‘public interest’ to put thousands of jobs at risk.”

This attempt to turn employees into human shields notwithstanding, it would be unconscionable for the legal authorities to dismiss crimes because of potential adverse business results asserted by the criminal. That’s kind of like a bank president found guilty of embezzlement asking that his charges be dropped because the bad publicity might hurt the bank.

What’s more, there need not be a single job placed in jeopardy if the corporate offenders were brought to justice, removed from the company, and a properly instituted board of directors (e.g. one not beholden to the Murdoch regime) reformed the management and operations of the enterprise.

News Corp is, and has been, a criminal organization for many years. They are unapologetic about their abuse of the law and the public trust. It is encouraging that the British legal system is pursuing these charges, although in the past they have caved in to pressure from powerful business interests and retreated from doing the right thing. Time will tell if they have the integrity and fortitude to follow through on this matter.

As an addendum, the Independent’s article included an interesting explanation of the U.K.’s legal procedures regarding corporate suspects:

The Crown Prosecution Service can treat a company as a “legal person” who is “capable of being prosecuted”.

Any organisation at the centre of a criminal investigation “should not be treated differently from an individual because of its artificial personality”, according to the CPS.

The latest guidelines state: “A thorough enforcement of the criminal law against corporate offenders, where appropriate, will have a deterrent effect, protect the public and support ethical business practices.

“Prosecuting corporations, where appropriate, will capture the full range of criminality involved and thus lead to increased public confidence in the criminal justice system.”

The U.S. would do well to emulate this, particularly in the wake of the abhorrent Supreme Court decisions defining corporations as persons, but not providing any of the legal accountability to which actual persons are subjected.

Rupert Murdoch Was Secretly Recorded Admitting Violations Of American Law

MurdochalypseA recording of a board meeting of Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper in Britain has surfaced and it contains some rather damning evidence of Murdoch’s knowledge of illegal activity, including possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in the United States. Murdoch and his staff were discussing the fallout from the scandal wherein Murdoch’s newspapers were discovered to have been hacking into the phones, computers and email of politicians, royals, celebrities, and private citizens, including a kidnapped schoolgirl who was later found to have been murdered.

The tape was disclosed by a British investigative news service and broadcast on the UK’s Channel4. The transcript, published in part by the Columbia Journalism Review, revealed Murdoch admitting that he had prior knowledge of bribes paid to police officials, which he previously testified before parliament that he knew nothing about.

Murdoch: We’re talking about payments for news tips from cops: that’s been going on a hundred years, absolutely. You didn’t instigate it.

I remember when I first bought the News of the World, the first day I went to the office… and there was a big wall-safe… And I said, “What’s that for?” And they said, “We keep some cash in there.” And I said, “What for?” They said, “Well, sometimes the editor needs some on a Saturday night for powerful friends. And sometimes the chairman [the late Sir William Carr] is doing badly at the tables, (laughter) and he helps himself…”

There is a certain irony in Murdoch getting caught admitting to criminally eavesdropping on others by a secret recording made, most likely, by one of his own criminal reporters. But now that this has come out, Murdoch needs to be held accountable for his crimes in England and here in the U.S. The FCPA prohibits exactly the sort of bribery of government officials that Murdoch confesses to in this recording. And that may be why Murdoch once gave a million dollars to a lobbying group that was attempting to have the FCPA altered in a manner that would benefit Murdoch.

It is time for the Department of Justice to investigate Murdoch and bring charges against him if the evidence supports it. The FCC should also look into whether Murdoch still satisfies its criteria for owning a media enterprise. America must stop coddling its wealthy industrialists when there is reason to believe that they have broken the law.

For God’s Sake, Do Not Take Financial Advice From Fox News

It has already been well established that Fox News is a round-the-clock lie factory (see Fox Nation vs. Reality), but in case anyone was ever curious about whether that distinction extended to their business channel, the Fox Business Network, you no longer need to wonder. This morning’s interview of FBN reporter Lauren Simonetti on Fox & Friends First has summarily resolved this question.

Fox News

The segment raised the issue of golfer Phil Mickleson’s recent showing at the U.S. Open where he came in second. It was the sixth time Mickleson fell just shy of victory at the event he has never managed to win. As a consolation, Fox News crunched some numbers and concluded that Mickleson was better off placing second because, according to their math, he would be poorer had he won. Here is Simonetti’s brilliant analysis (video):

“Sometimes coming in second pays off in the end. […] We broke down the numbers with the help of some tax gurus, for how much he could save, and the answer is $400,000 on taxes. […] So all in all, he’s $400,000 richer, I guess.”

