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It was a good war. (For some.)
June 16, 2012 12:34 PM   Subscribe

Rupert Murdoch, CEO of News Corp., repeatedly lobbied Tony Blair to invade Iraq. In the days leading up to the invasion, Tony Blair's Director of Communications wrote that "(Blair) took a call from Murdoch who was pressing on timings, saying how News International would support us, etc. Both TB and I felt it was prompted by Washington, and another example of their over-crude diplomacy. Murdoch was pushing all the Republican buttons, how the longer we waited the harder it got." The phone call in question took place just days before a crucial vote on Iraq, and was one of three personal calls from Murdoch that Blair received in that week alone. Blair recently testified, admitting an "unhealthy" level of closeness with Murdoch, oftentimes communicating more with him than with his own ministers. In the first 19 days following the invasion of Iraq, Rupert Murdoch's Fox News averaged 3.3 million viewers, a 236% increase from the weeks preceding the war. Huge increases in newspaper sales were seen throughout his global media empire, with advertising revenue soaring to record levels. That empire now faces serious calls for it to be broken up.
posted by markkraft (62 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
Remember the Maine!
posted by absalom at 12:38 PM on June 16, 2012 [14 favorites]


Tomorrow Never Dies
posted by DJ 3000 at 12:40 PM on June 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


You furnish the pictures. I'll furnish the war.
posted by Skeptic at 12:41 PM on June 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


Appalling. I agree with Miliband about the need for News Corp. to be broken up - but he's being a huge hypocrite about it in only attacking Cameron. How this will play out on the US side (where the first amendment comes into play) is hard to guess.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:41 PM on June 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd like to know, before judgement, which media empires will be punished for sins. Will just Fox suffer, or every corporate backed media organization?
posted by Mblue at 12:49 PM on June 16, 2012


Astrological note: Rupert Murdoch is a Cancer, and his star sign is Pisces
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:51 PM on June 16, 2012 [20 favorites]


If it can be proved that Murdoch urged Britain to go to war in order to improve his own bottom line, are there any laws either domestic or internationally under which he can be tried for either profiteering or crimes against humanity?

Because... fuck. That should be a crime if it isn't.
posted by hippybear at 12:52 PM on June 16, 2012 [24 favorites]


Worth noting, however, that the person making this revelation is no-one else than Alastair Campbell, who turned media spin into a (dark) art, and whose own role in the runup to the Iraq war is somewhat controversial.
posted by Skeptic at 12:57 PM on June 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


*prepares effigy*
posted by Sys Rq at 12:58 PM on June 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mblue: "I'd like to know, before judgement, which media empires will be punished for sins. Will just Fox suffer, or every corporate backed media organization?"

We don't require murder sentences to punish every murderer, just the ones who get caught.
posted by Riki tiki at 12:59 PM on June 16, 2012 [10 favorites]


To be clear , Campbell's diaries ( hmmm... Campbell is a trustworthy source carrying magnified weight now? A topic for another discussion perhaps ) are saying that Murdoch lobbied for speeding up the timeframe for starting the war, apparently after prompting/discussion from the US Republicans/Bush administration. This sounds like Murdoch being leveraged by US pols to pressure Blair on timing issues specifically - this is not exactly Bond super villain territory , I think
posted by Bwithh at 1:03 PM on June 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Harvey Norman is just as guilty....
posted by Homemade Interossiter at 1:06 PM on June 16, 2012


This was ages ago! HOW can we even waste our time talking about this when there are MASSACRES happening RIGHT NOW in WHATEVER COUNTRY WE'RE SUPPOSED TO INVADE NEXT.
posted by gerryblog at 1:06 PM on June 16, 2012 [12 favorites]


Not entirely surprising and long suspected, but it's nice to have it out in the open.

