How Rupert Murdoch & Fox Created the Fake News Industry

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The concern about “fake news” now sweeping the inside-the-beltway crowd is a little hilarious, since all corporate news (i.e. news for profit) has elements of fakeness.

For instance, cable television news channels almost never cover climate change, and when they do they tend to give equal time to denialists. This is like never covering lung cancer and then when you do, bringing on a tobacco company executive to deny that cigarettes cause it. The reason for the dereliction of duty, which puts the welfare of all human beings at risk, is that the same corporations purveying the news also own a lot of stock in Exxon-Mobil and other Big Carbon companies. Basically, television executives are drowning your great-grandchildren for the health of their stock portfolios. The simple truth is that Exxon-Mobil stock is worthless, since their product is poisoning the planet, and as soon as the public wakes up to this fact, a lot of wealthy people will be bankrupt. (Virtually the entire British upper crust have their retirement funds heavily invested in BP, which I wouldn’t advise.)

Industry professionals have also admitted in interviews that they have been ordered by management not to bring up labor unions. Even large and long-lasting labor strikes tend to be ignored in television “news,” which is the news the business classes permit the public to see.

But those are sins of omission, and even highly professional journalists (and there are plenty working for the corporate media giants) have to put up with that kind of thing if they want to keep their jobs.

The sins of commission are much worse. They are what is now being called fake news. Some have suggested that fake news is just a synonym for propaganda, but I’m not sure that is correct. Good propaganda would probably admit a kernel of truth and then spin it. Fake news is about making stuff up and then purveying the resulting B.S. as the report of a professional journalist.

The most mammoth creator and distributor of fake news is not a few teenagers in Montenegro or wherever. It is an ancient ruddy Australian multi-billionaire named Rupert Murdoch, who conspired with shady GOP operative and alleged serial sexual harasser Roger Ailes to create Fox Cable “News” in 1996. As I put it in December, Fox’s “blonde anchors were not so much hired as trafficked.”

Murdoch, one of the more horrible persons ever to have lived, routinely used his prominence as owner of newspapers and television news channels to bully politicians. His is almost single-handedly responsible for blunting an urgent response to climate change, so he is a mass murderer in waiting. He owns the Wall Street Journal and the Times of London and much else besides (having all these outlets in the hands of a single man should be illegal to protect democracy). People very close to him hacked into newsworthy people’s phone message systems to get dirt on them for blackmail or titillating headlines, and it seems a little unlikely that a) this was done only in the UK or b) that people so close to Murdoch could have behaved this way without his knowledge.

Much of what is wrong with Fox Cable News is bias and spin. But it does also simply make things up.

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Fox routinely declined to cover news conferences by President Obama but virtually became Trump t.v. last summer and fall.

On the making stuff up front, here are some examples:

Fox actually doctored video to make it look as though President Obama encouraged undocumented immigrants to vote (he did urge Latinos to vote). Fox has a long history of doctoring video, which is well documented and should have caused their broadcast license to be revoked.

When Terry Schiavo was lying brain dead and the Republican Party intervened to stop her husband from pulling the plug, Fox actually brought on a psychic to claim that Schiavo was clear about what was going on around her. That is just making stuff up and calling it news. I.e., fake news.

Media Matters has documented 20 years of such steaming piles of B.S. at Fox.

In a three-year study of selected issues, Politifact found that 66% of what Fox presented on these subjects was partially or wholly false, a percentage far higher than any other news network.

Here are some of Politifact’s “pants on fire” findings regarding Fox:

Sean Hannity
“The president said he’s going to bring in 250,000 (Syrian and Iraqi) refugees into this country.”
— PunditFact on Monday, October 26th, 2015
Pants on Fire!

Based on a debunked claim
George Will: “Says President Ronald Reagan “had a month of job creation of 1 million.”
— PunditFact on Monday, April 6th, 2015
Pants on Fire!

Dana Perino: “On climate change, “the temperature readings have been fabricated, and it’s all blowing up in their (scientists’) faces.”
— PunditFact on Friday, February 13th, 2015
Pants on Fire!

Steven Emerson: “There are actual cities” like Birmingham, England, “that are totally Muslim where non-Muslims just simply don’t go in.”
— PunditFact on Wednesday, January 14th, 2015
Pants on Fire!
[See also Informed Comment on this one.]

Donald Trump: “Says President Barack Obama’s recent New York fundraising trip “cost between $25 million and $50 million.”
— PunditFact on Tuesday, October 14th, 2014
Pants on Fire!

Glenn Beck: “John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, “has proposed forcing abortions and putting sterilants in the drinking water to control population.”
— PolitiFact National on Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Media Matters: “Kilmeade: Americans don’t have “pure genes” like Swedes because “we keep marrying other species and other ethnics.” As Gawker noted, on the July 8 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade said that Americans don’t have “pure genes” like Swedes because “we keep marrying other species and other ethnics.” Kilmeade apologized for his “inappropriate” remarks on July 20.”