Guess again. Simonetti’s logic revolved around the fact that had Mickleson won he would have earned an additional $3 million in prize money and bonuses on his sponsorships. The tax bill for that would have been about $400,000. Of course, that would still mean that after taxes Mickleson would be ahead by $2,600,000. But in the Fox universe, being able to avoid a $400k tax bite makes you $400k richer even though in the real world that the rest of us inhabit, you are actually $2.6 million poorer.

I really have to sympathize with the losers who have been duped by Fox into thinking that their business network is a reputable place to get information and advice. The irony is that Fox’s counsel is creating more financially deprived people who will necessarily have to rely on the government services that Fox so viscerally hate.

On the bright side (as Fox would say) is the fact that hardly anyone watches the network. After six years they are still a distant competitor to the business leader CNBC. That should mitigate the effect of the bad financial advice they disseminate along with their climate change denial, tax cut obsession, anti-ObamaCare hype, and general ultra-rightist propaganda. And remember, FBN was launched with a promise by its CEO, Rupert Murdoch, that it would be openly biased in favor of the corporatists saying that…

“…a Fox channel would be ‘more business-friendly than CNBC.’ That channel ‘leap[s] on every scandal, or what they think is a scandal.”

And Mr. Murdoch knows a thing or two about leaping on every scandal (i.e. Fast and Furious, Benghazi, IRS, NSA, birth certificate, ACORN, etc.). Murdoch’s Fox News leaps on scandals like a horny teenager at whorehouse.

Rupert Murdoch Seeking Billion Dollar Payoff To Avoid Criminal Prosecution In Hacking Scandal

In what may be the biggest scandal in the history of journalism, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation was caught hacking into the phones, emails, and computers of thousands of people, including private citizens, royals, celebrities, politicians, and even a kidnapped schoolgirl who was later found dead. It’s a story that got international attention everywhere but on Fox News, where Murdoch explicitly refused to discuss it with his sycophantic anchorman.

The fallout from that affair has been wide-reaching with dozens of News Corp. employees arrested and/or fired. Murdoch’s CEO of the UK publishing division is currently awaiting prosecution. The “News of the World,” at the time England’s largest circulation paper, was shut down. And today the Telegraph is reporting that Murdoch’s News Corporation expects that it…

“…will pay to put an end to the [U.S. Department of Justice’s] investigation into the company’s UK newspaper arm, News International, before it goes to a full trial.

“The DoJ is investigating News Corp for potential breaches of America’s Foreign And Corrupt Practices Act, which outlaws police bribery and can result in major penalties.”
“It has been reported that it could agree a settlement of $850m or more.”

If Murdoch is willing to shell out nearly a billion dollars to make this go away, he is in effect admitting guilt. That is not exactly a figure consistent with a nuisance suit. To be sure, Murdoch has a lot riding on this. His son James is in the legal line of fire. The recent corporate split dividing his news publishing division from the entertainment group will put more pressure on the news side to be profitable, and a criminal investigation won’t advance that goal. (Side note: Fox News was placed in the entertainment group when the companies split).

Fox News Murdochalypse

It is still somewhat surprising that news of these shenanigans have not been covered in much detail here in the U.S. Particularly in light of the near hysteria over the NSA’s collection of the phone records of Americans not suspected of any wrongdoing. This disparity in reporting reveals an egregious hypocrisy. Why is Fox News so outraged over the privacy violations of a government agency that justifies its actions as necessary to obstruct terrorists, but they aren’t the least bit concerned about privacy violations by a corporation whose only justification is greed?

Obviously, the answer is that Fox News has a vested interest in suppressing news that reflects poorly on itself. But just as much, they have a partisan interest in hyping news that damages their political enemies. And for both of these reasons, Fox should never be referred to as a “news” network. They are an ultra-rightist PR agency. They should not be allowed to buy their way out of legal jeopardy. Those responsible for the hacking deserve to be tried, convicted, and punished. And that includes Murdoch.