During the time Fox was drumming up support for going to war I was living in an open loft with a pretty nice couple whose only fault was that the photographer husband had his studio in the open space and kept himself entertained with two televisions both tuned into Fox News. Hearing only the sound and not seeing the images playing over and over in the background was kind of a trip. Listening to the station without the benefit of visual montages carefully selected to link 911 to Iraq and provoke specific emotional reactions like fear, sorrow, and swelling patriotism made the station sound comical and I was convinced nobody would ever take their messages seriously. When I would stop in front the tv screens though on my way to the kitchen or bathroom though, the same talking points and blathering took on a more resonance bolstered by the visual propaganda it was being tethered too. At those moments I'd think "we are so fucked".

Oh, I drew a portrait of Murdoch a while back and have been waiting to use it but am afraid that day will never come. Surely this, etc.
posted by stagewhisper at 1:07 PM on June 16, 2012 [27 favorites]


this is not exactly Bond super villain territory , I think

Right.. As close to super villain as the real world ever gets though, right? That's bad enough.
posted by Chuckles at 1:08 PM on June 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm going to have to invent a whole new language to describe how angry I am at the continuing antics of Murdoch and co.
posted by panboi at 1:11 PM on June 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


How this will play out on the US side (where the first amendment comes into play) is hard to guess.

Well, the First Amendment is in play, but so is the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Not for lobbying Blair to start a war in particular, but for all of the corruption of officials that came to light in Operation Elveden.

The FCPA was really written with operations in less developed countries in mind (such as Walmart's Mexican building permits scandal), but a US-headquarted company bribing British Ministry of Defense officials and police leadership is also under the scope of the law, and the penalties if top executives were aware - as evidence would seem to suggest at least James Murdoch likely was - are potentially quite draconian.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 1:18 PM on June 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I note that where we are too often blaming the press for being lapdogs of the political forces, echoing whatever it is they say or do or want, where we are being told that it is just the opposite: politicians being led by the news people.
posted by Postroad at 1:19 PM on June 16, 2012


It's worth pointing out that these calls from Murdoch were hardly his only communications with Tony Blair when he was in office... he had plenty of other opportunities to push Blair towards war.

These calls were apparently a flurry of calls prompted by the run-up to the war, when there was real hope that some sanity might win out.

Indeed, as Campbell wrote at the time:
"Hans Blix [UN weapons inspector] seemed to be making progress..." and that Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said that the British government had "a way out, namely that we could not be involved at the start but could do humanitarian afterwards.

(Tony Blair) was not keen but Jack was very blunt. He said we were dealing, however right we thought it was, with a US 'war of choice' and we had to understand, as (Colin) Powell told him the whole time, that some of these people around Bush could not care two fucks about us whatever, and that went for (Blair) as much as the rest of us."
posted by markkraft at 1:23 PM on June 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


We don't require murder sentences to punish every murderer, just the ones who get caught.

Totally predictable answer from political being.
1) Will it apply to everyone?
2) No.
posted by Mblue at 1:26 PM on June 16, 2012


How this will play out on the US side (where the first amendment comes into play) is hard to guess.

Stonewall, stonewall, stonewall, stonewall, get Romney elected, problem disappears.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:27 PM on June 16, 2012 [10 favorites]


"Totally predictable answer from political being.
1) Will it apply to everyone?
2) No."


Actually, if it becomes a matter of changing policy, yes, it will.

Especially in the UK, the general gist seems to be to enact policies that would reduce the influence of large media orgs by breaking them up, or limiting their access to government leaders / the scope of what they are allowed to do.

Still, you have to figure that any policy changes designed to reign in the biggest fish will, as a matter of necessity, effect the biggest fish the most.
posted by markkraft at 1:32 PM on June 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


in the UK, the general gist seems to be to enact policies that would reduce the influence of large media orgs by breaking them up, or limiting their access to government leaders / the scope of what they are allowed to do.

So the state financed BBC is subject to this rule? Think about that. I see no difference between corporate financed media and government media.
Both are propoganda.
posted by Mblue at 1:38 PM on June 16, 2012


So the state financed BBC is subject to this rule? Think about that. I see no difference between corporate financed media and government media.
Both are propoganda.


