Developments in the U.S. courts concerning the Murdoch media empire have implications well beyond the USA, as Alan Austin reports.
*Also listen to the audio version of this article on Spotify HERE.
It had already been established in pre-trial discovery that Fox had acted with actual malice by fabricating countless intentional falsehoods. Many were concocted by guests Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump, Mike Lindell and others. These were then amplified by Fox anchors Maria Bartiromo, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and virtually all the others.
What didn’t happen last week
The defamation payout will not destroy News Corp or even Fox News. The Murdoch outfit’s current cash on hand is adequate. So three-quarters of a billion won’t demolish the empire. We do not know how much is covered by insurance. We do know it will be a nifty tax write-off.
The share price stayed at around US$17.50 (A$26.13) all last week, indicating the market had already factored in this loss. Closing price last Friday at $17.44 was 32% below the $25.69 (A$38.36) peak in May 2021, before Fox’s liability for its destructive lies was known.
Significantly, this hasn’t stopped Fox from continuing its mendacity. Nor has it deterred Trump and his entourage from spreading further “the big lie” – which originated at Fox – that the 2020 Presidential Election was stolen.
What else we discovered
Other noteworthy developments last week include:
- Fox lawyers withheld critical evidence in the Dominion matter discovery process. They then lied about this to the judge. This was confirmed by former Fox producer Abby Grossberg who has two ongoing lawsuits against News Corp.
- Ted Cruz told Fox’s Maria Bartiromo in a November 2020 phone call that reporting the stolen election required hard facts rather than baseless theories. Cruz has not said this publicly. Bartiromo ignored his advice.
- Dan Bongino lost his presenter job with Fox News, joining departees Lou Dobbs, Abby Grossberg, Chris Stirewalt and Jacqui Heinrich. None of the leading anchors is likely to go.
- Lachlan Murdoch dropped his defamation case against Australian online news and opinion outlet Crikey. This substantially reduces the risk that the Murdochs would be cross-examined in court.
The Turnbull thesis vindicated
Observers in the USA and beyond in the fields of criminology, health care and law enforcement were dismayed at the surge in physical attacks across America beginning in late 2015. What caused this sudden and dramatic increase in all categories of violence, after decades of steady decline? See mauve chart, below.
Of the few theories offered only one fits the evidence. The surge in violent crime resulted from the pact between Donald Trump and Fox News to concoct and spread a long list of malicious lies which would generate fear, anger and hatred across the nation. The intended outcomes were greater visibility and more votes for Trump and higher revenues and greater control for News Corp.
The inevitable consequences – dramatic increases in injuries and deaths – were sacrifices they were willing to make.
The unwritten pact gave Trump access to Fox programs at any time. His monologues – usually by phone, usually uninterrupted – sometimes lasted 50 minutes. He frequently called for violent attacks against political enemies.
Among observers to have identified the Trump/Fox News pact as the cause of the surge in killings since 2015, the most prominent is former conservative Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, thus giving him naming rights.
Turnbull told NPR in the USA last August:
Fox News has played, by far, the largest single part in the polarisation of American politics, in the amplification of political hatred. I would challenge anyone, any of your listeners, to nominate which individual alive today has done more to undermine American democracy than Rupert Murdoch.
Fox News is not the only source of this madness, but it is by far the single most influential one.
Latest evidence for the Turnbull thesis
At least four recent developments bolster the thesis. First, the ongoing trial of five Proud Boys in Washington on charges including seditious conspiracy confirms Trump’s calls to his followers on 6 January 2021 led directly to violence.
One defence lawyer told the court it was Trump, not the Proud Boys, who “unleashed the mob” that breached the Capitol.
Judge Lewis Kaplan said “the jury needs the protection” because of “a very strong risk that jurors will fear harassment, unwanted invasions of their privacy and retaliation”.
What the article does not highlight but their graph shows clearly is that the divergence between the red and blue lines increased significantly from 2015 onwards.
Fourth, the World Bank development indicators confirm the surge in violence post-2015 was confined to the USA. It was due to domestic rather than global influences. See white chart, below.
Overall, this has been a good month for America and the world. Crime data for 2022 gradually being released shows a decline in violence as the influence of Trump and News Corp recedes. See mauve chart, above.
If the world can finally be rid of both forever, things will be even better.
*This article is also available on audio here:
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