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Murdoch: forever brutal

There is much to read and know about Rupert Murdoch but there is nothing more provocative than the book by current Media Watch host Paul Barry; Breaking News: Sex, lies and the Murdoch succession, first published in 2013.

Since then we all know how his media empire is on the point of collapse, the disagreement with his youngest son over the immoral standards of his print, online media and in particular the lies it prints about climate change.

Then there is his misreading of the future of the internet and the future of Foxtel.

His bias is beyond words and his ongoing attempts to assassinate the character of Victorian Premier Dan Andrews where his publications have substituted journalism for opinion has provoked public opinion and left Victorians aghast.

Of Murdoch himself, Wikipedia tells us that he is:

“… an Australian-born American media mogul. Through his company News Corp, he is the owner of hundreds of local, national, and international publishing outlets around the world, including The Sun and The Times in the UK, The Daily Telegraph and The Australian in Australia, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Post in the US, book publisher HarperCollins, and the television broadcasting channels Sky News Australia and Fox News.”

Even at the age of 89 he still brandishes power as though he owns it. The ABC’s current three-part series; The Rise Of The Murdoch Dynasty has sparked public interest in the man and his empire. I posted this review of Barry’s book in 2014 and believe it pertinent to repost because it gives those with little insight into the man a clearer understanding of just how brutal he is.


Depressingly readable is the best way to describe Paul Barry’s revealing biography of Rupert Murdoch. I placed the word mongrel in the title of this piece but it could just as easily used scumbag which means a contemptible or objectionable person.

It is a story about one man. A man with a love for money, power, influence, acquisitions, wives, children and even scandal. Scandal makes money.

Covering much of the 20th century and the early years of the 21st, it is fluent yet comprehensive, with a not-too-much-not-too-little approach to Murdoch’s life.

It is brilliantly written. Barry has a rare talent for the exposure of things complex and how to unravel them. What was depressing for me was the uncouthness of the man in question. He has obtained a vast fortune by printing smut and conditioning people to reading it and in doing so has displayed a complete disregard for the lives of others. His obsession with profit over anything else, even people’s privacy, is staggering. His business and personal moral corruption stands out larger than the worst of his tabloid headlines.

Having the power to elect governments is the ultimate power that carries with it the highest rewards that corruption can bring.

On three occasions I had to put the book down, so affronted was I by this vile nefarious excuse for humanity. One time was when one of his tabloid editors described the reason for his papers existence by saying: “The reason we exist is to destroy people’s lives.”

I imagine writing a book about Murdoch would be challenging. One would be tempted to be caught between his remarkable business success and the corrupt means by which he has made his fortune. Page after page is filled with carefully worded analysis of Murdoch’s business methodology. How he courted favour with the highest echelons of business and government. How he implies his instructions to his editors with a nod and a wink.

In the main Barry confines himself largely to the family machinations, succession, his longevity and the British hacking scandals.

As Barry points out, while Murdoch is alive, he could definitively resolve which of his children succeed him. But to do that he would have to step down and he almost certainly won’t, which gives the process the appearance of a slow-motion traffic accident. So much so that if he retains his health, he could be running his split empires, News Corporation and 21st Century Fox, in 2033. By then he will be 102, a year younger than his mother, Dame Elisabeth, at her death last year.

The Murdoch succession represents one of the great transfers of wealth and power of our times. And it is of course, by virtue of a rigged shareholding. Set up to his family’s advantage.

There are some telling revelations detailing his relationship with his children that give insight into the indifference he shows to outsiders. The discarding of loyal business associates of many years standing if it suited his purpose. His disregard for the feelings of others bleeds its way from one chapter to another and one is left with an impression of a man without an altruistic bone in his body. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in his capacity to end relationships on a whim. He discards marriages as if by decree leaving emotional wreckage scattered around him.

But the main thrust of this book is in Barry’s reading of the testimony before the Leveson Inquiry. It well may be that the revelations that emerge from the inquiry and the ensuing trials might to some degree change or rewrite some of Barry’s assertions. But it won’t change public perception.

Barry begins with Murdoch telling the British culture committee at the height of the hacking inquiry: “This is the humblest day of my life.”

“Is it rehearsed? Probably not.”  My view is Murdoch was on message: the line appears in his prepared statement, which he tried to table and, when this was refused, he blurted it out twice.

Thereafter Barry takes the reader on a journey that gives telling glimpses into the psychopathology that infested Rupert Murdoch’s power house tabloid; News of the World.

Murdoch was, and is, so unbelievably powerful that all he had to do was crook his finger and Tony Blair instantly jumped on a jet and flew halfway across the world to attend on him and to beg assurances of his support at the height of the 1995 U.K. General Election campaign.

