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Oct 30, 2008

Brace yourself for a lecture from Rupert Murdoch

Orwell was right to suspect that some of us were meant to be freer than others, writes Humphrey McQueen.

To redress the left-liberal bias of the commercial media, the Board of the ABC has invited Rupert Murdoch to deliver the Boyer Lectures, starting on Sunday 2 November. As he observed in his 1972 A. N. Smith Lecture: “The public does not want to read propaganda: it wants to read objective news and informed comment.”

A promotional clip has Murdoch confronting the question of his Australianness. He gave up his Australian citizenship in September 1985 to secure broadcasting licences in the United States. Nowadays, Murdoch can hold dual citizenship. The matter of his nationality was marginal since his loyalty has always been to the expansion of his capital.

However, while Murdoch, the individual, swapped allegiance, Murdoch as the personification of that capital in News Corp remained registered in Adelaide because Australian reporting standards were what Business Week (13 June 1994) called “loosey-goosey”.

Just after his nationality swap, the US journal Corporate Finance (April 1987) reported that News’s Annual Report for 1986 was a triumph of creative accounting. The exposure had been written for Forbes, which declined to publish so as not to offend Murdoch.

In March 1999, The Economist recorded the tangle of tax returns to conceal the liabilities of News, by then incorporated in the US State of Delaware (aka as “the State of du Pont”).

The Boyers will not be the first time that Murdoch has lectured us. In October 1994, he addressed the Centre for Independent Studies on “The Century of Networking”. Murdoch quoted Solzhenitsyn that the essence of totalitarianism is “the destruction of collective memory”. Murdoch is a master of selective memory as he demonstrated in talking about how his father had sought criticism from the British tycoon Lord Northcliffe on how to improve circulation of the Herald where he had become editor in 1921.

Murdoch junior made no mention of the sensation that did most to boost revenues — the Herald’s lynching of Colin Ross for the murder of the 12-year old Alma Tirtschke on 30 December 1921 in Gun Alley, off Little Collins street. The Herald and Weekly Times building on Flinders street became known as the Colin Ross Memorial, since Ross had paid for it with his life on 24 April 1922. In May, Victoria granted a pardon to Ross. We await Rupert Murdoch’s act of contrition for Ross during his Boyers.

The theme of the Boyers is to be “The Age of Freedom”, as it was in the 1994 Lecture. Murdoch had acknowledged the source of what passed for an idea in that talk as Peter Huber’s Orwell’s Revenge: The 1984 Palimpsest. Huber’s rewriting of Nineteen Eighty-Four is a paean to free markets, which Murdoch hastened to assure his listeners “are not monopolies”. Murdoch endorsed Huber’s faith that Orwell had been wrong because technology and markets were going to set us free.

It turned out that Orwell had been right to suspect that some of us were meant to be freer than others. In March 1994, Murdoch had replaced the BBC World Service on his Star telecasts into the Mainland. Within days of his Networking lecture on how technology would break down totalitarianism, Murdoch was in Malaysia offering its authoritarians a block-out switch over Star TV. In 1995, he provided Beijing’s Ministry of Truth with one. By July 1995, News Corp had a joint venture with the People’s Daily. In his Lecture, he expected his access to “whole new audiences and markets” in China to be “goldmines”.

In the current crisis of capital accumulation, how free will the Asian Wall Street Journal be to comment on the thugs and swindlers running the People’s Republic of China, or on Murdoch’s access to funds?

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10 thoughts on “Brace yourself for a lecture from Rupert Murdoch

  1. Gekko

    Chinese thugs and swindlers? Excuse me Humphrey. A point of clarification. Are these the brethren of the Wall Street thugs and swindlers? The same ones who just pulled off history’s biggest stick up? I’m confused.

  2. Venise Alstergren

    Glen Brandham: Rupert would/has/will crawl into beds worse than you can imagine. Only he doesn’t do it for money, he does it to have the power to destroy people. Yes, despite all the evidence to the contrary the man is a destroyer, rather than a builder. His vast empire is as a result of his destruction. Paradoxical isn’t it?
    I can’t wait to miss his Boyer Lectures.

  3. Stephen

    So it is OK for Australia to sell to the “thugs and swindlers running the People’s Republic of China”, as long as you can comment on them too. Weird standard.

  4. Denis

    Regarding Murdock’s speech – I wrote the following to but, so far, they haven’t published it. 🙂

    “Ah yes – the softening-up process – straight from one of the illuminati’s mouthpieces.
    Try to make us think we’re “cringeworthy” first, then tell us later on how much we’ll benefit from doing things their way.
    “Their way” will be for Australia (and the world) to accept the lying, cheating pack of scum that is about to foist “One world Government” upon us.
    This action will remove our sovereign rights and condemn us to the laws of OWG.

    Please people – wake up to what these monsters are up to.”

  5. Glenn Brandham

    Neato, a quasi-news service for a quasi-capitalist society. I wonder if Rupert understands just who it is he is crawling into bed with. As for parallels with his father: dear old dad was a great cheerleader for the first two world wars and Rupert took gold in cheerleading for the new and improved Iraq war. As for his words of wisdom, who cares what he says, it is all lies designed to protect his money…never take your eye off the ball. Cheers

  6. Dennis

    It is to be hoped someone will be brave enough to ask Murdoch how comfortable he feels in the knowledge he employs and therefore approves of the most unjournalistic actions of Fox News unashamadly right wing a+++holes such as O’Reilly, Hannifey and Co.

  7. eric a. blair

    Eve, Glenn & Dennis you’re right on the money there! Murdoch has been responsible for untold atrocities through his cheer leading of US imperialism, his mind numbing dumbing down of the countries his all pervasive media has it’s tentacles in. He will go down in history as a very influential individual not in the notion of what was right & good but what goes wrong when almost complete control of what people read, hear & see is used to push the agenda of greed, war & cultural destruction….ABC (Anti Bigoted Capitalists)

  8. eve

    Interesting that the ABC chose him, just as its m-d Mark Scott has been singing his praises of late. And that News Ltd has become preferred mate of the Govt, having been on the outer with Howard. Maybe Rupert is totally forgiven. Maybe he is now embarrassed by O’Reilly et al (as Woolf claims in his new aproved bio). Or maybe the wolf has just found some new sheep?

  9. davo

    Humphrey McQueen, the Maoist, follower fo the biggest thug and swindler of them all….

    Or has he recanted his earlier positions?

  10. Venise Alstergren

    Seldom in the history of modern media has one man seized the opportunity to destroy publishing and visual standards in his drive to reduce all thought to a single right wing dumbing down of his readers/viewers. Rupert Murdoch aspired to be another ‘Citizen Kane’ and ended up making Kane look mediocre before turning his attention to st*ffing up half the human race’s political awareness. His power to corrupt appears to be infinite.