STFU: Fox News Lacks Moral Authority On The DOJ’s Leak Investigations

There have long been complex debates about the propriety of government inquiring into private information in the course of criminal investigations. And the potential for harm to national security further complicates issues that test constitutional principles. However, ever since the Supreme Court ruled in 1971 that the publication of the Pentagon Papers was not actionable, it has been recognized that the press cannot be legally constrained from reporting information it receives from government insiders, even if those sources are improperly disclosing classified data.

The core legal concept here is that the source may be a legitimate target of an investigation for violating laws protecting classified data, but that reporters are simply doing their jobs. If a journalist is not suspected of having broken a law, he cannot be subject to invasive inquiries. Consequently, it may be entirely permissible to subpoena the phone records of a leaker, but not the reporter to whom he leaked.

Given the still incomplete record of what occurred with the Associated Press and Fox News, the Justice Department appears to have overstepped its bounds in examining the phone records of journalists. If it turns out that the journalists acted unlawfully (i.e. solicited classified data in exchange for cash or other favors), that would implicate the reporter as a co-conspirator, but as yet there is no evidence of that. And absent any such exception, the DOJ needs to come clean, acknowledge its mistakes, reaffirm its commitment to the law, and punish those responsible for the gross prosecutorial abuse.

That said, it is utterly ridiculous for Fox News to display such furious indignation over these events considering their past with regard to far worse behavior. The Washington Post, CBS News, and pretty much any other news organization can and should pursue this story aggressively, but Fox really needs to shut the fuck up.

Picture this: Fox News is going nuts about a couple of dozen reporters having their phone records examined by law enforcement officials seeking information about someone suspected of leaking national security secrets. Bear in mind that there was no wiretapping, listening in, or recording of any conversations, just a listing of the calling histories. And even that was not done until after having received permission from a judge. Over that Fox is shouting “SCANDAL” at the top of their lungs.

But there is nary a peep about other Rupert Murdoch-owned entities hacking into the phones, email, and computers of hundreds of private citizens, royals, celebrities, politicians, and even a kidnapped schoolgirl who later turned up dead. That unambiguously criminal activity resulted in dozens of arrests and the shuttering of the highest circulation newspaper in England. Fox not only soft-peddled this historically scandalous story, they openly suppressed it on their own air:

Fox News has been devoting unprecedented airtime to the DOJ story, while engaging in wild and baseless speculation to associate the White House with allegedly improper activities. But their feverish obsession with tarnishing the President and others makes a mockery of journalistic ethics. When Fox devotes equal time to the still ongoing scandal in their own house, then they might be taken seriously when they report on the bad behavior of others.

The Tea Party Times? Rumors Swirling About The Koch Brothers Buying The Tribune Comapany

Newspaper wires are buzzing over a report by the L.A. Weekly that billionaire oil magnates and Tea Party financiers David and Charles Koch are interested in buying the Los Angeles Times or even its parent corporation, the Tribune Company. Tribune owns the Times as well as the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun, and some 20 television stations.

On the surface this might appear to be an ominous development that would put a number of influential media assets in the hands of some notoriously self-serving political manipulators. The prospect of the plutocratic Koch clan assuming control of a network of media properties that they could convert into clarions for their Tea Party fronted campaign to expand their wealth and power is worthy of some concern. However, a deeper examination of this will take the sting off of it.

First of all, the Tribune newspapers are not exactly journalistic powerhouses that break major stories or shape public opinion. To the contrary, they are mere shells of their former glory having cut their editorial staffs to the bone which, not surprisingly, has resulted in a downward spiral in circulation. And if the Koch brothers were to assert their ultra-conservative political ideology on newspapers in liberal enclaves like L.A. and Chicago they are not likely to find many new subscribers.

This brings us to the question of whether an acquisition by the Kochs would represent any change in ideology at all. The Tribune Company was already a right-wing enterprise that published papers with editorial positions that conflicted bitterly with the majority of their constituents. The current CEO of Tribune is a former News Corp executive. Until 2008 the L.A. Times had never endorsed a Democrat for president. And, in a particularly telling and shameful action, the Times fired columnist Robert Scheer, a thirty year veteran with the paper and a Pulitzer Prize winner, and replaced him with Jonah Goldberg, a dimwitted conservative hack with no journalism credibility. So contrary to conventional wisdom, these media operations were not bastions of liberalism.

