The Guardian and Nick Davies deserve the prize for breaking open the biggest story of the decade: the extraordinary extent and maliciousness of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation violating not only British law but also the most basic elements of decency. On July 4th, the Guardian fanned the nearly cold embers of what should have long-since been a lightning bolt for British politics and business. The story of how the British tabloid, News of the World, hacked into the voice mail of a missing girl, later found murdered, has led to the uncovering of a truly astonishing web of lies, bribery, greed and moral cowardice. This story really began nearly six years ago with the uncovering of information about Prince Charles that was gained illegally. (See The Guardian’s timeline for the long chain of events leading up to where we are now. See also their special webpage devoted to this blockbuster story, tantamount in importance in nearly every way to Watergate, but with developments breaking much, much faster.)
Rupert Murdoch’s empire is experiencing seismic shocks owing to the depth of the illegality that is being unearthed. News Corporation has already jettisoned the offending paper, News of the World, and today walked away from a multibillion buyout of a property critical to their future plans, BSkyB. The British Parliament was nearly united in its opposition to this deal, so Murdoch pulled the plug.
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister David Cameron has plenty of egg on his face, having hired News of the World editor, Andy Coulson, as his top communications deputy. Coulson was arrested this week in connection with the phone hacking scandal. Cameron is also close to one of Murdoch’s top executives, Rebekah Brooks, who is up to her eyeballs in this affair. Cameron, to his credit, is now leading the charge to dig very deeply and thoroughly into the outrageous behavior of the News Corporation.
On this side of the pond, the reverberations are getting louder for Murdoch: News Corp. shareholders are suing, hedge funds have taken a major hit on the death of the BSkyB deal (boo hoo), News Corp. stock has plummeted, and one US Senate committee chairman has said the “consequences will be severe” if the laws here have been broken and another Senator has called on the US Attorney General to initiate an investigation.
What’s any of this got to do with climate change you ask? That’s an exceedingly fair question. The answer is that Rupert Murdoch has been the single-greatest impediment in the American media to effecting any meaningful federal legislation to confront the climate crisis. How? Murdoch’s Fox News has waged a long and consistent campaign of disinformation on climate change, in concert with the reactionary American right wing and the special interests that are opposed to legislation.
Rolling Stone put Murdoch at the top of their list of politicians and executives blocking climate change legislation. MediaMatters documented Fox News’ Top 10 Lies About Climate Science. A recent academic paper concluded that Frequent Viewers of Fox News Are Less Likely to Accept Scientists’ Views of Global Warming.
So, if the American right wing is drawing its strength from the Know-Nothing Fox-watching Tea Partiers, funded to a great extent by the Koch Brothers, Number Two after Murdoch on Rolling Stone’s hit parade of climate crisis deniers, then the earthquakes hitting the News Corporation are, inevitably, going to at least diminish the impact of the shameful disinformation campaign coming out of Fox News and the brain of Murdoch’s chief henchman there, Roger Ailes.
We owe a real debt to The Guardian and other media watchdogs, like Rolling Stone and MediaMatters, that are actually concerned about promulgating the truth, no matter how sticky it may get. If one of the consequences of the Murdoch story is the loosening of the stranglehold that Fox News, and the Wall St. Journal for that matter, have on the hearts and minds of the American right wing such that some semblance of reality creeps back into the dialogue here on climate and energy, then we may also have taken one more small step toward ecological health for our old sweet Mother Earth and her many children, us included.