News today that eight of Rupert Murdoch former editors and reporters have been charged with phone hacking crimes, coupled with Murdoch's recent resignation from directorship of several News Corp. companies that publish his British newspapers, marks the latest signs that the mogul's once-powerful place among British media and political elite has evaporated to almost nothing. Once crowned as an all-powerful kingmaker whom prime ministers courted and enemies feared, Murdoch, in the wake of the phone hacking scandal and the sea of broadening criminal investigations, remains a man besieged by bad news.
With each passing week and month evidence has continued to mount suggesting Murdoch's media properties were run at times as criminal enterprises, with formal charges now made that more than 600 people had their voice mails hacked by Murdoch employees. Earlier this yeaer a Parliamentary report found Murdoch "not fit" to lead a major international company.
A recent statement from News Corp. headquarters insisted Murdoch's resignation from companies that publish The Sun tabloid as well as The Times and The Sunday Times, represented "routine corporate housekeeping," pursued in the wake of the recent decision to break News Corp. into two separate companies. But given the grievous damage done to Murdoch's standing in Britain over the last 13 months, since the long-simmering phone hacking scandal exploded into full view, the resignation can be seen as another forced withdrawal (or an "imperial retreat") by Murdoch from British politics and media.
For decades Murdoch stood as the most influential newspaperman in Britain, where he controlled 30 percent of the press. He used his dailies to viciously attack his blacklist of enemies (while reporters spied on them), and to reward his friends.
Against the newly revealed backdrop of Murdoch's culture of corruption however, influential Brits have told the "pariah" enough, and he's severed his last personal ties to his UK newspaper business.
Yet at the same time Murdoch is forced to withdrawal from Britain's political life, his profile is rapidly rising in the United States thanks to the unprecedented role News Corp's Fox News is playing this election cycle as it openly, and forcefully, campaigns against President Obama. The dichotomy between Murdoch's standing in Britain and America is striking, for rarely has a media mogul had his fortunes sink so low on one continent, while simultaneously rise so high on another.
Murdoch is basking in the kind of conservative glow in America and wielding the type of Republican clout that he'll likely never again experience in Britain. "The menacing charm that the Murdochs exerted over a generation of British politicians has been destroyed for ever," is how Tim Luckhurst, professor of journalism at the University of Kent put it to Newsweek.
Forever known for its partisan ways, Fox this year, by sheer force of repetition, has far exceeded any attempt it's made in the past to openly campaign for a major presidential candidate, which is why Murdoch's"news" channel finds itself at the center of the far right's pursuit of Obama.
His reputation in the UK may lay in tatters, but Murdoch remains without a doubt the most powerful media player in Republican circles today simply because the right-wing megaphone Fox News has become as it completely overshadows the Republican National Committee and other traditional political power bases and serves as the de facto headquarters of the GOP in America.
Murdoch's American role is considered so important that when he tweeted a couple passing critiques about Mitt Romney's campaign and how it was being managed, the online comments were quickly seized upon as being newsworthy. They were just as quickly echoed by many conservative commentators, especially Murdoch's employees. The mini-echo chamber highlighted again how Murdoch sets the right-wing agenda in America and how his words take on an oversized meaning.
At this point it's almost impossible to overstate the degree to which Fox News has dedicated its entire programming enterprise to defeating Obama and playing defense for Romney. You can almost pick recent examples at random, since Fox's campaign for Romey/against Obama has become a full-time obsession.
The churning is endless:
Fox & Friends Echoes GOP Spin On Welfare Rule, Leaves Out The Facts
And yes, Murdoch himself even got into the Fox-fed attacks last week, tweeting misinformation about the bogus controversy his channel had ginned up regarding comments the president made about business.
So here in America Murdoch is mixing things up, setting the right-wing media agenda, and forever on the attack.
It's the same role Murdoch played, and relished, in Britain for decades. With the revelation he was overseeing a criminal enterprise disguised as a newspaper business, where employees allegedly hacked phones and emails when not paying off police sources for information, Murdoch's public role there has been reduced to almost nothing, except that of villain.
Tired of the litany of lies and a culture of corporate obfuscation, Brits have given Murdoch the boot. But while Murdoch's a pariah in England, he's emerged a GOP kingmaker in America. For now, Republicans don't seem concerned about the allegations of rampant law breaking that ended Murdoch's reign in Britain.
Crossposted at County Fair, a Media Matters for America blog.
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