The fact that you would think that the BBC is government propaganda makes me prepared to bet fairly large amounts of money you aren't from the UK.
posted by Space_Lady at 1:41 PM on June 16, 2012 [35 favorites]


I'd like to know, before judgement, which media empires will be punished for sins. Will just Fox suffer, or every corporate backed media organization?

Did they lobby to send us into WAR? Gadzooks man.

This sounds like Murdoch being leveraged by US pols to pressure Blair on timing issues specifically - this is not exactly Bond super villain territory , I think

I guess it's true that Murdoch doesn't measure up to entirely fictional cartoonish depictions of evil. Although I'd be careful around him -- I hear contact with his flesh could cause one to turn spontaneously into a fiddler crab.

[...]crimes against humanity? Because... fuck. That should be a crime if it isn't.

Crimes are supposed to be specific so as to guard against overzealous prosecution (itself a substantial form of evil). The right and proper response to crimes against humanity is overwhelming public disdain, the effect of which is sadly diminished in this age where money will cause selective amnesia in important folk.
posted by JHarris at 1:55 PM on June 16, 2012


the state financed BBC

my wallet is lighter by £150 per annum, so I beg to disagree with that.
posted by dash_slot- at 1:56 PM on June 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Astrological note: Rupert Murdoch is a Cancer, and his star sign is Pisces.

Astrological question: Shouldn't that be rising sign ?
posted by y2karl at 1:57 PM on June 16, 2012


>Astrological note: Rupert Murdoch is a Cancer, and his star sign is Pisces.

Astrological question: Shouldn't that be rising sign ?


No.

Rupert Murdoch, Born March 11, 1931, 11:55 PM is a Pisces, Sagittarius Ascendant. Sun conjunct Mercury in its detriment Pisces, in the Third House. Mars-Pluto-Jupiter stellium in Cancer. Saturn opposition Mars and Pluto. Venus opposition Mars. A very nasty birth chart.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:18 PM on June 16, 2012


We didn't go to war for oil, we went to war for ratings.
posted by Mick at 2:20 PM on June 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Correction, Capricorn Ascendant. ASC was right on the cusp.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:23 PM on June 16, 2012


Oh dammit, Merc/Sun 4th house. Well that blows my theory.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:24 PM on June 16, 2012


He's a Goat, in Chinese.
posted by stbalbach at 2:24 PM on June 16, 2012


Ode to Flatulent Paradigms:

I spit my metaphors into the wind, toss my analogies into the trash. My paradigms collapse one after the other, not burst, but more like the stopper popping out of a birthday balloon, the ignoble sound of escaping flatulence. I am beyond fury, but not yet free from fear.

Kicking over rocks, out crawls little demons: I face them, crimes that stun me into a cringing ball of bleeding whimper.
Homicide by the hundreds of thousands,
Bales of shrink-wrapped hundred dollar bills being hauled away on pallets with forklifts,
Torture, of them, of us, in the name of freedom,
Political crimes on an international scale,
Our top leaders in a position to be tried for war crimes...not here, never here.

More, I guess, but it's depressing to try to remember how it worked, especially when people seemed to be falling all over themselves to twist it into a full-blown beating drum event covered with the flag.
No, not just the best of Old Glory, but the worst of the Stars & Bars.
Glazed eyes on our children, up on the wall, trying to defend us.
Dying for us, even when they come home.
Have we won yet?

Dissenters are terrorists. They are Socialists.
Whistle blowers are cheerfully thrown in jail.
Habeas corpus is in a cage in Cuba.

The world turned upside down, and stayed it that way for ten years.
Now it's supposed to be right side up again, but I think it only made a ninety-degree twist to the left, and we're really going sideways at the speed of darkness.
Sunlight exposes the very least of the crimes, now, but we lift up the corner of a newly invented rug to sweep it under while we all try to feel good about ourselves again.
Glassy eyes and secret handshakes. All is well.
My complicity shames me.
My impotence makes me shudder.

