How Rupert Murdoch has poisoned us all
Keith Rupert Murdoch was born on 11th March 1931 in Melbourne, Australia. His father was a journalist who became a senior executive of one of Australia’s major newspaper companies. In 1952 Murdoch created out of the bankrupt company his father bequeathed him News Limited, the entity that would eventually become the behemoth known today as News Corporation.
By the turn of the century, Murdoch’s organization owned over 800 different companies in more than fifty countries. While other news-oriented organizations were struggling with the arrival of the Internet, Murdoch’s publications continued to thrive. Even massive mistakes like the acquisition of Myspace for $580 million, all but $35 million of which was subsequently written off, weren’t enough to dent Murdoch’s profits and relentless growth. Today Murdoch stands unrivalled as the mightiest media baron on Earth, able to shape and sustain the opinions of hundreds of millions of people for decades and thus wielding far more power than any transient politician or political Party.
Murdoch is where he is today because he understood from an early age that we’re not all equal. Intelligence, however you care to measure it, has a Gaussian distribution (the so-called bell curve). As the average is defined as the midway point, this means half the world’s population has less than average intelligence. This means that at least half the world’s population is wide open to being exploited by the ruthless and cunning because less intelligent people lack the cognitive capacity to see through even the most infantile lies and absurd promises.
Murdoch understood that tabloids written for a reading age of seven years old, filled with simple-minded nonsense masquerading as news and opinion pieces, would have enormous appeal to all those who were resentful of more clever people and were consequently full of racism, hatred, bigotry, and wonderful unassailable ignorance just waiting to be exploited.
It was a brilliant marketing move and so simple to execute. Within a handful of years Murdoch became the most powerful publisher in Australia. But that was merely his training ground. The world was wide open for him to conquer, because stupid ignorant resentful people are found everywhere on Earth.
Today Murdoch is famous for duping the mindless via Fox News, the UK Sun newspaper, the Wall Street Journal, countless satellite and cable broadcasters, and literally hundreds of other companies that all relentlessly exploit the simple-minded around the globe.
Murdoch understood decades ago something that everyone else missed: the world isn’t divided into left-versus-right but instead comprises foolish-versus-slightly-less-foolish. He realized that simple-minded people will always gravitate towards authoritarianism because they need to be told what to do and what to think.
Liberal societies leave the less intellectually adequate feeling afloat on a sea of incomprehensible ideas but authoritarian regimes give them something to cling onto. So regardless of any specific set of policies at any point in time, Murdoch gleefully gives his unrelenting support to the authoritarians, the “strong leaders” and to the openly corrupt and unashamedly ruthless. His formula is simple: repeat the same simplistic childish messages of hatred and race-based prejudice while toadying to authoritarian leaders to obtain special privileges. This has made him unstoppable.
Murdoch has consistently supported xenophobia, racism, nationalism, and ultra-right assaults on fundamental principles of law and liberty. For Murdoch “free expression” means merely the right to lie repeatedly to those too stupid and ignorant to understand they’re being duped, while suppressing any former legal restrictions that would impede his ability to lie continuously and generate huge revenues as a result.
Not surprisingly, Murdoch has, to name but a few recent enthusiasms, put his weight behind Brexit, Trump, Modi, and every other ultra-right-wing blustering moron you can presently name around the globe. His outlets have mostly ignored Putin’s activities such as poisoning people on British soil and influencing the last US Presidential election. His companies stay clear of any criticism of China’s President-for-life Xi Jinping. No Murdoch publication or TV program will ever criticize Hungary’s brutal thug Viktor Orban nor mention any wrongdoing by the likes of Duterte. In fact, rather like the Roman Catholic Church until very recently, Murdoch has never seen an authoritarian popinjay he doesn’t automatically embrace.
The results have been predictably catastrophic. Murdoch has single-handedly accelerated the collapse of Western civilization. His persistent lies, all aimed at the dull-witted and uneducated, have created endless anger and confusion around the globe and have significantly aided the rise of autocrats everywhere, whose moronic policies are causing massive self-harm that ensures further decline into chaos and violence.
In short, Murdoch is a parasite making his living by ruthlessly exploiting those too stupid and too ignorant to protect themselves. Like a fungus infecting a tree, he ultimately kills whatever he touches but in the process creates enough spores that he can go on to infect exponentially more trees. Of course eventually civilization will collapse entirely and, to conclude our analogy, there will be no more trees left.
But at age eighty-nine, Murdoch cares nothing for the eventual outcome of his parasitic strategy. He’s lived his entire life as an oligarch, able to bend governments to his will and brushing aside ineffectual attempts to circumscribe his power. He literally has the entire world in the palm of his hand, and so what if that world will ultimately pay a terrible price? He’ll be long dead by then, and his sons are rich enough to buy themselves immunity from the horrors that will engulf and destroy billions of ordinary people.
So it’s all good.
I wish there was a solution to the problem of Murdoch. It would be lovely to think that after decades of watching his ruthless exploitation of the simple-minded we could wake up and take meaningful steps to change the situation. But how can we inform the hundreds of millions of stupid people that they’ve been duped when they are by definition too stupid to be capable of processing anything we might show them? In societies where freedom of speech is regarded as quasi-sacrosanct, with guardians of liberty standing ready to scream “censorship!” at the earliest opportunity (unless, of course, it’s government censorship for “national security” reasons….), how do we craft laws to prevent the kind of perpetual lying that Murdoch’s outlets have perfected and practices for decades?
It’s no good imagining that the existence of less biased programs and publications will “balance things out” because the simple-minded ignorant masses upon whom Murdoch preys don’t watch or read anything that would hurt their brains and contradict their unreasoning prejudices. That’s why Brexit supporters continue to imagine Brexit is a wonderful idea despite all the facts that have openly accumulated since they were fed the original lies. That’s why Trump supporters remain staunchly behind him despite his endless pathetic lies and abject incompetence.
Simple people lack the neural capacity to process real-world information, so they cling to whatever stories they’ve been fed because those are (just) within their cognitive reach. Thus “balance” is meaningless.
Likewise, we can’t hope that governments will take action against Murdoch because most governments today owe their votes to the simple-minded, and Murdoch controls the simple-minded. No leader or Party can afford to forgo his support.
Unfortunately Murdoch is an unsolvable problem. The very freedoms that liberal democracy confers are simplicity itself to exploit, and through such exploitation the freedoms of liberal democracy are eventually destroyed.
Let’s hope that whatever systems of governance we dream up centuries from now, once we’ve passed through the coming period of regression and horror, they include explicit mechanisms for preventing the resurgence of vermin like Keith Rupert Murdoch.