Today's big media news is that Fox News head Rupert Murdoch has announced he will be stepping down to become “chairman emeritus” at Fox News Corp. and its parent company, Fox Corp. Here’s him describing what that means:
In my new role, I can guarantee you that I will be involved every day in the contest of ideas. Our companies are communities, and I will be an active member of our community. I will be watching our broadcasts with a critical eye, reading our newspapers and websites and books with much interest, and reaching out to you with thoughts, ideas, and advice. When I visit your countries and companies, you can expect to see me in the office late on a Friday afternoon.
So the 92-year-old mogul is stepping down from running the companies but will still be involved "every day" and reaching out to peon employees when he has "thoughts" on how they're doing their jobs. And he'll be checking in on random Friday afternoons, so don't even think about getting an early start on your weekend, pals.
"I look forward to seeing you wherever you work and whatever your responsibility," Murdoch adds, and while this may be the friendliest tone an aged billionaire can muster when speaking to his underlings, there are few corporate workers anywhere in the world who wouldn't consider that sentence to be a threat.
As for what changes the rest of us might see at Fox News Corp. as a result of this shift, the most likely answer is that it will move even farther right, scrabbling to include more white nationalism and panic-inducing hoaxes. That's because Rupert Murdoch is also announcing that son Lachlan Murdoch will now be "the sole Chairman of both companies," ending all remaining speculation as to whether his other, less hard-right children will be getting a say in things.
The answer is no, and Lachlan, in particular, developed a name for himself at Fox News as a steadfast supporter of white nationalist Tucker Carlson and his coverage, standing by him even as Carlson backed everything from dangerous pandemic denialism to terrorism-fueling neo-Nazi "great replacement" theories. (When Carlson was eventually removed from the network, his firing was attributed to his inside-the-office assholism rather than his public hate-peddling, which Lachlan never wavered from.)
Lachlan is typically referred to as more of a true believer in Republican "populism" than his more cynical, profit-driven father. "Populist" is the genteel code used to paper over blatantly fascist acts like government-backed hoax promotion and the attribution of national ills to immigrants, educators, and societal "deviants."
And then there's this, the fourth paragraph of Murdoch's announcement, in which the billionaire gives his own interpretation of the times and it is Very Damn Odd.
My father firmly believed in freedom, and Lachlan is absolutely committed to the cause. Self-serving bureaucracies are seeking to silence those who would question their provenance and purpose. Elites have open contempt for those who are not members of their rarified class. Most of the media is in cahoots with those elites, peddling political narratives rather than pursuing the truth.
Well now that is a load, and sorting it out would take more time than it’s worth. But apparently the Murdoch creed still insists that it's all the other media companies that work "in cahoots" with elites to "peddle political narratives," not his personal propaganda machines.
There will be obituaries for Murdoch at some point, and they will all fail to hit the mark because you're not allowed to point out the terribleness of terrible people—not if they have a bit of money, anyway. We can hardly write up a final tally of all the ways Murdoch has damaged democracies worldwide in service of his own predilections and cash flow, not when Rupert here is still vowing to police his companies from his responsibility-free new position so that he can give thoughts to each employee who does something he might have thoughts about.
The short summary might be how The Guardian's Charles Kaiser opened his 2022 review of the latest Murdoch biography: "The Murdochs are in many ways the most important media story of the last 50 years. On three continents their shoddy journalism, blind political ambition, outright racism and unlimited greed have done more damage to democracy than the actions of all their rivals put together."
There's also some wild speculation, fueled by the same biographer, that at this point Rupert and Lachlan's insults to democracies have so pissed off Rupert's other three shareholding billionaire children that they will band together to drop-kick Lachlan out of the company the very moment their father dies.
In any event, there's your big media news for the day. Rupert Murdoch has announced that he's sending himself to a farm upstate, one with a big meadow where he can run and play with all the other elderly billionaires. But the farm still has televisions and fax machines so if any of you underlings think you're finally free of Rupert's incessant meddling then you can expect a visit from him right quick. Is that really big news? I'm ... not quite seeing it, myself.
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