What country in its right mind would allow a foreign entity to come into their country, set up a major propaganda operation, and then use it to so polarize that nation that its very government suffers a violent assault and its democracy finds itself at a crossroads?
Apparently, the United States. And we’re not the first, according to former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
Writing for The Sydney Morning Herald (the Australian equivalent of The New York Times) Rudd called Rupert Murdoch and his rightwing news operations “the greatest cancer on the Australian democracy.”
“The uncomfortable truth is,” Rudd wrote, “since the coup of June 2010, Australian politics has become vicious, toxic and unstable. The core question is why?”
While Rudd calls out the Australian equivalents of Gym Jordan and Marjorie Taylor Greene, the focus of his article and the damage done by the “coup” within his own party in 2010 is Murdoch.
Noting that, “Murdoch owns two-thirds of the country’s print media,” Rudd added:
“Murdoch is not just a news organisation. Murdoch operates as a political party, acting in pursuit of clearly defined commercial interests, in addition to his far-right ideological world view.”
Brexit happened in the UK because of the newspapers and media Murdoch owns there, Rudd wrote, and:
“In the United States, Murdoch’s Fox News is the political echo chamber of the far right, which enabled the Tea Party and then the Trump party to stage a hostile takeover of the Republican Party.”
Murdoch’s positions aren’t at all ambiguous, Rudd noted. They’re simply pro-billionaire/pro-oligarch and thus, by extension, anti-democracy.
“In Australia, as in America,” he wrote, “Murdoch has campaigned for decades in support of tax cuts for the wealthy, killing action on climate change and destroying anything approximating multiculturalism.
“Given Murdoch's impact on the future of our democracy,” Rudd added, “it's time to revisit it.”
Here in America, Fox “News” has had such a powerful influence on American politics that its creation, President Donald Trump, apparently even ordered government agencies to show it on their in-house TVs.
MoveOn.org, one of our nation’s top activist groups, launched a petition drive to remove Fox from military bases around the world, an effort supported by large numbers of active duty military. More recently, VoteVets.org has initiated a new, similar campaign, saying:
“FOX hosts’ election lies and disinformation splits the ranks, hurts unit cohesion, and weakens America's national defense. They must be removed from all TVs on military installations NOW.”
Fox and Murdoch’s power come, Rudd says, from their ruthlessness.
“Murdoch is also a political bully and a thug,” former Australian Prime Minister Rudd writes, “who for many years has hired bullies as his editors. The message to Australian politicians is clear: either toe the line on what Murdoch wants or he kills you politically.
“This has produced a cowering, fearful political culture across the country. I know dozens of politicians, business leaders, academics and journalists, both left and right, too frightened to take Murdoch on because they fear the repercussions for them personally. They have seen what happens to people who have challenged Murdoch’s interests as Murdoch then sets out to destroy them.”
When Fox and Tucker Carlson set out to rewrite the history of the treasonous January 6th coup attempt at our nation’s Capitol with a three-part special alleging it could have been an inside job by the FBI, two of their top conservative stars, Jonah Goldberg and Stephen Hayes, resigned in protest.
Text messages released by Congresswoman Liz Cheney and the committee that investigated the January 6th attempt to overthrow our government show that the network’s top prime-time hosts were begging Trump to call off his mob while at the same time minimizing what happened on the air.
Even worse, recent revelations from the Dominion lawsuit show that Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham all intentionally lied to their viewers for over two years with the encouragement of Rupert Murdoch himself. While they were privately ridiculing Trump and acknowledging he was a “sore loser,” they said the exact opposite to their audience.
It tore America apart, set up the violence and deaths on January 6th and since, but made billions for Murdoch and his family. Astonishingly, even as Republican leadership in the United States Senate condemns him, Carlson is doubling down on those lies this very week.
Steve Schmidt, a man who’s definitely not a liberal (he was a White House advisor to George W. Bush and ran Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign as well as John McCain’s 2008 campaign), has been blunt about the impact of Fox “News”:
“Rupert Murdoch’s lie machine is directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans, the poisoning of our democracy and the stoking of a cold civil war. There has never been anything like it and it is beyond terrible for the country. Bar none, Rupert Murdoch is the worst and most dangerous immigrant to ever arrive on American soil. There are no words for the awfulness of his cancerous network.”
While Jen Psaki and Karine Jean-Pierre have been humorous in their dealing with Fox’s Peter Doocy’s attempts at gotcha questions in the White House press room, there’s nothing funny about inciting attacks on our country and then openly lying on the air about “antifa” to cover it up, as Media Matters for America has repeatedly documented that Fox did.
“Banishing from polite company” is a phrase that came from a different era, but it’s time to ask if Fox has grown to such destructive dimensions that our government’s press rooms should stop recognizing them as a legitimate “news” organization and our military should reconsider its impact on our troops.
As my SiriusXM colleague Michelangelo Signorile points out, even “real news” guy Chris Wallace has jumped ship.
On average, every cable connected household in America is paying two dollars a month to Fox “News” via their cable company fees. A growing movement, UnFox My Cable Box, is trying to change this.
To continue with Rudd’s metaphor, if our media and body politic are infected with a cancer — driven by an unending thirst for profits, regardless of the damage it does — it’s our responsibility as Americans to call it out and isolate it so it can’t further harm our democracy and, by extension, the other democracies of the world.