MurdochalypseThe Tribune rumors have added to speculation about the company’s future that has also included gossip about Rupert Murdoch as a potential buyer. News consumers in the cities affected must be excited about the prospect of having their hometown papers run by the man responsible for hacking into the phones of hundreds of people including a murdered schoolgirl. However, all of this chatter ignores some fairly steep obstacles for both parties. Despite their wide-ranging conglomerate, the Kochs have no experience with media companies. And as noted above, the specific entities available with Tribune would not be very helpful to their propaganda mission. Murdoch would likely be unable to close a deal due to his current ownership of TV stations and newspapers in the same markets. A Tribune acquisition would violate FCC rules (for which he has already received waivers) and would initiate a long and difficult approval process.

Given the impediments to the deals by these famous suitors, one wonders where the rumors might have come from. The most obvious source would be from within Tribune itself. They may be trying to create the illusion that there is acquisition interest in the company and its assets in order to stir up potential buyers and artificially inflate its value as it emerges from bankruptcy. That’s a more likely scenario than one wherein either Murdoch or the Kochs actually bid on the company.

If either of these rumored suitors actually did acquire all or part of Tribune, it would be a sad day for journalism, but only on a symbolic level. Seeing any media property with the history of these enterprises become so embarrassingly intertwined with Tea Party nutjobs would be unfortunate and disheartening. But on practical terms it really wouldn’t result in any observable change considering how stridently conservative and deeply ineffectual these properties have become in recent years. What is truly sad is just the fact that the papers have already fallen to such appalling depths that these rumored acquisitions by disreputable characters bent on deception wouldn’t really make any difference at all.

GOP: Greed Obsessed Profiteers – How the Right Fleeces Donors To Enrich Themselves

The election of 2012 broke all records for spending on campaigns and collateral causes of political movers and shakers. The orgy of spending was triggered by the Citizen’s United decision allowing donors to make unlimited contributions anonymously. A by product of this landscape littered with special interest cash was a new industry driven by hucksters intent on sucking up substantial portions of the money flying around in the political ether.

One of those hucksters was the toe-sucking grifter, Dick Morris. Rachel Maddow recently reported on his scam that involved soliciting donations for a Super PAC that he claimed to have founded, and funneling those funds to his accomplices at the right wing blog Newsmax. Then NewsMax used some of that money to pay Morris for access to his email donors list so that they could solicit more donations. In effect, Morris was raising money to pay himself to raise more money.

Another example of this racket involved the Astroturf-roots, Tea Party operation, FreedomWorks. In the wake of scandalous revelations that their former chairman Dick Armey had staged an armed coup to wrest control of the group from his partners, it has been learned that the organization was taking the funds received from unsuspecting donors who opposed big government waste and depositing them in the bank accounts of wealthy broadcasters like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. These payouts were ostensibly intended to buy positive promotions of FreedomWorks on their programs in order to produce more donations that could also be paid out to the promoters. It was a blatantly circular self-enrichment scheme that was also described by Armey as “ineffective” and “a mistake.”

These incidents illustrate a congenital characteristic of the conservative mindset. It is a philosophy that explicitly lauds a dog-eat-dog flavor of wealth creation and celebrates the success of ruthless entrepreneurship and Greed-Obsessed Profiteers (i.e. GOP).

At the center of this con game is Fox News and the associated right-wing media machine. The unprecedented sums of money raised and spent in the last election cycle exceeded $5 billion dollars. Of that it is estimated that $3.4 was spent on advertising. In the world of Republican politics there is only one elephant in the room when it comes to media, and that is Fox News, the number one rated cable news network (for now) and the PR division of the GOP.

Fox was the first stop on every Republican’s campaign trip. It was where groups like FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity dumped the bulk of their television ad dollars. It was the TV base for Dick Morris, Karl Rove, Scott Rasmussen, and the Breitbart-affiliated activists who were pretending to be movie producers.

Fox News was running the same scam as those described above. They would provide a platform for conservative politicians and organizations to solicit donations. The organizations would then pay Fox to run their ads with the money they raised from their appearances on Fox. And round and round it goes.

Rupert MurdochThis is a tactic exploited so well by Rupert Murdoch himself in the last election cycle when he donated a million dollars to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce who promptly returned it to Fox in the form of ad buys. In this way Murdoch actually made a 22% profit on his donation to the Chamber, and the Chamber got their ads broadcast at a 78% discount.

The maze of campaign finance laws makes it difficult to ascertain whether or not any laws were broken by these financial shenanigans. But the Federal Elections Commission is such an impotent agency that it would be surprising if they ever bothered to investigate or punish such lawbreakers.

