The good die first,/ And they whose hearts are dry as summer dust burn/ Burn to the socket’. William Wordsworth
Are we to be impressed now that Rupert Murdoch, the Australian-born 89-year-old billionaire, may have turned on Donald Trump? I think not. Fox News, and The New York Post, and Murdoch himself are a long-standing danger to democracy. Note the recent publication of cooked Russian intelligence by The New York Post, facilitated by Rudy Giuliani and friends, despite warnings from the intelligence community.
Murdoch and his Fox megalopolis remain the amoral threat that flies under the protection of freedoms enshrined in the Constitution. The framers were not naïve, but over five decades, Murdoch has set a new standard in demagoguery, treachery and lies.
I gathered some quotes about Rupert Murdoch for a piece that was never published ten years ago.
“The power that he has accumulated and employed
on behalf of his allies is awesome to their enemies.” William Shawcross, his biographer.
“Rupert Murdoch is no saint, he is to propriety what the
Marquis de Sade was to chastity. When it comes to money and power, he is carnivorous, all appetite, no taste.” Bill Moyers.
The New York Post “has no business reason for being other than to prosecute political and business grudges and to entertain Murdoch himself.” Michael Wolff, another biographer.
“I think that what everyone has overlooked with Rupert is that he was a gambler…He has taken enormous risks and been lucky. They have all come off but it has been close on several occasions.” Phillip Knightly (1929-2016)/
Knightley offered those thoughts in a conversation I had with him in 2010. He worked for Murdoch at the Times of London. Knightly was author of the classic book on war reporting, The First Casualty.
In The First casualty, Knightley described the ascent of Murdoch’s father, Sir Keith Murdoch, a questionable journalistic icon. The elder Murdoch (1885-1852) was acclaimed as a national hero in Australia after his exploits as a foreign correspondent included his presence in Gallipoli, Turkey during the first major joint Australian-New Zealand military campaign of World War I. Murdoch filed first person dispatches describing events that analysts said he apparently didn’t have time to witness. Sir Keith then wrote a letter to London officials that resulted in the firing of a general.
“It was an amazing document…a mixture of error, fact, exaggeration, prejudice and the most sentimental patriotism, which
made highly damaging charges against the British general staff and
[the general in charge, Sir Ian] Hamilton, many of them untrue.” Sir
Keith, oddly, later served as Australia’s chief censor during World
Knightly worked also with my friend Harold Evans (1928-2020). I asked Evans about Murdoch, who had fired him as editor of the Times of London in the early 1980s. Harry died in September.
Murdoch “shuffled, smiled and left sentences in mid-air….He seemed too diffident to be a tycoon and too inarticulate to be a journalist. This was as appealing as it was surprising.”
Evans compared Murdoch to Lucifer in Milton’s Paradise Lost, and described Murdoch as “the most interesting, impressive character…If Murdoch added journalistic integrity to his other qualities, he’d be most formidable.”
Perhaps the favorite quote I uncovered came from James Darling, Rupert’s headmaster at Geelong Grammar, a boarding school. Darling disliked Murdoch and the feeling was mutual. Once asked to describe Murdoch, Darling quoted from a popular Australian novel.
Murdoch’s newspapers “have engaged in the degradation of the proper feelings of our people…[and] have done more to harm this country than any of its external enemies…I beg you will leave before my butler throws you down the steps.”