JC: In fact, no one lived in Sweden during the last Ice Age, roughly 75,000-20,000 years ago, what with the three mile high glaciers sitting on it. When the ice finally receded, Sweden was populated in turn by diverse sets of people from elsewhere and Sweden has a high haplotype diversity. Of course, modern human beings came out of Africa around 50,000 years ago, and the people who started going into Sweden around 12,000 years ago were originally Africans. White skin was selected for in Sweden because embryos need vitamin D and in low-ultraviolet environments, darker skin interferes with sunlight getting through to the embryo. Skin color is a minor feature and says almost nothing about underlying genetic diversity).

There are hundreds of these cases, not to mention all the times that Fox has doctored footage of e.g. Obama speeches. These mistakes are not random. They all try to push the narrative in the direction of Neofascism. The entire channel is a propaganda mill, and the majority of “news” items reported there apparently can’t stand up to dispassionate inquiry.

So as pundits go off looking for culprits in the rise of fake news, they should look elsewhere than the former East Bloc. They should look at the Goebbels of Melbourne, the prophet of the new white supremacy and Neofascism, the propagandist for the Iraq War, one Rupert Murdoch– and his henchman, Roger Ailes– and their successors.

And, it is no accident that the incoming Trump administration is largely made up of staples over at Fox, a place where their sugar daddy Murdoch could nurture them like maggot larvae. Not only did they invent mass fake news, they’ve taken over our country with it.


Related video added by Juan Cole:

Salon: Comedy Central: “The Daily Show – The Special Network”

25 Responses

  1. Professor, you are preaching to the already converted as we are reading your alternative comments rather than the main stream media. The mainstream media are now losing out to the internet and programmes like RT big time. The EU parliament recently voted money to an EU site called “debunking Russian propaganda” and did so with a very dubious majority where there were few MEP’s present. In other words, EU tax payers are funding this outfit to feed them even more propaganda of their own. The best propaganda outfit championed by the main stream media at the moment are the so called ‘white helmets in Syria. This outfit is linked to the Americans and is funded by them to the of tune of 400 million Dollars and we British and others pour more cash as well. The white helmets are only ever filmed carry some golden hair little girl from a bombed out building and I have never seen the rescue any adult. They also carry arms and only work only in the areas controlled by the terrorists. The head of this organisation said a while back that he saw Syrian helicopters dropping barrel bombs on the UN aid convey in an agreed cessation of hostilities. This was another fake story by the main stream media because the gentleman concerned was adamant that he saw this from his veranda while drinking tea at in the evening. As it so happens he forgot that it is completely dark at that time of year so he couldn’t have seen anything! Needless to say, the mainstream media didn’t challenge this or even point out the obvious lie. Already we are hearing cries from the MSM that service providers and search engines should start preventing any so called “fake news” as they it. They included in this all the well know sites like anti war, alternet and all on the list you have here on your site. I don’t know for sure, but you may be on the list as well professor. We live in dangerous times!

  2. The distortion of news and the use of false propaganda are not limited to Fox and other parts of the Murdoch empire. As you point out, the entire corporate news is responsible for distorting public perception of reality. It is the link between corporate media and the military-industrial complex that is responsible for manipulating public opinion for the sake of the tiny minority of the extremely rich industrialists who benefit from wars and conflicts.

    After the collapse of the former Soviet Union, America enjoyed a period of unchallenged supremacy, and practically had no serious enemies anywhere. Yet, new enemies had to be created in order to keep the arms industry profitable. Looking at the United States from outside, it is quite puzzling why the only remaining superpower that spends almost as much on its military as the rest of the world put together, and consequently enjoys a power that dwarfs the capabilities of all its competitors feels so insecure. Just to give one example, Russia’s military budget is only 8% of the NATO budget that is dominated by the United States.

    The reason for this feeling of anxiety and fear of foreigners is that not only Fox but most US media is dominated by the neocons and warmongers who create a feeling of hysteria and terror in the American population. Take the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal. Even the supposedly liberal New York Times’ editorial pages on foreign affairs feature some neoconservatives, such as David Brooks and Thomas Friedman. The Washington Post’s editorial pages are dominated by hardline neoconservatives, such as Fred Hiatt, Charles Krauthammer, Robert Kagan, Jackson Diehl, and far-right bloggers such as William Kristol, Jennifer Rubin and Richard Cohen. These people set the tone for the rest of the media and have a disproportionate influence on both the politicians ad the public at large.

    So long as the bond between corporate media and big business and military-industrial complex is not broken, we cannot expect a great deal of change in the power of the media to frighten and to mislead.

  3. I was 15 in 1953 and recall to this day an uneasy feeling when I heard that news of Edmund Hillary’s conquest of Everest on May 29 was delayed in the UK to add lustre the Coronation on June 2. Feelings are difficult to verbalise but it was as if what I had until then taken to be an open window actually had shutters someone was controlling. Turning this over, I found myself wondering if the story of the delay might itself be untrue. The whole thing left me with a media scepticism I retain to this day.