However, what is even more surprising is that anybody would contribute to these organizations if they knew that their donations were not being used to advance the causes they support, but instead are lining the pockets of the executives and fundraisers. It is brazen betrayal of the folks who put their hard-earned dollars to work for their beliefs. But it is also precisely what conservatives are best known for: making themselves rich at the expense of the little people.

Hysterical Addendum] Dick Armey is now claiming that when he spoke with Media Matters and made his remarks about FreedomWorks, and their wasting money on Beck and Limbaugh, he actually thought he was talking to the uber-rightist Media Research Center. That explains his candor. He clearly believed that those comments would never be made public by MRC.

Fox News vs. Al-Jazeera: Tales Of Terror And Hypocrisy

The news that Qatar-based Al-Jazeera has agreed to purchase Al Gore’s Current TV has stirred controversy throughout the mediasphere. For the most part the debate has been driven by conservative xenophobes worried that Sharia law would be imposed on American viewers via x-rays emanating from their television screens.

The usual suspects on the right have issued their predictably alarmist warnings about Al-Jazeera plotting to brainwash what they must regard as a gullible American public. Obviously their assessment of gullibility is based on their experience with Fox News viewers. The rest of us are quite capable of discerning fact from fiction and developing informed opinions from diverse news sources. But the censorious right-wingers insist on having only one mindset available to the U.S. television audience.

Fox News - Al-Jazeera

Some of the knee-jerk reactions from conservative critics include Bill O’Reilly saying that “Gore has shamed himself simply by selling to Al-Jazeera.” Frequent Fox News guest Matt McCall saying of Gore that “To me, he’s now associating himself with Al-Qaeda.” Glenn Beck complained that his own sham attempt to bid on Current was dismissed and therefore Gore is un-American. Stuart Varney of Fox News defended Beck by castigating Gore for rejecting Beck but saying “Okay [to] big oil, the sheikhdom of Qatar.” The uber-rightist Media Research Center’s Dan Gainor alleged that “lefties love Al-Jazeera” and then whined that “The purchase is part of a larger trend of foreign media outlets.”

There is a lot there to chew on. First of all, the trend toward foreign ownership of media outlets was never more pronounced than when Rupert Murdoch crossed the Atlantic to launch Fox News. And it is absurd to suggest that Gore is somehow more pro-Big Oil than those at Fox who defend foreign oil corporations while vehemently condemning the development of renewable, domestic energy sources, and disputing the scientific reality of climate change.

Much of the criticism aimed at Gore was directed at his having cashed out to a state-based media enterprise. For some reason these alleged free-market proponents are all of a sudden opposed to a businessman making a profitable deal that will advance economic activity and create jobs. As for the involvement of the nation of Qatar as the financial backer of the new network, these small-minded critics conveniently forget that the second largest shareholder of News Corp, outside of the Murdoch family, is Alwaleed bin Talal, a prince of the Saudi royal family. And therein lies another hypocrisy. The critics complain falsely that Al-Jazeera is aligned with terrorists, but if they are intent on forming ludicrous associations between news networks and terrorism, they might do better to recall that the plotters and hijackers on 9/11, including Osama bin Laden, were from Saudi Arabia, not Qatar.

[Note: Qatar is friendly to the west, is a major supplier of natural gas to the U.S., and has been an ally in American military endeavors including in Libya and Syria, as well as providing bases for the United States Central Command in support of forces in Iraq and Afghanistan]

What’s more, Fox is engaging in their own unique brand of terrorism by literally inciting terror in the minds of their viewers. The demonstrably false allegations that Fox continues to spread about President Obama are designed to create a sense of dread. They have built a fear factory that alleges that Obama is deliberately trying to destroy America on behalf of the extremist Muslims they believe he was invented to represent. They assert that he will become a tyrant who will abolish the Constitution, confiscate guns, criminalize religion, and condemn dissenters to prison camps. It’s a brand of fright-inducing journalism that has the potential to result in actual hostilities. In fact, it already has. (More examples: the murder of Dr. Tiller; the mass shootings at the Wisconsin Sikh Temple; and the Beck-inspired gunman who was apprehended on his way to kill people at the offices of the ACLU and the Tides Foundation).