Barry forensically dissects the evidence with page turning urgency and tells the whole story, or stories of people whose lives have been wrecked by the tabloid malevolence of Murdoch’s slime infested world. He alludes to many of the individual hacking instances but none are more compelling than when he asks Counsel to the Inquiry, Robert jay QC, “could I test that?” and proceeds to skilfully and deftly draw (News of the World editor) McMullan out. The gist of the questions that follow is “What about Jennifer Elliott?”

In the mid-1990s, Jennifer Elliott, daughter of famous actor Denholm Elliott, was homeless and occasionally used sex work to finance her heroin addiction. McMullan bribed a police officer for information about her whereabouts. He tracked her down, and over the following months, befriended her. He then betrayed their friendship by using it as the basis is for a series of articles in (News of the World) about her situation, ‘golden girl on the red carpet as her dad goes to pick up a Golden Globe … and here she is with dreadlocks covered in dirt … offering passers-by sex in return for money.’

Think of it. A vulnerable young woman in the thrall of addiction is living on the streets. A corrupt copper tips an opportunistic reporter off as to her whereabouts. She becomes a headline. A few years later, the cumulative effect of everything shitful in her life, including, in McMullan’s words, the fact that his media exposure had ‘absolutely humiliated’ her, takes its toll and she hangs herself.

Of all the stories of the hacking scandal victims, that of Jennifer Elliott haunts me the most.

The phrase ‘destroyed lives’ has been repeatedly used in reference to the News Corporation hacking scandal. But it did exactly that. The hacking scandal was lethal. Alexander Mosley, son of Max Mosley (who testified at the Leveson Inquiry on 24 November), escalated his drug abuse and eventually died of an overdose, unable to bear the shame of having his father reported by NOTW as having Nazi-themed sex with prostitutes (heavily emphasising the fact that Mosley’s father was British fascist leader Oswald Mosley).

British High Court Judge Eady found the Nazi theme of the reports had ‘no genuine basis at all’, when Mosley sued NOTW for breach of privacy and said ‘no amount of damage can fully compensate the claimant for the damage done. He is hardly exaggerating when he says his life is ruined’.

Then there was Charlotte Church, who after years of NOTW reports about her, including her family and her mother’s mental health issues, settled her legal action against News Group newspapers in February 2012, out of concern for what a protracted court battle was going to do to everyone’s health and well-being.

Mosley and Church’s stories get the space they deserve in Paul Barry’s book.

(Note: The aforementioned is quoted from another review and I have not been able to trace its originality.)

Primarily though, this book is about a man at the zenith of his power. A man with money but no character, no decency, no morality, no ethics and one who will die with ‘the king smut’ as his legacy. A despicable man who traded in human vulnerability for profit.

But he is good at it if nothing else.

Paul Barry has done the world a favour by writing this book but I was left at the end with the puzzling question:

How is this man fit to manage any business?

My thought for the day

Murdoch Publications: Where the truth goes to die.

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9 comments

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  1. Terence Mills

    The Murdoch organisation both in Australia and the USA have come out enthusiastically to promote the re-election of Donald Trump.

    On Murdoch television [Sky after Dark] the irrational exuberance for the Trump cause included a comment from one of their spruikers to the effect that the death of Supreme Court Judge Ruth Bader Ginsberg ‘was a gift to the Trump campaign’.

    Nice people !

  2. wam

    Not only does his business fit the man but the image of the man drives his editors the world over and the more zealous an editor the better.
    In my limited experience rupert sacked one editor and one journalist. They were not incompetent but they were labor and that is a crime.
    ps
    Remember the hacking scandal and trial??
    Rupert summed up by black:
    Rupert’s] old possum routine…Bumbling into a parliamentary hearing…supported on each arm like a centenarian semi-cadaver, mumbling about humility..
    and Nick davies, guardian sums up the incident:
    Rupert Murdoch’s money washed through the ‘trial of the century’ like a Rolls-Royce. The story behind the News of the World scandal was not about journalists behaving badly, but the power of money and its abuses

    Sadly, lord, if your truth dies the murdoch press creates the new truth and the media trump(et) it.

    Dear waltz,
    Perhaps jesus is god taking RBG, a jew, was a sign that he wanted both a catholic judge and trump to win.
    Amy, like so many of our politicians, has her total education protected by the catholic system from go to whoa(woe)and she got her promotion in 2917 by presidential appointment.

