On July 14, 2019, Trump tweeted that four junior female Congress-persons of color should go back to their countries of origin. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley. Three of the four were born in the U.S. The other has lived here since childhood. All are U.S. citizens. A few days later at a rally, Trump railed against the four, particularly Rep. Ilhan Omar, inciting the crowd to chant “send her back!”.
Contrast Trump’s own family. His wife achieved citizenship by marrying Trump. She then brought her parents over. Trump’s mother was born in Scotland. One of his previous wives, Ivana, also immigrated via marriage to Trump.
The difference: color. Most rational people have deemed the tweets to be racist, akin to “go back to Africa” leveled at black Americans whose claim to U.S. soil predates all immigrants except native Americans.
The media outlets of Rupert Murdoch (and his son Lachlan) have gone into a full spin mode (are they ever not?). “Fox News” pundits are using a defense-through-offense strategy, calling the Congress-women racists. The pundits are also accusing them of hating America and other calls to emotion rather than reason. In the unprecedented feedback loop of Trump <– > Fox News, it appears (and not for the first time) that Fox didn’t merely defend and spin Trump’s tweets, but initiated them. The week before, Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson ranted against Congress-person Ilhan Omar in a similar fashion.
Nationalist movements have a long history of violence. Our’s is heavily armed thanks to the gun industry’s reckless profiteering. These Congress-women already receive death threats in far greater number than their colleagues.
Rupert Murdoch’s media outlets have been playing a cat and mouse game, pandering to racism and xenophobia for decades. It’s a sophisticated strategy meant to cover the vile and destructive overall impact of his media empire. When Murdoch media outlets get called out by more than just their usual critics, they apologize and give light admonishments to the offending Fox agent provocateur. Occasionally, they even engage in a sacrificial firing of an employee, or when Murdoch’s News of the World was caught hacking the phone of a murdered child (having engaged in the hacking for years), they closed the offending outlet. However, with each incident, they push the threshold of intolerance and division a bit further. Like a cyborg army with one consciousness, the Murdoch media machine, overall, gets more powerful by spooning out sensational misinformation, feeding hate, and profiting from it.
When we blame “Fox News” and it’s pundits, we allow Murdoch to hide behind a corporate shield. However, he created and controls the beast. He has repeated the pattern of hate-mongering in numerous of his media entities. Murdoch media outlets like The Sun (U.K.) were at the forefront of the anti-immigrant xenophobia that inspired the murderer of Parliament member and refugee advocate Jo Cox. Murdoch’s media was key in the creation and passage of the Brexit referendum. In the U.S., who can doubt that Murdoch’s media machine bears the largest responsibility, if indirect, for the brutal treatment of refugees, undocumented immigrants, and their children? Sensational headlines regarding crime, sex, conspiracy theories, immigrants, and minorities are all the surest form of clickbait and remote control bait. Murdoch media has used tabloid journalism masquerading as real journalism to become the World’s most powerful news media conglomerate.
In the decades following the mischief and suffering caused by the yellow journalism of the late 19th and early 20th, centuries, journalists developed a code of ethics. Ethics typically involve forsaking some level of quick profit. Murdoch has profited by spurning journalistic ethics and peer approval, stepping into the void where journalistic ethics vanquished yellow journalism. With great power comes great responsibility. Few are more influential than Rupert Murdoch. Few have disregarded such responsibility more than Murdoch. Republican politicians remain lockstep with a President they previously ridiculed, who ridiculed them, who has no conservative ideological pedigree, and who, behind closed doors, they agree is incompetent. The reason – Fox News pundits support Trump and will support any primary challenger of an incumbent who dares speak ill of Trump. Fox News’s media viewership share percentage equates almost exactly with the share of the electorate who remain loyal to Trump no matter what he does. Putin’s and Murdoch’s media messaging is nearly identical – anti-immigrant, encouraging internal divisions, anti-U.N, anti-NATO, anti-EU, anti-trade agreements, casting suspicion among traditional Western allies, and support for the most divisive and least competent candidates. This fact demonstrates how destructive Murdoch is to western democracy. Few would say either Putin or Murdoch is a fool. However, most would agree that both are greedy, power-hungry, and care little for the harm they do. History will have little trouble identifying Trump as the Country’s most demagogic President. However, the 40% of the public who get their information via Fox News see an entirely different reality, one that filters even Trump’s own words to protect him from himself.
Rupert Murdoch has shown a disregard for the destructive consequences of his media outlets’ rhetoric, much as the Shacklers disregarded the fatal consequences of their opium pushing, and the gun industry has ignored mass-death caused by their push for evermore numerous gun sales.
Yet, Fox and Murdoch have enjoyed a curious immunity. Facebook takes heat for Putin’s exploitation of its platform. Google and Twitter too. Even Mark Zuckerberg personally appeared to testify before Congress. But Murdoch outlets have pumped out the same vile messaging as Putin’s spies – apparently all on their own, with no geopolitical goal, just profit. While Fox News is regularly the target of ridicule, it’s rarely criticized as a problem that must be solved. Murdoch is even more insulated. Is it because billionaires own almost all the major media in this country? Are they afraid to call-out Murdoch on their media outlets lest they incur similar fates on Right-wing platforms? Courtesy among kings and thieves? The New Yorker and The New York Times recently ventured beyond this boundary. The effort seemed both revolutionary and tepid. There has been no follow up. There are a few writers in more niche publications who dare to consistently call out the destructiveness of Rupert Murdoch, e.g., Peter Maas of The Intercept.
Arguably, more than any other single source, Murdoch’s media has been responsible for the ascendency of the Far-right, Trump, Brexit, and the fraying of the post-war western alliance that has done so much to safeguard and promote democracy, human rights, and peace. Murdoch media has also been a huge factor in sabotaging the message of the scientific community regarding the catastrophic consequences of climate change. Murdoch media thus poses a risk to the survival of hundreds of millions of people. There have been, and are, other media empire megalomaniacs who abused their position to pump out misinformation. William Randolph Hearst took the U.S. into the Spanish-American War based on a lie – that the Spanish military sunk an American Navy ship. And of course, there are currently numerous media outlets that are more opinion and spin than reporting. The difference is that Murdoch’s empire is huge and pretends to be “fair and balanced.” Any future news media reform, which doesn’t erode the First Amendment, will require more vigorous enforcement of anti-trust laws.
But bringing it back to the headline of the day, the four female Congress-women of color: Murdoch’s Fox News pundits have rallied the anger of their legions against these women, making them out to be external threats to our country, agents of other countries, cultures and races hell-bent on destroying the U.S. Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch know where this nationalistic fervor can lead. All the more ironic that Rupert Murdoch himself is an immigrant – and one who became a citizen not for love of the U.S. but for profit – he needed to be a citizen in order to gain regulatory approval of a television station acquisition. Moreover, he gained his citizenship, not through merit or loyalty, but through money and privilege. Letting him hide behind Fox News allows him to escape accountability for his reckless greed. No one deserves the type of hate and danger his media outlets unleashed on Jo Cox, leading to her murder. Now he is doing it to these Congress-women. He needs to be called out and held to account through every legal and political means available. One wonders what little lies may lie in his citizenship application papers.
In the meantime, may God bless and protect these four courageous Congress-women.