David McKnight’s ‘Rupert Murdoch: An Investigation of Power’ The Politics of News | David Marr | The Monthly
McKnight writes: “For Murdoch, politics is equally as important as business. Being a political insider and an activist is supremely important to his personality and his outlook.” Journalism can come in a poor third. It is shocking to be reminded by McKnight of the media mogul’s response to Watergate: he backed Nixon and deplored the efforts of Woodward and Bernstein.
“The American press might get their pleasure in successfully crucifying Nixon,” Murdoch told a friend back then. “But the last laugh would be on them. See how they like it when the commies take over the West.”
So many civilised outcomes have been achieved – or not – in the face of News Corp’s enthusiasms. Murdoch’s papers and television stations rarely speak with one voice and can’t dictate outcomes. But if in the US, the UK or Australia you want to change drug laws, tax the rich effectively, give the poor health care, hold the US to account for its military exploits, cool the globe or extend human rights, you have to deal with News Corporation.
Old campaigns of the Murdoch empire seem scarcely credible now. The New York Post ran a brutal crusade against gay rights in America as late as the 1980s with the editor Steve Dunleavy ordering a troubled reporter to write that AIDS could be transmitted by kissing: “Let’s not be too technical mate – it’s a good yarn.”
In London, meanwhile, the Sunday Times was questioning the scientific consensus that HIV causes AIDS – questioning science has a proud history in News – and blaming the problem on poofs. Only junkies, gays, bisexuals and victims of tainted blood transfusions could contract AIDS, the paper suggested in 1989. “Anything else is homosexual propaganda.”
McKnight does not hold Murdoch to account for every adventure News Corp has pursued over the years. But he marshals with fresh clarity the evidence that Murdoch’s empire is peculiarly attuned to its proprietor’s whims. David Yelland of the Sun confessed: “Most Murdoch editors wake up in the morning, switch on the radio, hear that something has happened and think, ‘What would Rupert think about this?’”