Fri 7 May 2021

Murdoch-owned tabloids control nearly 70% of Australia’s newspapers – providing the country’s right-wing political establishment with the space to deny the consequences of climate change

In a stunning rebuke to his family’s global news media empire, Rupert Murdoch’s youngest son James has broken ranks in slamming News Corporation’s coverage of climate change at a time when Australia finds itself besieged by unprecedented climate change fires.

“Kathryn and James’ views on climate are well established and their frustration with some of the News Corp and Fox coverage of the topic is also well known. They are particularly disappointed with the ongoing denial among the news outlets in Australia given obvious evidence to the contrary,” a spokesperson for James Murdoch and his wife told The Daily Beast.

This is nothing less than an unequivocal admission by James Murdoch, who remains a board member of News Corp, that the family-run news media business is deceiving its readers and viewers by peddling climate change denial and disinformation.

This comes just weeks after Emily Townsend, News Corp’s Australia’s commercial finance manager, blasted her employer in an email distributed to senior staff for “contributing to the spread of climate change denial and lies” and promoting a “misinformation campaign” on the cause of her country’s ongoing bushfires.

“The reporting I have witnessed in The Australian, the Daily Telegraph and Herald Sun is not only irresponsible but dangerous and damaging to our communities and beautiful planet that needs us more than ever to acknowledge the destruction we have caused and start doing something about it,” wrote Townsend.

Is it any wonder that multiple studies have shown that consumers of Murdoch-owned news media, particularly Fox News, are less informed about current affairs than those who watch no news at all? This finding has since become known as the “Fox News effect” – a syndrome that leads those afflicted to parrot the network’s toxic discourse.

“It conjures the image of Fox News as a black hole that sucks facts out of its viewers’ heads,” comments the right-leaning Forbes magazine.

These revelations are made even more alarming by the fact that Murdoch-owned tabloids control nearly 70% of the Australian newspaper market, thus providing the country’s right-wing political establishment with the space to deny the consequences of climate change on behalf of the conservative coalition’s largest financial benefactor – major mining and gas corporations, which have blessed the respective Liberal and National Party coffers to the tune of $8.4 million in recent years.

It is little wonder that Australia ranks 57 out of 57 on a list of countries and their action against climate change.

The toxicity of Fox News, and by extension the entire Murdoch-owned tabloid misinformation machine, is captured in the newly released film Bombshell, which not only depicts multiple allegations of sexual abuse by Roger Ailes against his female anchors, but also the way in which the network corrals and mobilises its predominantly white middle-elderly aged viewers into internalising right-wing political slogans and mantras.

“Ask yourself: what would scare my grandmother, and piss off my grandfather?” says one of Bill O’Reilly’s producers, played by Saturday Night Live’s Kate McKinnon, to a new hire, played by the Oscar-nominated Margot Robbie.

The round-the-clock deployment of dog whistle, and often overtly racist, xenophobic, homophobic and chauvinistic propaganda against immigrants, Muslims, international institutions, liberals, gay people, millennials, feminists, and environmentalists have helped turn once ordinarily decent, tolerant, and ethically-minded people into right-wing ideologues.

“Old, white, wrinkled and angry, they are slipping from polite society in alarming numbers,” reads a 2014 essay titled I Lost My Dad to Fox News: How A Generation Was Captured by Thrashing Hysteria. “We’re losing much of a generation. They often sport hats or other clothing, some marking their status as veterans, Tea Partyers or ‘patriots’ of some kind or another. They have yellow flags, bumper stickers and an unquenchable rage. They used to be the brave men and women who took on America’s challenges, tackling the ’60s, the Cold War and the Reagan years – but now many are terrified by the idea of slightly more affordable healthcare and a very moderate Democrat in the White House. We’re losing people like my father to the despair of Fox News, and it’s all by design.”

There would arguably have been no Iraq invasion, Trump, Brexit, widespread climate change denial, or what has become a white domestic terrorism crisis were it not for the disinformation pumped out constantly by Murdoch-owned media outlets into the right-wing ecosystem.

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