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Moving to curb the Covid-19 misinformation that’s flooding the media landscape, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp recently made the dramatic move of canceling a well-known conservative columnist. The move was made in Australia last week when the editor of Sydney’s Daily Telegraph notified Alan Jones, a staunch critic of lockdowns and vaccines who has claimed the Covid virus is no worse than the flu, that his column had been terminated.
The abrupt move comes as Australia struggles with another wave of lockdowns, and after Jones had lashed out at a top public health official, calling her a “dumb,” “out of touch,” “village idiot.” He’s also accused the government of ““embracing martial law”, entering “Stalinist territory” and “crushing business” with an extended lockdown and mandatory masks outdoors,” The Guardian reported.
The contrast with how Murdoch’s media empire is dealing with deliberate Covid-19 lies and misinformation in his own country, compared to the United States is startling. Tucker Carlson, who has staked his career on lying about the pandemic, and consequently is getting people killed, continues to enjoy free rein from News Corp. Carlson unapologetically claims the Covid vaccine is killing people and that the government and media are covering it up. Nobody can be trusted, he insists. Also, the vaccine poses a danger to pregnant women.
He also contradicts himself almost nightly while pushing his anti-vaccine crusade. Recently, he mocked health officials in Los Angeles County for reinstating mask guidelines by claiming there was no spike in Covid cases to justify the move — “It’s barely noticeable.” Days later, Carlson ominously warned viewers that “a huge number of vaccinated people are getting Covid. And some of them are getting very sick, even dying.”
On Friday night, the host appeared against a backdrop reading “Vaccine Coercion,” and suggested that looming and legal vaccine mandates would lead to violence. “The question is, really, how long are Americans going to put up with this? What happens when large groups of people start to resist these mandates?” Carlson said. “As inevitably they will, because they're too unreasonable, they're too irrational, they're not rooted in science. They are pushing us toward something awful.”
But Carlson still has a job, and News Corp’s full backing.
Too cowardly to pull back his top-rated U.S. host, Murdoch refuses to protect American news consumers from Fox News’ cult-like disinformation regarding a miraculously safe and effective vaccine. In Australia, Murdoch’s company operates under different rules and, at least in the case of Jones, is far more willing to stand up for common sense and decency when it comes to not pushing obvious Covid-19 lies.
Why the double standard? Australia is Murdoch’s home country, so perhaps there is more concern about its collective well being. Sydney, Darwin, Perth and Brisbane - all capital cities - are currently in lockdown. More than 20 million Australians, around 80 percent of the population, are living under restrictions, which is the highest number since a national lockdown at the start of the pandemic. Australia lags far behind most countries in terms of vaccination rate, just 15 percent to date. The country decided to rely on keeping most foreigners out of the country during the pandemic, and requiring strict quarantine protocols. With the Delta variant, more breakouts have occurred in recent weeks.
Another possible explanation is that News Corps has recently come under intense political scrutiny in Australia, and faces a growing backlash over how it uses its media dominance there to wield political power.
Recently, former Prime Ministers Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull — occupying different parts of the political spectrum — joined forces to denounce the Murdoch media cancer that’s eating the country. They urged the government to take steps to diversify media ownership and to break up the dangerous coalition that now exists between right-wing politicians and the Murdoch press, which serves as an unaccountable, but extremely powerful force. Parliament hearings were held after Rudd's petition to establish a royal commission into media diversity became Australia's largest-ever e-petition, and the country's third largest petition of any kind.
Rudd, a progressive, has labelled Murdoch's' empire a "cancer" on the country, while the center-right Turnbull branded it "an absolute threat to our democracy." Warned Rudd, “The most powerful political actor in Australia is not the Liberal party or the National party or the Labor party, it is News Corporation. We are drowning in lies.”
Murdoch’s News Corp control controls 70 percent of Australia's print media, most notably The Australian, the national daily newspaper with the largest circulation. That would be like if Murdoch not only owned the New York Post and Wall Street Journal in the U.S. but also the Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald, Dallas Morning News, Denver Post, Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post, and used them all to pump out toxic, right-wing misinformation.
News Corp also owns the country's second-biggest news website news.com.au and 24-hour channel Sky News Australia. The country where Murdoch was born recently ranked third in the world for media concentration, behind only the state-owned media of China and Egypt.
If Murdoch were consistent about how he treats deliberate Covid misinformers, Tucker Carlson would be out of work.
🗳 GOOD STUFF:
Jane Meyer has a must-read in The New Yorker, as she digs deeper into the GOP’s embrace of authoritarianism, which is on display with the joke Arizona “audit.”
From Mayer’s “The Big Money Behind the Big Lie”:
Many experts on democratic governance, however, believe that efforts to upend long-settled election practices are what truly threaten to rip the country apart. Chad Campbell, a Democrat who was the minority leader in the Arizona House of Representatives until 2014, when he left to become a consultant in Phoenix, has been shocked by the state’s anti-democratic turn. For several years, he sat next to Karen Fann when she was a member of the House, and in his view she’s gone from being a traditional Republican lawmaker to being a member of “Trump’s cult of personality.” He said, “I don’t know if she believes it or not, or which would be worse.” Arizona, he added, is in the midst of a “nonviolent overthrow in some ways—it’s subtle, and not in people’s face because it’s not happening with weapons. But it’s still a complete overthrow of democracy. They’re trying to disenfranchise everyone who is not older white guys.”
🎸 FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK
Los Lobos, “Sail on, Sailor”
The pride of East L.A., Los Lobos is celebrating its 41st year in 2021 with the band’s 17th studio album, Native Sons. It’s this simple cover of the Beach Boys’ 1973, piano-based single that I keep coming back to from the new Los Lobos record.
Written by the iconic duo of Van Dyke Parks and Brian Wilson, “Sail on, Sailor” evokes a soulful optimism amidst times of turmoil.
Seldom stumble, never crumble
Try to tumble, life's a rumble
Feel the stinging I've been given
Never ending, unrelenting
Heartbreak searing, always fearing
Never caring, persevering
Sail on, sail on, sailor
🎙 Click here to listen to the music that’s been featured on PRESS RUN, via a Spotify playlist.
Click here to listen via Apple Music.