Influence: Russia just Imitated the Rupert Murdoch/Fox Model

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

In Edgar Allan Poe’s “Purloined Letter,” detective C. Auguste Dupin discovers a stolen letter in the thief’s own apartments after police searches had failed to turn it up. It was hidden in plain sight, on a card rack hanging from a ribbon, though it had been resealed. The police had assumed that it would have been hidden away and could not see it in the open.

Fox Cable News (not the affiliates but the national propaganda outfit) is the purloined letter of today’s news. Because it is out in the open, it isn’t being seen.

The allegation is that Vladimir Putin orchestrated the US news cycle by using Russian hackers and Russian media to collaborate with the alt-Neo-Nazi rag Breitbart and right wing social media to smear Hillary Clinton and build up Donald J. Trump. They are said to have targeted close states in hopes of suppressing the Democratic vote by smearing Secretary Clinton as a pedophile and part time witch.

The emails released by Donald Trump, Jr., show that the Russian government was likely using Russian friends of Trump to dangle tidbits before his team, to see how corruptible they were. When Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort came running to meet Natalia Vesselnitskaya, they had their answer. That she did not fork over anything of consequence then is not important. She was an opening gambit, not the end game.

I have no idea whether the Russian narrative is correct. But what I do know is that a much more obvious and successful attempt to manipulate the American public toward the far right has been run by Rupert Murdoch at Fox Cable News since the 1990s.

In fact, Murdoch and Putin are very similar. Both are billionaires. Both are influencers in the US despite being born elsewhere. Despite Murdoch’s naturalization, his values are those of the old “White Australia” policies. Both are amoral and apolitical. Both push the agenda that they perceive will benefit them. Both have pushed Islamophobia for political purposes. Both helped elect Trump and so inflicted enormous harm on the United States of America.

Both use their control of media to engage bullying and threats of smears to manipulate people. John Major revealed that as soon as he became prime minister, Murdoch threatened him. He could have good press or bad press, Murdoch told him. It depended on Major’s policies toward Europe.

Both use hacking to get information with which to smear enemies. Murdoch’s newspapers in the UK routinely hacked into people’s phone messages to get dirt on them. They then erased 20 million internal emails in an attempt to cover it up. I’ve long suspected that Murdoch’s US operations must have done the same thing but that British law enforcement is much less corrupt than the American, so it never came out over here. Putin recently praised his own Russian hackers as patriots.

Murdoch’s Fox is an attempt to subvert American democracy. Its employees have deliberately falsified video. They have retailed blatant lies as news. They have supported an implicit white nationalism. They have propagandized relentlessly for climate denialism. They have promoted war and war industries. They are about knee-jerk support of the Republican Party and more recently of the Trump faction within it. They have show consistent bias against minorities. The whole Mexican Wall fantasy was pushed by Bill O’Reilly for years. Even right wing thriller writer Tom Clancy at one point told O’Reilly it was a stupid idea.

So as everybody is trying to track down some vague and complicated Russian plot, the Rupert Murdoch plot is in plain sight.

And to any extent the Russian election plot has some truth to it, it is simply a use of techniques pioneered by Murdoch and Fox.

Which M. Dupin in the corporate media will dare blow the whistle?


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11 Responses

  1. thank you for another excellent read prof. Cole.

    with regards to Murdoch I wonder if his values are more standard neoliberal/neoconservative than old-fashioned Australia-for-the-white-man racist.

    the white australia policy was explicitly intended to preserve Australia’s relatively good working conditions and wages- although racism was without question a central tenet.

    Murdoch strikes me as a typical greedy, short-sighted and reactionary capitalist, rather than an extremely racist socialist

  2. I did not vote for Hillary, and certainly not for Trump. But I realize that with so much against her, it would have been very hard for Hillary to overcome these obstacles. With Russia, the Trump Campaign, and the fake news media working against her, there was too much stacked against her, and she could never win. Yet the fact that she won nearly 3 million votes more, shows the people in this country wanted her over Trump. I wish our laws could declare this very corrupted Presidential election, null and void. Trump won by very crooked means aided by an enemy nation.

