Murdoch v The Media Elite Lynch Mob = Dan Rather’s Revenge?

In the old Soviet Union one tool Kremlinologists used to forecast shifts in the political climate was to peruse the inside pages of Pravda and spot the apparently insignificant article that they could identify as a marker for any forthcoming reconfiguration.

The articles were placed as signposts for mid level Communist Party members to prepare for changes in direction in their party “work” which, for the CPSU, as with any other totalitarian party, was almost exclusively agitprop –agitation and propaganda.

The BBC in very many ways can be seen as an agitprop arm of the British liberal/left cultural elite, a group which usually manages to direct the UK’s political and social agenda even though much of it (EU membership, unrestricted immigration, political correctness etc etc)is deeply unpopular with the majority of the population.

Moreover, with the globalisation of information media ,the lack of any patriotic affinity in the mindset of this elite allows it to integrate seamlessly with its equivalents in the USA and elsewhere

So the appearance of this article by Tom Geoghegan on the BBC website “Rupert Murdoch:Could his US empire be affected?” should be ringing alarm bells for conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic. For this is not really about the rather shady ethics of a few phone hacking tabloid journalists. Indeed, while the story only appeared to involve celebrities and politicians it never really gained traction. Moreover, because the hacking took place several years ago under a Blair/Brown Labour government that at the time was very cosy with Rupert Murdoch and his tabloids meant that it remained low key with Milliband, Balls and co. Besides News of the World staff had been jailed and the editor at the time had resigned so heads had rolled.

But what has given it legs in New York and London is the revelation that the paper’s staff had hacked into a murder victim’s mobile phone. This has, quite rightly, created immense public anger – and given the liberal/left media elite, so often out of tune with popular opinion, a golden opportunity to spearhead a lynch mob.

It’s not about Murdoch and his papers – after all the dead tree press as a vehicle for news is a dinosaur on its way to extinction. The real target is Murdoch the TV baron with Fox News in the USA and Sky News in Britain. Note how Geoghan slips “right wing” into the mix. It’s a standard adjective that is permanently attached to any comment about Fox News in the UK and, it must be admitted, a brilliant example of the effectiveness of well organised agitprop. The fact that every other US network/cable news platform is imbued as deeply as the BBC in the liberal/left metro mindset is always studiously ignored.

It is no accident that the long buried phone hacking story was disinterred by the New York Times last autumn and quickly picked up in Britain by the Guardian and the BBC just as Murdoch’s bid for the whole of Sky. the BBC’s only meaningful TV competitor was about to go under public scrutiny. All three have a keen interest in undermining Murdoch and emasculating Fox because they know that Murdoch is the only player in the game who threatens the dominant position of the liberal/left cultural elite in the UK and the USA.

A perceptive piece in The Commentator reads the runes with chilling accuracy. This is not about journalistic ethics. It’s a fight to protect the authority of the great and the good against the upstarts of the new media – and, at the moment, the right wing establishment is doing what it does best….running for cover.

It’s the revenge of Dan Rather.

Rather Biased

On this week’s episode of Radio 4’s Americana the current state of US journalism was discussed with none other than “special guest” Dan Rather. In his introduction Matt Frei described Rather as a legend (twice) and a titan. The pair talked about various problems facing journalism, covering topics such as the chase for ratings, the newspaper industry, and citizen journalists. Rather concluded with the following observation:

“…let’s pause and remember what we as journalists are supposed to do when we’re at our best, fulfilling the best tradition of American journalism or journalism wherever it is, is play no favourites, pull no punches, and news is what is important for people to know that somebody somewhere in power doesn’t want them to know. Most of the rest is just advertising.”

At no time in their lofty discussions of journalistic ideals was it mentioned that Dan “play no favourites” Rather used demonstrably false documents in an attempt to smear President Bush in the run-up to the 2004 election, the fallout from which damaged CBS’s credibility and hastened Rather’s departure from the network. During the programme Frei quoted former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee’s dismissive take on citizen journalists (“What about citizen surgeons?”) which was somewhat ironic given that his special guest was a professional journalist brought low by the fact-checking of bloggers.

Rather’s bio on the BBC Americana website states: “He retired from CBS in 2005 and is currently the anchor and managing editor of Dan Rather Reports on Hdnet.” In fact he only retired as CBS anchor in 2005, but limped on at CBS News until 2006 when his contract was not renewed. Rather filed a lawsuit against CBS for breach of contract but this was tossed out of court last month (another point not brought up by Frei). Clearly Frei didn’t want to bother the listeners (or embarrass the legend) by mentioning such inconvenient facts; Rather was, after all, fighting the good fight against President Bush and thus can be forgiven everything.

At the end of the programme Frei paid homage by signing off with Rather’s catchphrase “Courage”, a quality I then had to call upon myself to prevent my dinner from re-emerging.

Update. In related “play no favourites” news, this morning ex-CBS correspondent Mika Brzezinski gave MSNBC co-host Joe Scarborough her assessment of the political leanings at Dan Rather’s former network during the years she was there (via Newsbusters) :

SCARBOROUGH:…can you think seriously of one correspondent, of one producer, of one anchor, that was a George W. Bush fan?
BRZEZINSKI: I can. I can think of one, yes.
SCARBOROUGH: How many did you work for?
BRZEZINSKI: Many more than that.

That’s probably one more than the BBC.