Discover more from American Crisis
Rupert Murdoch's out at Fox, but the damage to democracy lives on
The story is far from over. Plus, two Substack offerings you might be interested in.
I was packing my bags for a trip to Austin on Thursday when the big news came that Rupert Murdoch was stepping down as the head of Fox News and its boards.
Oddly enough, I was heading southwest to lead a discussion on this very subject at the annual Texas Tribune Festival, or TribFest. This huge, buzzy gathering and journalism fundraiser is run by Evan Smith, the former CEO of the Tribune, who seems to know everyone in media, politics and government.
My panel with Brian Stelter (bestselling author and longtime CNN host) and Eric Deggans (NPR’s media critic) had this title: Fox in the Doghouse. My editor at the Guardian US asked me to write a column about Murdoch’s departure, and I did so before boarding my plane.
Here’s the start of it, and a link if you’d like to read the full column.
In a chilling scene at the end of James Graham’s play Ink, Rupert Murdoch — having made his indelible mark on British media and society — slows his frenetic pace to ponder the future.
He’s thinking, he says almost dreamily, of a venture across the pond — yes, perhaps something in television news.
The Broadway audience I sat in uttered an audible gasp. Because by now it was 2019, and we knew.
Murdoch would, of course, co-found Fox News with Roger Ailes in 1996. And these two princes of darkness would not only make billions in profit in the decades to come. They would wreak untold havoc on American democracy.
I’ll also point out this telling quote in the column from my brilliant friend Linda Hirshman, the author and cultural historian, who is researching a new book on how Murdoch fomented right-wing hate on three continents.
“Murdoch’s biggest legacy is the damage his media did to democracy around the world — from Australia to the UK and finally the USA. From the beginning in the British tabloids 50 years ago, he unleashed the power of hate-filled rhetoric, setting the working-class ‘blokes’ against the elites, a crucial step in creating a movement of rightwing populism. When Murdoch’s tabloid practices reached the US in the form of Fox News, it had the power of kryptonite. As he finally exits the scene, American democracy hangs by a thread.”
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Now for that new stuff, as promised:
Check out a fledgling Substack called OffMessage by the political journalist Brian Beutler, an incisive thinker about today’s fraught scene. Here’s his first post. He’s also doing a video feature, Decoding the News, to help people “learn to read the news the same way we in the business do.” Here’s the pilot.
Finally, I’ll be joining Steve Schmidt for a live conversation on his Substack, The Warning, on Tuesday, Oct. 10 at 7:45 p.m. That is a special feature offered only to his paid subscribers. Steve, of course, is the outspoken political strategist who is a founder of the anti-Trump superPAC, the Lincoln Project. Here are the details to register.