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Raining down contempt on Trump and his heedless campaign to overturn legitimate election results, a longtime Beltway columnist recently lowered the boom on Republicans. "The sheer nuttiness surrounding the current mess is becoming deeply destructive," she wrote. "There is no realistic route to victory for the president, only to confusion and chaos and undermining."
If the wounded president is looking for media voices of comfort since Election Day, the last place he should look is Rupert Murdoch's editorial page at the Wall Street Journal. A longtime bastion of right-wing rhetoric and propaganda, the opinion section that waged a hysterical war on Bill Clinton for eight years and that remained a mostly steadfast ally of Trump, has had a clear message for him in recent weeks: Here's your hat, what's your hurry.
That was the directive columnist Peggy Noonan sent last week in the passages quoted above, penning a sneering take-down that easily could have run in the New York Times, or even The Nation. Noonan has hardly been alone as Journal columnists, as well as the unsigned editorials that run on the page, have all lined up to mock and belittle Trump's failed effort to steal an election.
For a right-wing media Noise Machine that is defined by its orthodoxy and its willingness to support Republican politicians at any cost, and especially Trump, the break at the Journal undercuts his effort to build a cohesive "fraud" messaging machine. And for that, Trump can blame Murdoch who in recent weeks emerged as Trump's most important and powerful media foe.
Using all three of his American properties, Fox News, the New York Post, and the Wall Street Journal, Murdoch clearly sent a top-down message that he did not support Trump’s move to denigrate free and fair elections. Without those unified voices on the right cheering his every move, Trump’s road to securing even a rhetorical victory became nearly impossible.
GOP propaganda works best, and has proven to be so effective over the years years, when there's a united media front pushing the same lies and distortions. It creates a powerful feedback loop, with outrage talking points being hit over and over. With Murdoch properties often refusing to play along since Election Day, that messaging war fell apart, just like Trump's legal debacle.
It’s clear that it was Murdoch who sent out the dictate and who for weeks has enforced the company line. None of this stuff happens by chance in the world of Murdoch media. There’s no way those media outlets simultaneously decided to oppose Trump in his moment of misinformation need. Murdoch properties don’t work when it comes to partisan politics — he decides. That’s why he massively overpaid to buy the Journal, and that’s why he keeps the money-losing Post in business, so he can use those outposts as personal megaphones. For the last three weeks he's been using them to send a message to Trump, 'Move on,’ especially the hard-right pages of the Journal:
•"If Mr. Trump had solid evidence of massive wrongdoing, it should be taken to court by a serious practicing attorney. Mr. Giuliani’s role as lead lawyer suggests this is political theater."
•"His efforts so far to prove massive fraud have been as successful as O.J. Simpson’s efforts to find the real killer."
• "There's no good evidence of voting problems that would come close to Mr. Biden’s lead of 73,000 votes in Pennsylvania or 145,000 in Michigan."
At the Post, the paper accused Trump of making an “unfounded claim that political foes were trying to steal the election," while mocking his son, Donald Trump Jr., as the “panic-stricken” author of a “clueless tweet" about election fraud.
It's true that some Fox talk show hosts have wallowed in "rigged" madness and did their best to prop up Trump's legal gibberish. But overall, the network made a clear decision not to go all-in with the election disinformation, and was willing to entertain guests who denounced Trump. "It’s a pervasive, unpatriotic lie," Jonah Goldberg said. "They are alleging an insane, bat guano crazy conspiracy theory."
When Kayleigh McEnany held a press conference to double down on allegations of fraud, illegal voting, and a rigged election, Fox News host Neil Cavuto cut away: “Whoa, whoa, whoa – I just think we have to be very clear. She’s charging the other side as welcoming fraud and welcoming illegal voting. Unless she has more details to back that up, I can’t in good countenance continue showing you this."
During a normal, right-wing propaganda push, these kinds of deviations from the accepted GOP script would be unthinkable.
I’m not congratulating Murdoch for any of this, or giving him credit. And I don't know why he chose this moment to oppose Trump. Murdoch remains an immoral man who has done incalculable damage to our democracy. Fox News itself is likely responsible for thousands of Covid-19 deaths in the U.S. this year, as the network has churned out dangerous and deliberate lies about a public health crisis.
The Biden administration should still boot Fox News from the White House briefing room next year, rather than grant them the legitimacy of coveted press credentials. But it’s important to note the role the media play in our politics and how small, rare rifts within the right-wing echo chamber can have long-term consequences.
📱 GOOD STUFF:
I’m not sure if the barn door on this has been open too long, but The Verge reports that Twitter is introducing a new warning in hopes of decreasing the spread of misinformation:
Ahead of the 2020 election, Twitter began showing a warning if you tried to retweet a tweet that had been labeled for potentially including misleading information. Twitter is now planning to expand that warning functionality to when you try to like a labeled tweet, the company announced on Monday. The functionality is rolling out on the web and iOS globally this week, and it will come to Android in the coming weeks, Twitter tells The Verge.
Adding a warning decreased quote tweets of misleading information by 29 percent, the company said. It seems Twitter is hoping this new warning shown before likes of labeled tweets will reduce the amount of likes on labeled content.
🎸 FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK:
Josh Teskey & Ash Grunwald, “Hungry Heart”
Australian blues never sounded better than when Teskey and Grunwald recently teamed up for a stellar new collaborative album. Teskey has made some headway in the U.S. in recent years, touring with his Teskey Brothers band and winning high praise for a signature sound that seems to spring straight from the Mississippi Delta. And that Voice! Grunwald remains one of the most interesting voices in Australian blues rock.
The album, Push The Blues Away, was recorded straight to tape at Teskey’s studio in Warrandyte, Victoria — it’s the sound of two guitars, two voices, and some hand claps and stomps. Grunwald plays guitar, while Teskey plays harmonica.
It’s a wonder.
Along with Murdoch, there's Charles Koch who is now claiming that the hundreds of millions of dollars that his empire has sunk into the Republican election machine was a mistake. The Koch Brother's dark money was such a major cause of our partisan politics over the past thirty years. Now at the age of 85, after he saw brother David pass, Libertarian Charles is having a come to Jesus moment? He saw what the Frankenstein monster that he helped sew together has done to our democracy so now he's offering a mea culpa? If he really wanted to make a difference and show he's truly sorry for his sins, he needs to come out and say without equivocation that Trump is a malignancy that the country must turn away from. Koch wouldn't divulge who he voted for which of course is his right. However, if he really wants forgiveness for all the pain the Koch money has wrought, he'd have shown the courage to denounce the narcissist and chief directly. And for good measure, how about donating a billion or two to help fight global climate change that his corporation helped to create.
I think you give Murdoch too much credit. Perhaps he's afraid of a new "Trump TV" network taking viewership, and sponsors, away from Fox News. It's certainly not for the "good of the country". That is why Fox News has changed its tone, and that alone explains it.