    • Something occurred to me as I read your comment. If Hillary received 3 million more votes than Trump, then it would follow that she actually won the popular vote. If she won the popular vote, the population was not swayed by Russian influence. If that is so, then how is Trump the president?

      “When Americans vote for a President and Vice President, they are actually voting for presidential electors, known collectively as the electoral college. It is these electors, chosen by the people, who elect the chief executive. The Constitution assigns each state a number of electors equal to the combined total of the state’s Senate and House of Representatives delegations; at present, the number of electors per state ranges from three to 54, for a total of 538.”

      I am in total agreement that Trump was elected by very crooked means.

      • The argument is that Russian hackers, trolls, alt-right media and useful idiots in social media suppressed Democratic vote in key usually blue states. The popular vote depends on big states like NY and Cali, and is not relevant to the argument. The theory may be incorrect but you can’t refute it this way.

    • Once again, with all due respect to those who fall for it, there’s this line about a perfect storm against Hillary. Bunk.

      Fact is that any of those factors could/ should’ve been better managed and she’d have won. Trump did everything right and she did everything wrong, as you enumerated. In fact, something like 60000 votes, in the right places, swung it.

      But, the demos need more than better “messaging”, or otherwise flogging more and better lies, and eyewash.

  3. The problem with the MSM is not with what is says or propagandizes, the problem is that the six media corporations keep away dissent. We have free competitive market but we don’t have free competitive speech.

  4. Russia is a complex, vast and rich country. Like the United States. There are many people in Russia besides V.V. Putin and his government who would like to manipulate or help candidates to the US Presidency. Those individuals and groups may or may not have deeper ties to other countries like the US or Israel than they do to Russia. There are any number of former and even current Russian oligarchs living in London, the Côte d’Azur/Monaco, Switzerland and Israel.

    The model of Russia’s President Putin as a bogeyman and the Democrat party in the United States as a virtuous victim is both fundamentally false and what’s worse a grotesque simplification. The world and in particular haute politique are much more complex than this. As you of all people surely know, Professor Cole.

    It’s likely that President Putin and his government would have preferred a Trump win. Past track record of Hillary Clinton was that of a warmongering harpy whose word could never be trusted. The US has the second largest nuclear force in the world. If you were Russia, of course, you’d rather take a chance on someone who occasionally utters a conciliatory word.

    It doesn’t mean that Russia is either able or likely to openly interfere with a US election. Going the other way, the US through USAID and other nominally independent but in fact state sponsored NGO’s has been openly interfering (with some success) in both Russian and Ukrainian elections since the fall of Mikhail Gorbachev.

    The Clinton campaign abused their own access to government and the American state security organs to obtain secrets about Trump. The Clinton campaign colluded with the DNC to cheat Bernie Sanders of most of his primary wins. Clinton operatives worked directly with foreign intelligence services, including those of Russia, to produce dubious dossiers about Trump. Unlike the noise about Russia, these are clear and unambiguous crimes.

    Outrage about the Trump campaign seems both very selective and sanctimonious. Even hypocritical.

    Clearly the US needs better government. Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump were the answer. Until Citizens United is repealed and the US republic reverts to something like one (wo)man-one vote, you are not going to get it. Ending state sponsored extra-judicial assassination (drone program) and the systematic persecution of whistleblowers would seem to me a loftier and more important goal than defenestrating Trump. Particularly on such thin gruel as the current Russian under-the-bed mania.

  5. Hillary won the popular vote because she won extra votes in Democratic California – that means nothing when you lose the rust belt. She won blue states the way she was supposed to. Winning California by 1% or 10% doesn’t matter – she won the state the way she was supposed to. Period. The electoral college makes all those extra votes in Democratic states that gave her the popular vote totally irrelevant.

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