There has also been a great deal of commentary about the quality of the journalism produced by Al-Jazeera. Most of the conservative echo chamber has trashed the network. But as that haven of Islamic propaganda, the Wall Street Journal, has noted, the network “has gained plaudits for its international coverage.” Indeed, it has won numerous awards, including the prestigious Polk and Peabody awards. They have also been honored by the Foreign Press Association and the International Emmys. Compare that to the recognition received by Fox News from these organizations that judge journalistic excellence – which amounts to zero awards.

In conclusion, Fox News is more closely related to actual terrorists than Al-Jazeera. Fox News is not as highly regarded for their reporting as Al-Jazeera. Fox News is more biased in favor of Big Oil than Al Jazeera. Fox News denigrates successful business transactions more than Al-Jazeera. By virtually every standard that Al-Jazeera’s critics use to disparage the network, Fox News is worse. The one thing that Fox News excels at is distorting these facts, promoting themselves, and slandering their competitors. But I don’t think anyone is giving out awards for that.

Has Roger Ailes Seized Fox News From A Senile, Incompetent Rupert Murdoch?

One thing that has been well established through decades of media domination by Rupert Murdoch is that his will was supreme in the organizations he ran. He made virtually every decision of significance with regard to management, economics, and personnel. And he was never shy about imposing his worldview to slant the editorial content of his properties, whether dealing with opinion or hard news.

Rupert Murdoch

Politicians around the world were once obliged to pay their respects to the “Dirty Digger” if they hoped to succeed electorally. When he purchased a newspaper or television network his ultra conservative bias would replace whatever he found when he got there. Believe it or not, the New York Post was once a liberal publication (which would make more sense in New York City than the right-wing, money-losing rag that Murdoch transformed it into). The once revered Wall Street Journal always had a conservative opinion page, but since Murdoch’s acquisition the news section has abandoned its thoughtful, long-form journalism in favor of something more of the “yellow” variety.

However, in recent months the Murdochian monarchy seems to have been sapped of its power. There has been none of the reverential genuflecting to the man whose anointment was once compulsory. There has been scant evidence of his presence in the political backrooms where influence is administered. Part of the reason for this apparent weakening of his reign may be the fact that he continues to be embroiled in a consuming scandal in the U.K. that began with the discovery that his reporters were hacking into the phones and computers of hundreds of people, including celebrities, politicians, and even a murdered schoolgirl. The scandal has expanded to include charges of bribery and corruption in Murdoch’s newsrooms as well as British government and police operations.

But those affairs, as troubling as they are, do not fully explain Murdoch’s receding influence. The GOP candidates for president all but ignored Murdoch in 2012. And his presence amongst opinion makers has been negligible. More significant is the fact that his own news enterprises are openly rejecting his counsel. The most recent example is his Tweet following the Newtown school massacre. Murdoch wrote:

“Terrible news today. When will politicians find courage to ban automatic weapons? As in Oz after similar tragedy.”

Technically, fully automatic weapons are already fairly strictly regulated. It’s the semi-automatic types that are all too easily acquired, sometimes without any registration or background check required. But it’s clear that Murdoch was addressing the access to the sort of weapons and large-capacity ammunition clips used in Newtown and other recent scenes of carnage.

However, Murdoch’s advocacy of legal action to constrain the availability of these weapons is not shared by his most prominent news vehicle, Fox News. Fox has not disguised its opposition to reasonable regulations, nor its support for extremist groups like the NRA and the politicians who carry their message. Fox has not only advanced the gun rights movement on their air, but they have contributed to disseminating the most absurd conspiracy theories that circulate in the media fringes. And all of this goes on despite being contrary to the views of Fox’s alleged master, Rupert Murdoch.

Another example is Murdoch’s support for a liberal immigration policy. Murdoch even initiated a campaign with New York mayor Michael Bloomberg for immigration reform that would include a path to citizenship for currently undocumented workers. However, his Fox News is one of the most virulently anti-immigrant news operations in the country. They repeatedly use the dehumanizing slur “illegals” to refer to undocumented immigrants, and they portray them as criminals and low-life parasites on society. That editorial bias directly contradicts Murdoch’s personal and public position.

There is also the subject of Climate Change, which Fox News regards as a hoax aimed at exerting some sort of tyrannical control over businesses and individuals. They provide a platform for unsavory characters with no scientific expertise who rail against the volumes of peer-reviewed studies that have affirmed the dangerous warming of the planet. Fox hosts like Sean Hannity frequently mock as ignorant anyone who buys into what he believes is a global warming scam. But you have to wonder whether he is including Murdoch in that group. Murdoch has explicitly acknowledged that Climate Change is real and is caused by human activity. He has directed his company to take decisive steps to mitigate its carbon footprint and he created a division to manage these efforts. Nevertheless, his view is ridiculed on his cable news network.