  3. Ross

    Yes John Lord some books have a profound effect.
    For me it was “Dial M for Murdoch” written by Tom Watson & Martin Hickman.
    Since then a rock solid cast iron black ban on all things Murdoch has been set in concrete. Anything that lot have their fingers in is black banned, ignored and avoided like the plague.
    I have not and will not give the Murdoch’s one cent of my money or one second of my time.
    And I suspect I’m not the only one.

  4. Carina McNaughton

    Agree totally that Murdoch is pure evil no love or compassion in his heart. Labor are not prefect but they should have won the last federal election. Bill Shorten refused to meet Murdoch and no-one who snubs him is allowed win an election. He buys and sells politicians as it suits his needs. He is a plague on the world.

  5. guest

    Very wise, Ross, to ignore Murdoch media, but it dominates Oz media and has an influence on other media outlets. But this way be demons.
    .
    You do have to read this, but it is an example of Murdoch “balanced” reporting for the “informed” reader – although Sheridan in The Australian today is compelled to give some leeway to Biden because Biden is ahead in the polls and might win.

    Sheridan’s headline is: “US presidential debate: pile driver to square off with blancmange.”

    He compares support for Trump and Biden on social media. Of course Trump is an addicted Twitterer. But Murdoch media hates social media because it competes with Murdoch. Try any tactic – as Trump will, having already been suggesting how slow Biden is mentally. This from a man who asked if bleach could save people from the virus.

    And Sheridan says Biden has only one policy: he is not Trump. But we know a politician here in Oz whose only policy was “Ax the tax!” – a “tax” which was not a tax.

    So much for “fair and balanced” reporting after four years of barracking for whom Sheridan describes as “the most destructive political campaigner in modern history”.

    Destroying the USA?

  6. Henry Rodrigues

    Murdoch is not immortal as his minions and LNP supporters and voters know. The crinkled old bastard, despite all the pills and drugs that sustain him, will cark it one of these days, and the whole world, together with the maggots and worms, will rejoice. I and many millions of others, will be figuratively and with profound pleasure, be pissing on his grave when that happens.

  7. Andrew Smith

    Read Barry’s book, very good made better maybe by the fact that he was not Oz born and bred; can see things more objectively?

    By coincidence AlJazeera’s ListeningPost did a 25m piece on Murdoch and NewsCorp US and Oz (not UK?):

    ‘Murdoch’s misinformation: COVID-19, China and climate change. Is Rupert Murdoch’s media empire responsible for spreading deadly misinformation on COVID-19? From the United States to Australia, Rupert Murdoch’s media empire regularly courts controversy. Its coverage of COVID-19, however, is on another level. The Listening Post‘s Flo Phillips reports on the Murdoch factor in COVID-19 coverage.’

    https://www.aljazeera.com/program/the-listening-post/2020/8/8/murdochs-misinformation-covid-19-china-and-climate-change/

    They cited both Rudd’s and Turnbull’s criticism with the latter doing piece to camera which was fine, till his last sentence; blamed Hawke Keating govt. in late ’80s of empowering Murdoch…. ignoring his and the LNP’s own subservience and the constraints made by Hawke/Keating being removed.

  8. Andrew Smith

    Last week Crikey Editor published an apology to Lachlan Murdoch, this is not satire:

    ‘Crikey (Australia) apologises to Lachlan Murdoch. A note from Crikey editor-in-chief Peter Fray.Yesterday Crikey mistakenly referred to Lachlan Murdoch in a headline on a story about ex-British Labour MP Tom Watson. In the headline we incorrectly likened Lachlan Murdoch to an organised crime figure. We unreservedly apologise to Mr Murdoch for this mistake in the headline and withdraw any suggestion that he is linked to a criminal organisation or family which operates outside of the law.

    The article’s headline should have referred to James Murdoch, Lachlan’s brother, who was called by Mr Watson — speaking under privilege at the UK House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport subcommittee in 2011 — the “first mafia boss who didn’t know he was running a criminal enterprise”.

    https://www.crikey.com.au/2020/09/24/crikey-apologises-lachlan-murdoch/

  9. New England Cocky

    Murdoch was gifted access to high level favourable interest US banking funds by agreeing to withhold a 1961 interview with JFK accompanied by then The Australian editor Zel Rabin. The two on one interview yielded JFK doubts about the wisdom of the Vietnam War, the CIA actions in Cuba to recover US land & business interests, the disllke for war in general following his own personal experiences and the apparent threat of the Cuba Missile Crisis that JFK ultimately resolved with USSR President Kruschev.

    Naturally these thoughts ran contrary to the ambitions of the US NE military industrial complex that was formenting the Vietnam War, the US corporate interests wanting to recover their Cuban assets and resulted finally in the FBI assassination of JFK in Dallas Texas in November 196 for which Lee Harvey Oswald was wrongly blamed.

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