Hostile Western elites: Rupert Murdoch

This entry continues the series of reports identifying elite antagonism towards Anglo Australia.

Rupert Murdoch is one of the world’s most influential media barons. He owns about 30 percent of News Corporation, a conglomerate that controls 70 per cent of Australia’s print media including the biggest-selling newspapers in many cities. The Daily Telegraph in Sydney, the Herald Sun in Melbourne, and the Courier Mail in Brisbane are all Murdoch newspapers, as is the national daily, The Australian, begun in 1964. News Corp also owns The Times of London, The Wall Street Journal of New York, and many other influential newspapers.

Murdoch is also highly political, throwing his newspapers’ weight behind favoured candidates and governments and attacking those he does not favour. He supported the election of the Whitlam government in 1972 but opposed it in 1975. At present his newspapers generally support the ruling Liberal-National Coalition and oppose the Labor Party opposition, and are especially critical of the Greens on the left of the political spectrum. Despite his beginnings as a young radical who attracted the nickname “Red Rupert” at Oxford, Murdoch has long been seen as a bulwark of the corporate right here and overseas.

There is truth to that perception. Murdoch’s publications introduce some diversity of opinion to the otherwise left-dominated mainstream media. News Corporation is seen as a line of defence by conservatives and patriots against a generally hegemonic cultural Marxism that holds sway in the media and the education system. As Rupert Murdoch and his chief journalists have influenced the content of Australia’s alternate narrative over the last half century, it is all the more important to understand their stance on ethnic affairs.

Conveniently for that purpose, The Australian of 25th April 2015―the centenary of the Anzac landings at Gallipoli in Turkey―carried an interview of Murdoch reported by Paul Kelly, the newspaper’s most senior journalist and now “editor-at-large” (“Murdoch: Our Pride in Link to Gallipoli”, pages 1, 6). The interview quotes Murdoch’s views concerning the Gallipoli battle of 1915, in which his father, Keith, was involved as a correspondent. Murdoch agrees with his father’s harsh criticism of “British military ineptitude” linked to criticism of the generals’ upper class origins. The criticism “has shaped Rupert Murdoch’s own thinking for much of his life”. The views reflect typical anti-English stereotypes. For example, that the British military leaders were “too remote” and “out of touch” because of their upper class origins; that Gallipoli was a “British offensive” in which Australians made extraordinary sacrifices; that the “ghastly bungling” was to be expected from “such a General Staff as the British Army possesses” due to its “conceit and complacency”; that the Australians were better fighters than the British “toy soldiers” at Suvla Bay; that Winston Churchill made a disastrous mistake in conceiving the invasion. Nursed grievance is indicated by Murdoch’s remark that the British establishment never forgave his father for his criticism of the Gallipoli campaign. “I don’t believe the British establishment ever forgave my father for what he did.”

These views of British ineptitude in the Great War are deeply engrained in Australian culture and have helped facilitate republican and anti-Anglo sentiment. They are reflected in Peter Weir’s 1981 film Gallipoli, which adopted the same cartoonish anti-English stereotypes. They have contributed some of the chauvinism of Australian nationalism. Keith Murdoch’s nationalism was defined against the British, perhaps because Australia had been part of the British Empire and perceived by many to be inferior in status to the metropolitan power. After all, Britain had created the Australian colonies and nurtured their rise to independence and federation. As the mother country, Britain was at that time the closest culture to Australia, so close that Australia, with English Canada and New Zealand, formed part of an extended Anglo culture with intimate ties of history, family, race and economy.

However understandable Murdoch senior’s criticisms (and chauvinism) they were absurd because they lacked any comparative dimension. Keith Murdoch can be forgiven his lack of overview writing in 1915 but by 1918 it was obvious that the Gallipoli campaign fitted a pattern of conflict that was common to every front of that conflict and to armies of every nationality. A brief initial period of manoeuvre soon gave way to trench warfare. Military theorists attribute this to technical more than doctrinal weakness. The advent of machine guns and modern artillery inhibited tactical mobility because armour had not been developed. When tanks were introduced the situation began to change. Every European army was led by generals recruited from the upper classes, and they all failed to sustain mobility in the face of modern weapons. The bitter losses of Gallipoli were not caused by distinctively British characteristics, and the British “toy soldiers” fought and died as bravely as their Australian cousins.

Rupert Murdoch, a business genius with access to the most sophisticated advice, has retained a prejudicial view of the English relationship to Australia.

Paul Kelly reports Murdoch and his father uncritically, apart from an undirected qualification that Keith Murdoch’s views contained exaggeration and inaccuracy. In another article in the same issue (“Validation of a Nation”), Kelly states that colonial troops died at Gallipoli in a “forlorn British undertaking”. Again the British leaders are the perpetrators, Australians the victims. This is consistent with Kelly’s views on immigration and symbolic ties to Britain. He is a Murdoch appointee. Kelly entered the Canberra Press Gallery in 1971, reporting on federal parliament, and was appointed chief political correspondent for The Australian in 1974-5. He worked for Fairfax newspapers from 1976 to 1984 before returning to the Murdoch fold in 1985. He is one of the most influential of Australian journalists.

Murdoch’s critical view of the British may have influenced his cosmopolitan views on immigration. He has never expressed concern for Australia’s core Anglo or European identity and generally supports greater immigration as a means of boosting the economy. During his visit to Australia to celebrate The Australian’s 50th anniversary in 2014, he called for Australia to “throw open” its doors to immigrants.[i] This was at a time when the Australian intake was among the highest in the OECD, at about one percent of its population per annum. On a per capita basis this was equivalent to triple the U.S.’s one million legal immigrants per year. Australia’s massive intake was contributing to what a leading journalist with The Australian newspaper described as the “benign cultural genocide” of Anglo Australia. Likewise in the same year Murdoch praised Britain’s open immigration policy for boosting its economy, in a year when the country was experiencing an unprecedented influx of Polish immigrants. Murdoch also believes that the United States should legalise the ten million uneducated illegal immigrants, ostensibly as a means of growing its economy. The irrationality and destructiveness of these views, even from a cosmopolitan, neo-liberal perspective, is incompatible with warmth for Australia or the West. It indicates indifference at best.

Moreover, these views are expressed by the editorial policies of many Murdoch publications, conditioned by local business conditions. Has Rupert Murdoch been antagonistic towards Western ethnicity or has his attitude been shaped by business pressures? Is it hostility to a nation or culture to relegate its interests in pursuit of profit? Is corporate capitalism inherently hostile to the independence and continuity of all national identities or have Australia and the West been singled out? These are large questions that need to be answered before the motivation underlying Rupert Murdoch’s apparent betrayal of his people can be definitively categorised.

[i] “Throw open our doors to those who cherish our values: Murdoch”, The Australian, 16 July 2014, p. 1.

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