These examples demonstrate a stark difference between the powerful Murdoch of the past and the more impotent version of the present. This is not the same Murdoch who once declared that he had tried to shape the Bush administration’s policy on Iraq. It is not the same Murdoch who called off his journalists in France at the request of his business partner Prince al-Walid bin Talal of Saudi Arabia (the largest shareholder of News Corp outside of the Murdoch family).

Roger AilesThe frequency with which Fox News contradicts Murdoch is astonishing for an enterprise whose editorial personality has been so closely associated with that of its leader. It no longer appears that the Fox bias leans so strictly toward Murdoch. However, it does lean stridently towards Murdoch’s lieutenant, Roger Ailes, the CEO of Fox News. Ailes, a former Republican media consultant, has succeed in turning Fox into the biggest source of revenue for Murdoch’s News Corp. He has also succeeded in turning Fox into a reflection of his own politics. The GOP candidates who brushed off Murdoch all paraded into Ailes’ office to get his blessing. And while Murdoch seemed to have little influence over the slate of candidates, it was Ailes who openly courted figures like Gen. David Petraeus and Gov. Chris Christie.

What might have been the impetus for this apparent transfer of power? Murdoch is not the sort of person to let go of the reins voluntarily. But at this time in the life of News Corp, there is an abundance of uncertainty. The phone hacking scandal has not only diminished Murdoch, but it has left the company without an obvious heir. Murdoch’s son James is as tainted by the scandal as Rupert. This leaves a power vacuum into which Ailes can insert himself. That objective may also be aided by Murdoch’s advanced age and possible infirmity.

The result is that Fox News continues to lean into far-right extremism, so much so that it openly contradicts the views of its chairman. It will be interesting to watch as this morality play proceeds. Should Murdoch decide to retire and pass the baton on to his children, Ailes may find himself in a bind. The only Murdoch in the company who is unscathed by scandal is his daughter Elizabeth. But she was an Obama supporter and her family viscerally hates Ailes. Her husband was quoted saying…

“I am by no means alone within the family or the company in being ashamed and sickened by Roger Ailes’s horrendous and sustained disregard of the journalistic standards that News Corporation, its founder and every other global media business aspires to.”

Ailes may be trying to consolidate his power within the organization, but without Murdoch’s support he is helpless. The Murdoch family has outright control of the company in their stock portfolio. In a Rupert-less News Corp it is likely that Ailes will decide to retire himself. Where the network would go from there is anyone’s guess.

However, this year there was plenty of chatter about how destructive Fox was to the goals of its patron, the Republican Party. The network took positions that alienated much of the public, including a growing Latino community, younger, more moderate voters, and women incensed by the overt insults and advocacy of legislation that regressed women’s rights by fifty years or more. That is not the way to win elections. Many in the conservative punditry for the first time criticized Fox as an obstacle to their agenda. That’s something that was done here long ago (see Fox News Is Killing The Republican Party).

The usurpation of the Fox News agenda is obvious and disturbing. Roger Ailes is installing himself at the top of the pile in opposition to his boss on some of the most important issues of the day. This can only lead to trouble. Visceral, personal, gut-wrenching, back-stabbing, explosive trouble. In other words: FUN!

In a second Tweet on the subject of guns, Murdoch called on the President take “bold leadership action.” That’s something that Murdoch hasn’t asked Ailes to do, nor has he done so himself. As the head of the top-rated cable news network Murdoch could arguably have more impact on this debate than the President. After all, anything Obama says about this is going to be dismissed by conservatives without even listening to it. However, Fox News speaks to them directly and they take their cues from the network’s stars. Therefore, Fox has a real opportunity to affect the debate and guide public opinion toward sensible legislation.

Ordinarily, I would not advocate that a news organization impose its views on their audience, but Fox is doing this already – only in the wrong direction. What they should now, with Murdoch’s leadership, is correct their course. But don’t hold your breath. Ailes still appears to be in control, and Murdoch still seems to be incapacitated. If Obama does take “meaningful action” as he has suggested he would do, count on Fox News to bash him mercilessly for threatening to confiscate all guns and undermining the Constitution.