When media magnate Rupert Murdoch finally retired this month, did you breathe a sigh of relief? Probably not, because any positive change to his massive media empire seems unlikely.
Murdoch’s parting words are telling: “The battle for the freedom of speech and, ultimately, the freedom of thought, has never been more intense. My father [Keith] firmly believed in freedom and Lachlan is absolutely committed to the cause.”
The Murdochs, Rupert in particular, have had a heavy hand in redefining freedom of speech in a neoliberal, right-wing libertarian, tabloid journalism, “shock-jock”, “angertainment” media landscape.
The media shapes public opinion under capitalism through a web of corporate ownership, monopolisation, and cosying up to corrupt politicians to buy favours or wield political influence. Those who don’t conform are penalised, ostracised, ridiculed or worse. Witness how high profile “No” campaigners are getting away with saying the most horrible, racist things in the media in the lead up to the Voice referendum.
While Murdoch’s retirement won’t change anything, his empire has certainly helped to destabilise our world. Reacting to Rupert’s “freedom” quote, actor Brian Cox — who played a Murdoch-styled character in the series Succession — said: “Freedom for what? Freedom to impose his ideas on other people, freedom to kind of manipulate … things?”
Murdoch’s News Corp bought the Herald and Weekly Times in Melbourne in 1987. My dad, Geoff Bull, was one of the pictorial editors at The Sun News-Pictorial, the HWT’s most successful publication.
After a lifetime of working in newspapers, Dad decided to take early retirement. He didn’t get a golden handshake, and couldn’t bear the thought of working under a ruthless, right-wing media baron, who had no intention of letting his newspaper have any independent commentary.
Dad was a loyal union man and he’d seen what Murdoch did in Britain, cheering on conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher as she smashed the miners’ union. Then Murdoch sacked 6000 newspaper employees in the infamous 1986‒87 Wapping dispute.
Since then, News Corp has bought out every media operation it can get its hands on in the English-speaking world — and sacked much of their workforces.
Then there was the phone-hacking scandal in London, the slavish support for Donald Trump in the United States by Fox News during his presidency, which enabled all manner of right-wing atrocities, and more.
In retirement, Dad grew to hate News Corp and swore he only bought the Herald Sun for its sports coverage — and even that was biased.
For any real political insight, Dad read Green Left. He even regularly gave me ideas for articles, especially on union issues. Why? He wanted to see independent investigative reporting and journalists who are not afraid to write about what they believe in and stick up for and give voice to workers, refugees, women, First Nations and their right to freedom of speech.
After 33 years of publication, Green Left is still here — in hard copy and online. We’re not retiring any time soon. So, if you want to stick it to the Murdochs and the big business media, then become a Green Left supporter today.