I'm sure I have missed something, but please don't remind me what it might be.

Don Henley told me: They're pickin' up the prisoners And puttin em in a pen And all she wants to do is dance, dance...

I guess we had it coming.
posted by mule98J at 2:39 PM on June 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Under the international humanitarian law as it exists today, it's hard to argue that encouraging a public official to engage in military action, even of questionable legality, could expose the private citizen to liability for atrocities committed in the course of that military action. This isn't direct incitement to crimes, I don't think it qualifies as a joint commission of any kind either.
posted by 1adam12 at 2:57 PM on June 16, 2012


Don Henley told me

Don Henley's solo albums are shocking prescient. I listen to Building The Perfect Beast and The End Of The Innocence regularly still, and they sound like they were written about 2012, not the 1980s.
posted by hippybear at 3:06 PM on June 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Under the international humanitarian law as it exists today

Yes, the Corporate Overlords who have taken over Western Gov't have done an amazing job of walking the line on the letter of the law, while shitting all over the spirit of the law.
posted by Flood at 3:08 PM on June 16, 2012


Yes, the Corporate Overlords who have taken over Western Gov't have done an amazing job of walking the line on the letter of the law, while shitting all over the spirit of the law.
What on earth are you talking about? Where in the "spirit" of international humanitarian law do you find an intention to hold private persons criminally responsible for expressing support for particular government policies?
posted by planet at 3:26 PM on June 16, 2012


We didn't go to war for oil, we went to war for ratings.

We went to war for money, just like always.
posted by Mooski at 3:34 PM on June 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


"He said we were dealing, however right we thought it was, with a US 'war of choice'..."

Given that they know that it's a "war of choice" and all the WMD stuff is bullshit, why do they make the choice to support the war? Yes, the Bush administration would get all pissy and threaten to be unpleasant, but surely Britain could ride out a few years of an unhappy US president.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 4:06 PM on June 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can we dust off the nice oldie "Merchant of Death" on this one?
posted by Atreides at 4:11 PM on June 16, 2012


As an Australian I appreciate that Murdoch became un Australian - Which ironical in that "un Australian" in an epithet his greasy little publications frequently bestow on anyone they don't like.
posted by the noob at 4:15 PM on June 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Guys, you forgot the Australian horoscope sign for him, where he's an Irredeemable Plague on Humanity.
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:23 PM on June 16, 2012


Well, interesting. I've been laboring under the misconception that FOX news was the media wing of the Republican party when, in reality, the Republican party is apparently the American political wing of FOX news.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:24 PM on June 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


Rupert Murdoch is a Cancer

Yeah, you had it right the first time, I think. He's a cancer alright.
posted by spitbull at 4:30 PM on June 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I've been laboring under the misconception that FOX news was the media wing of the Republican party when, in reality, the Republican party is apparently the American political wing of FOX news."

Or, as they say in (U.K.) English, "It's the Sun Wot Won It."
posted by markkraft at 4:38 PM on June 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


(In all honesty, can we say at this point that Fox News' obvious partisanship and cult-of-personality *didn't* win Bush reelection in 2004?
posted by markkraft at 4:41 PM on June 16, 2012


In all honesty, can we say at this point that Fox News' obvious partisanship and cult-of-personality *didn't* win Bush reelection in 2004?

I had been under the impression that it was overly-vigerous purging of voter rolls combined with nearly (if not actually) criminal mismanagement of the election process in Ohio and unverifiable election results due to black box electronic voting machines which gave Bush the number of electoral votes necessary for him to win in 2004, but I'd be happy to entertain other notions.
posted by hippybear at 5:02 PM on June 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


All his troubles in Britain haven't stopped Murdoch's tentacles from creeping forward elsewhere. He just bought a TV channel here in Finland.
posted by Anything at 5:06 PM on June 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yet another reason to tax the rich, so they don't feel free to start tax expensive wars for personal profit.
posted by Brian B. at 7:32 PM on June 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't think any private person or single corporation should own a media empire. There are some areas of the economy which must be guarded particularly carefully, because it is an integral part of the political system - media being the fourth estate. Special rules should apply. No more Murdochs, Hearsts, Beaverbrooks. A private person or a single corporation may own ONE newspaper chain, or radio chain or TV station, but not multiple ones across the globe. Too much concentrated power.
posted by VikingSword at 9:26 PM on June 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


In all honesty, can we say at this point that Fox News' obvious partisanship and cult-of-personality *didn't* win Bush reelection in 2004?