    The very variety of information sources today makes possible an impression, a distillation providing something to work with, moveable, not fixed, containing an accepted uncertainty factor, a bit like weather forecasts. I think we have to accept this.

  4. You hit the nail on the head, Juan.
    Excellent response to the whole “fake news” issue.

    Then there’s the “real news” of WMD’s in Iraq, endlessly hawked by the mainstream media like NYTimes, ABC, CBS, NBC etc. Unfortunately, most Americans get their information from these Orwellian sources — it explains why we’re so uninformed and make such poor choices come election time.

  5. The primary reason FAUXNews became popular is it was FREE on all cable networks from the start.

    Masquerading as actual news, evil men and women fed bullshit and half-truth to lower income, educationally deprived viewers for years.

    And now we can see the result?

    • That’s interesting because Limbaugh’s syndicators also offered his show for free to impoverished rural radio stations until it became a hit. This sort of subsidy obviously favors the rich, most of all the rich fanatic. There just aren’t any rich fanatics on the left to counter this. Soros? Don’t make me laugh.

      • Limbaugh propaganda appeals to recovering addicts, those afflicted with FAS, the firearms/phallic-obsessed, misogynists and those who need to rise above themselves in general – Americans who blame their plight on everyone but themselves.

        I am surprised there are so many voters that fall into the Limbaugh propaganda demographic. Apparently, effective propaganda is free and remains, so.

    • The reason why Germany is relatively stable can be largely attributed to the fact that Murdoch never gained a good foothold in the German media market. He tried, but the German conservatives did not trust him. Shutting out Murdoch is probably Helmut Kohl’s biggest contribution to the democratic culture of Germany.

      • But then, didn’t postwar Germany have a different media culture than Britain from the get-go? We’ve heard about these wretched British tabloids all our lives. They were there waiting for Murdoch to take them to the next level. We haven’t heard dramatically sleazy about the German media since, well, we hung Julius Streicher.

  6. And so the deal cut with the Saudis to stop flooding the oil market, making its value rise, the stock market rejoice…. and saving deeply carbon/oil-invested Russia. (And fracking invested America.) And what was bargained? The middle east shaped and culled to their liking–? Isn’t this the real story that’s being drowned out, barely a blip on the news? Where does it leave the American hawks on Iran? Do we avert that war, the new Crusades, anything, as we see the planet broil, livable land, water, whole populations and species disappeared? Whose gated community will be left standing? ( As we lose our way, living life behind glass screens, living dramas written by who? for what? rather than our own lives…)
    Americans ask — freedom or security, what will you bargain? When what we all really desire and need is autonomy. A chance to live life. To pass life on

  7. A small point: Murdoch renounced his Australian citizenship decades ago when the USA would allow ONLY AN AMERICAN to have such power over US media. He is American even if he is a monster and ruins the UK and Australian media too.

    • Not a small point. The NY Post would have closed had Rupert not taken it over. However, that would mean that he controlled both a TV channel (channel 5) and a newspaper in the same market which was forbidden. Ted Kennedy got the law changed because so many NY Post employees were of Irish extraction. Kennedy was no fan of Murdoch but Irish Americans were his people.

  8. All true. But let’s not let the working class – largely white – off the hook here. These folks accepted this swill and it obviously met with their approval. We can complain all we want about fake news but the existence of a fundamentally lazy and – sorry to say – racist white working class which shows little interest in striving for higher education and accepts this garbage at face value has accelerated the dumbing down of America. Frankly, the situation is grim and I don’t see much room for optimism.

    Maybe they’ll start wising up as Trump staffs his Cabinet with a cohort of billionaires in preparation for a general assault on the social welfare net.

    Probably not, though. They’ll just buy into another Fox or Breitbart meme that it’s all the fault of the (fill in the racial epithet of your choice here)

  9. Fake news, manufactured news is not new, journalism itself is weaponized. Credibility can’t buy a loaf of bread, persistence numbs our intellect.

  10. What really frosts my keester, and what enables fake news, is the false equivalence meme that “everybody does it” preached by the same media outlets (NPR, NYT, ect.) that rail against it.
    Everybody does NOT do it: It is at least 90% Reich Wing, as is gerrymandering, voter suppression, hate media, and much more.

  11. Professor Cole you did not pull any punches on impugning Rupert Murdoch as the Godfather of fake news. Your informed comments are usually strong but dispassionate. The Fox News/Fake News had me howling as you pointed out how we Americans are the marks of RM, King Con. Your claws came out with Fox’s “blonde anchors were not so much hired as trafficked”. And more, the closing paragraph, “it is no accident that the incoming Trump administration is largely made up of staples over at Fox, a place where their sugar daddy Murdoch could nurture them like maggot larvae.” I hear resistance in your rant. That’s what we are all trying to figure out in this period of foreboding. Thanks for sticking your neck out. Beware – remember Richard Nixon’s “enemy list” ?

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