Is it the end of Rupert’s great adventure? Does James have a job? What’s to become of Sky News? While commentators continue to pitch the Murdoch-Disney deal as a great puzzle and possible cause for worry, along comes Tamara Holder to remind us of the most important truth in all of this.
Which is that, far more often than those commentators would overlook in any other enterprise on the planet, Murdoch’s global operation behaves in ways that are corrupt, criminal and cruel. His influence is sickeningly harmful and if it is diminishing in any way we should get out the marching bands.
Tamara Holder is a former Fox News journalist who was a victim of what Murdoch calls ‘flirting’ – behaviour that, she alleges, included a man pulling out his penis and trying to push her head on to it. In her devastating turn on CNN she made the point so many commentators wilfully overlook: Murdoch businesses hurt people, and not accidentally. His companies exploit his vast wealth to intimidate and victimise, often in secret.
I hope all the misty-eyed Murdoch apologists saw Holder speak, and in particular those who think we’ll be the poorer without Rupert, that he is a genius who livened things up and did wonders for British journalism, what with Sky News, the Sun and propping up the Times.
‘This is people’s lives’
All Tamara Holder wanted to do was to work as a journalist without having men force themselves on her. But when she complained about her abusers it was her, not them, who was paid off, blacklisted and silenced by Murdoch’s power. She is one in a global army of his victims and as she put it: ‘This is people’s lives.’
Even as she spoke, Murdoch’s lawyers in London were desperately trying to settle out of court with dozens of people who claim their phones were hacked by Sun journalists (yes that’s the Sun, not the News of the World). Why are the lawyers desperate? Because they don’t want the case going to trial in the New Year. Why are they afraid of that? Because a trial might reveal yet more criminality.
Crime and dishonesty have been rife in the Murdoch empire. His journalists in the UK, and the people they hired on his behalf, have not only hacked phones and computers but also bribed public officials and stolen private data, while he and his executives have improperly influenced our politicians and senior police officers.
This is the country, after all, where the prime minister went riding in Oxfordshire on a horse secretly ‘lent’ by the Metropolitan Police to Murdoch’s UK newspaper boss. Putin’s Russia could scarcely offer a neater symbol of unsavoury networks in high places.
In the US, meanwhile, besides the Fox abusers there is the remarkable story of the Murdoch company News America Marketing, which was embroiled in a long and ugly chain of corporate espionage allegations including computer hacking, and whose boss is alleged to have warned competitors: ‘If you ever get into any of our businesses, I will destroy you. I work for a man [Murdoch] who wants it all, and doesn’t understand anybody telling him he can’t have it all.’
And just last month a former Fox executive testified in a US court that Fox Sport paid millions of dollars in bribes for the rights to broadcast soccer matches.
See no evil
At executive level, of course, there is no awareness of any of this, indeed what Rupert doesn’t know about what is happening in the organisations he supposedly runs literally fills books. The same is true of James, who is constantly sold to us as clever but who failed to notice cash streaming out of the UK and US operations to buy the silence of corporate victims.
And of course the same is true of Rebekah Brooks. She was in charge when criminality first came to light and it is barely credible that she is still in employment as an executive in any company, still less that she continues to run Murdoch’s UK newspapers today.
In a more honest world these people would be pariahs, but Britain’s business and media commentators tend to turn, if not a blind eye, then a forgetful and generous one on all of this – another measure, perhaps, of Murdoch’s corrupting power.
And no, it is not ‘just’ a matter of a few sexual harassment cases involving well-heeled women at Fox and some vain celebs making a little extra off Rupert in the privacy courts. It is Tamara Holder and the Dowlers, again and again and again. The lives of blameless people are ruined with a terrible frequency so that Rupert can have his way.
Murdoch has also debased all our lives with his thuggish brand of journalism. He is the godfather of ‘Gotcha!’ and tits-on-page-three journalism, which soon became Hillsborough journalism and Diana-monstering journalism and then hacking, blagging, bribing and Fake Sheikh journalism.
Down with him into the sewer he dragged the Mirror papers, now deservedly drowning in phone-hacking litigation. And meanwhile, as we watch the Daily Mail denouncing a traitor almost every day – denunciations swiftly followed by social media threats – it’s worth remembering that the Mail learned the trick from the Sun, which was hounding traitors at the BBC in 1982.
Ruthlessly, the Sun now persecutes minorities such as Muslims, the disabled and transgender people. No wonder half the population says the paper has a negative influence on society. No wonder the people of Liverpool won’t buy it. No wonder nearly 500 people a day give up paying for it. Yet still you hear commentators saying it’s a ‘raucous’ feature our national life.
And don’t be fooled into thinking Murdoch has not had his way with the grand old Times newspapers. The Sunday Times recently managed to print lurid anti-Semitism in its Irish edition yet mysteriously no one seems to have been responsible but the columnist. The London Times published a story about a Christian girl allegedly fostered by cruel Muslims in London that proved to be a tissue of fictions. Murdoch corrupts, and he corrupts absolutely.
What of Sky News? Yes, we owe that to Rupert Murdoch, but Sky News is not good because it reflects his values; it is good because it doesn’t. He has always wanted to Foxify it but our laws prevent him, so he and his cheerleaders moved heaven and earth to undermine Ofcom and to get the laws altered – all the while attacking the BBC by every means possible.
And don’t let’s make the mistake of thinking Murdoch has a newsman’s emotional commitment to Sky News. Not once but twice, in 2011 and again in 2017, he has said he would ditch it altogether if he didn’t get his way on the ownership of Sky. That’s his way of telling us what he really thinks of well-regulated journalism.
But we need to remember now that despite all the forgiving obituaries he is still with us. Sky may be set to become part of Disney but the Sun and the Times are not. They continue to operate under the notoriously unwatchful eye of Rebekah Brooks, so people will go on suffering in this country because of Murdoch.
Take my advice: only accept that Murdoch is finished when you have seen him buried at midnight at a crossroads with a stake driven through his heart. And even then keep a clove of garlic handy, just in case.
(Picture from Sky News)