Swift boaters maybe more to blame, the character assassination of Kerry was a big part of it. Fox helped with that, for sure, but the swift boaters got plenty of coverage outside the bubble and ran paid ads.

I'd add Kerry's confused reaction to Iraq, you know, voting for it then running against it as a fatal flaw in the campaign. We didn't need Rupert Murdoch to convince anyone to go for Iraq here, plenty of Democratic politicians were making the case themselves.

Kerry, in October 2002, declared his belief that "Iraq has some lethal and incapacitating agents and is capable of quickly producing weaponizing of a variety of such agents, including anthrax, for delivery on a range of vehicles, such as bombs, missiles, aerial sprayers and covert operatives which would bring them to the United States itself."
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:00 PM on June 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Recently listened to an interesting interview on KCRW where author Ben Fountain noted what is possibly the most unpopular thing in the United States to mention: that soldiers walking around in desert camo, maybe in the airport or the shopping mall are just advertisement for the business of war.
posted by four panels at 10:21 PM on June 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


I don't think any private person or single corporation should own a media empire. There are some areas of the economy which must be guarded particularly carefully, because it is an integral part of the political system - media being the fourth estate. Special rules should apply. No more Murdochs, Hearsts, Beaverbrooks. A private person or a single corporation may own ONE newspaper chain, or radio chain or TV station, but not multiple ones across the globe. Too much concentrated power.

Welcome to Standard Oil.
posted by jaduncan at 11:39 PM on June 16, 2012


Yeah, you had it right the first time, I think. He's a cancer alright.

Dennis Potter named his cancer Rupert.
posted by veedubya at 2:28 AM on June 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


So half a million dead iraqis for better advertisement profit? And the conceivable punishment is simply some administrative break up?

We will never get anywhere, we won't even progress a fucking millimeter until thousands of head roll.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 3:55 AM on June 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I see no difference between corporate financed media and government media.

At the very least - commercials.
posted by srboisvert at 7:15 AM on June 17, 2012


this is not exactly Bond super villain territory , I think

Crazy foreigner with a crazy foreign accent worth billions of dollars, possesses satellites in orbit about the earth, attended to by a hot, also foreign, younger woman who punches out rude interlocutors?

I'd say Murdoch pretty much ticks all the Super Villain boxes.
posted by notyou at 7:36 AM on June 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Depends... does he have a cat?
posted by Grangousier at 7:50 AM on June 17, 2012


I don't think any private person or single corporation should own a media empire.

In the past, the FCC has agreed with you— until a wave of deregulation in the late 90s and early '00s, it was forbidden for the same owner to own both a major newspaper and a major broadcast station in the same market. IIRC there were other restrictions aimed at preventing all the major newspapers in a market from coming from the same source. Most of those rules are gone now.
posted by hattifattener at 11:18 AM on June 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


In the past, the FCC has agreed with you— until a wave of deregulation in the late 90s and early '00s, it was forbidden for the same owner to own both a major newspaper and a major broadcast station in the same market. IIRC there were other restrictions aimed at preventing all the major newspapers in a market from coming from the same source. Most of those rules are gone now.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:19 AM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


crazy foreign accent worth billions of dollars

And that's just the accent!
posted by Anything at 9:55 AM on June 19, 2012


Blair blocked Cabinet from hearing legal advice on Iraq: MPs demand recall of Chilcot inquiry to question former PM over revelation in Campbell diaries
posted by homunculus at 10:50 AM on June 24, 2012


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