Killing News Corp one conspiracy theory at a time

 

So it turns out hacking is still alive and well at NewsCorp.

When Fox News teams up with a convicted hacker to perpetuate a WikiLeaks conspiracy theory, you know we are living through ‘interesting’ times.

Together with Sean Hannity, tech billionaire and convicted hacker, Kim Dotcom and Fox News form a Holy Trinity of crazy, pushing the theory Democratic National Committee staffer, Seth Rich was murdered last summer as a deep-state assassination , punishment for baseless claims he had  supplied DNC documents to WikiLeaks.  That was until the lawyers got involved.

Earlier this week, the Fox News conspiracy wing-nut announced he would be taking a vacation from the show for a few days, “to spend time with his family” while the company considers his future, following Fox News’ retraction of a story linking Rich’s slaying with the hacks on the DNC which aided Trump’s ascension to office. The story has already cost Fox seven advertisers, with many more likely to follow. But as Rich’s family were calling for a public apology from the network and its anchor (which has not been forthcoming), Hannity couldn’t even bottle it for 24 hours before he was back on Twitter promising to never stop pursuing the truth .

I am sorry for posting a Sean Hannity tweet.

Between Hannity and the well-timed death of serial sexual predator and former Fox CEO, Roger Ailes I cannot think of a more fitting image of an institution on fire than what has become of Newscorp.

(And if we are going to talk conspiracies, Ailes death was oddly well-timed don’t you think? I’m just sayin’… YOU DON’T SEE THE MAINSTREAM MEEJA COVERING THAT DO YOU? WHAT OTHER QUESTIONS AREN’T THEY ASKING? #THETRUTHISOUTTHERE).

It is not so much the declining market value of Newscorp’s media properties that should point to the company’s failure so much as what passes for news content these days.

The day after the Manchester attacks, The Sun ran a front page accusing Opposition Leader, Jeremy Corbyn of being an IRA sympathiser.

Meanwhile, over in Australia, Fox News Lite cable channel, Sky News devoted precious airtime to slating veteran ABC journalist and Meanjin editor, Jonathan Green, for a beautifully written piece he published on Medium about how to maintain one’s sanity and focus in these troubling times.

To writ: “The days pass now in a constant stream of exasperation, shock and outrage,” Green wrote“Our moment is marked by constant conflict and trouble, an effect multiplied many fold if your window to the world is in any way connected to mainstream or social media: hamster wheels of half fact and full feeling spinning in a constant blur.  How easily does that lead us to a sense of impotent despair? Our own confounded confusion?”

This piece was met by ridicule and contempt by Sky News pundit and associate editor of The Australian, Chris Kenny and his guests who devoted three minutes and four seconds to tearing shreds off Green while revelling in their own willful ignorance.

 

 

“I think what he is saying is that there is a lot of bad news around,” chimed-in Sky News guest, Fairfax National Affairs Editor, Mark Kenny.

“Some of it is straining credulity, there’s so much of it sometimes you’re better off turning off. I think that is what he saying…

“He’s written it in Meanjin , it’s a literary journal,” his voice dripping with disdain. “I think there is a poetic aspect to it, perhaps it didn’t translate well, but it’s a little… my version is a bit more economical,” he said.

First of all, it was written on Medium. Not MeanjinWhich, incidentally, is an excellent literary journal you should consider subscribing toBut while we are on the topic of straight-talk, it’s a little hypocritical coming from a network and news organisation which has made a living from perpetuating conspiracy theories and an artform out of dog whistles.

“Your version is more related to english language and so called ‘straight talk’,” replied Chris Kenny.

The next day The Daily Telegraph’s Tim Blair similarly devoted 984 words to dissecting Green’s piece, paragraph-by-paragraph, comparing it to a poorly written Leonard Cohen song, which, as far as backhanded compliments go…well, I’d take it.

And while we are on the topic of straight-talk, Newscorp posted a loss of $149 million earlier this year and has been actively lobbying for the destruction and / or privatisation of Australia’s public broadcaster, the ABC, on the grounds it is stealing its audience using taxpayer funds.

[Full disclosure: I worked for Newscorp (then News Limited) for around six years in both online and print capacities. Even made a few appearances on Sky!]

If even a businessman like Rupes recognises that some things are more important than profit,  we should recognise just how high the stakes are in the battle for hearts and minds.

James Paterson, editor of the IPA Review at the Institute of Public Affairs – a right wink thinktank co-founded by Rupert Murdoch’s father – took to the Sydney Morning Herald to make his case for privatising the ABC. (Fairfax recently joined the ABC witch-hunt. CEO Greg Hywood recently made the case for privatisation before a Senate inquiry that was meant to explore the virtue of a ‘journalism levy’).

And let’s not forget the PizzaGate fiasco in which an internet conspiracy theory brought the deranged 28-year-old, Edgar Maddison Welch to Comet Ping Pong pizza parlour in December 2016, armed with an AR-15 rifle to “self investigate” the conspiracy theory that Hilary Clinton had been running a paedophile ring out of the basement. It is only by some miracle no one was hurt. (He only got off three shots before surrendering).

Newscorp publishers may not have led with the conspiracy theory – they had publications like Breitbart and InfoWars to lead the way but it certainly helped keep the story alive. Both The Sun and Sky News  breathlessly covered “everything you need to know” about “The Hillary Clinton PizzaGate “.

 


 

And of course then there was the case of former Tennis Great turn RWNJ, Margaret Court, who this week took to the pages of The Australian to announce her boycott of Australian airline, QANTAS for its support of gay marriage, prompting calls for the Arena to be renamed. (I vote we go with Arena McArena-Face).

Never mind that the other Australian long-distance airline is Virgin International, which is also an advocate for gay marriage, so it looks like Court will be grounded for the time being.

Like The Guardian, The Australian runs off a trust and is one of the company’s leading loss-makers. But nonetheless, Rupert’s favourite paper has been kept on life support. For ideological purposes.

You don’t have to like his content, but if even Murdoch is prepared to keep his publications operating at a loss to serve a deeper purpose, then perhaps there is a deeper lesson to be learned here. For the rest of us, that message is this: Journalism is more important than profit. Even Rupert Murdoch says so.  Our interpretations of what passes for Journalism is another matter entirely.

As for NewsCorp, if it devoted as much time and as many resources to covering conspiracy theories, sexual harassment lawsuits and lobbying the government to smite its enemies as it did to improving its actual news content, perhaps it and its friends at Fox wouldn’t find themselves in this dumpster fire of a predicament.

 

Claire Connelly is working on her first book, How The World Really Works, a guide to recognising rhetorical red flags and immunising yourself against bullshit. You should definitely buy it when it comes out. A podcast of the same name will also be launching in the coming months.