A new study of six Murdoch-owned newspapers in Australia reveals that on average eight negative stories appeared about Islam or Muslims per day - and that's just a tiny fraction of the billionaire's global media empire.
“Maybe most Moslems peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible,” media mogul and Australian born billionaire Rupert Murdoch tweeted in 2015.
If one sentence, from just one individual, could encapsulate why and how right-wing terrorism has replaced “jihadist” violence as the Western world’s number one security threat, then this passage from the man who has absolute control over how a majority of Australians, British, and Americans are fed their daily news, is it.
It’s highly likely that when future historians publish their books about the demise of democracy at the hands of authoritarianism and violent sub-national groups, there’ll be a photo of Murdoch looking over the ashes of the Western democratic civilisation we knew in the years spanning the end of the Cold War and start of the “War on Terror.”
Whereas Francis Fukuyama heralded the West’s triumph over Communism in 1991 as the “End of History,” suggesting liberal democracy would ultimately become the exclusive form of governance throughout the world, the Murdoch media empire’s ubiquitous and round-the-clock dissemination of racist, nativist, hyper-nationalist, conspiratorial and counter-factual propaganda and misinformation threatens the foundations of democracy.
There’s no Brexit vote without Murdoch. There’s no Trump without Murdoch. Australia wouldn’t have had an absurd total of 7 prime ministers in 10 years without Murdoch, and the killer of 51 Muslims in New Zealand would have had less inspiration without Murdoch owned media outlets. These outlets have sought to profit from promoting hate and fear of Islam and Muslims.
A newly published discursive analysis of six Murdoch owned newspapers in Australia, which include The Australian, Herald Sun, Daily Telegraph, Courier Mail, and Adelaide Advertiser, accounting for a lion share of the country’s print journalism landscape, found 2,891 negative stories about Islam and Muslims in a single 12 month period (2017), which represents 8 stories per day.
Negative stories about Muslims and Islam were carried on the front pages of 152 daily editions, with six of the “most controversial commentators in the Australian news media” dedicating nearly one-third of their opinion articles to smearing Muslims and their religious faith.
“In every statistic we found, from negative coverage to front-page features to audience write-ins, we came to the same conclusion: the way the media talks about Islam in Australia is disproportionate, divisive, and dangerous,” observe the authors of the report, adding that with “incendiary front-pages…about government and police policy regarding terrorism, a casual observer would not be faulted for thinking that Australia was actively engaged in daily combat on its streets.”
The question must then be asked, is it any wonder the Christchurch mosque terrorist came to view the world, or Australia, as locked in a violent battle against Muslims he deemed “invaders,” and a threat to Australia’s identity, one that had to be reckoned with?
After all, Andrew Bolt, a columnist for the Herald Sun, published a piece titled “The Foreign Invasion,” which accused non-white immigrants, particularly Muslims, of stealing “our identity,” and in another he said “who could blame anti-Muslim vigilantes” if they take up guns against law-abiding Muslims in response to “Islamic” terrorist attacks.
Now given Murdoch owned newspapers account for 59 percent of all daily newspaper sales in Australia, selling a total of 17.3 million newspapers per week, it becomes clear why a slight majority of Australians hold negative views about Muslims, with a plurality supporting a permanent ban on Muslim immigrants, alongside a growing number that espouse the same kind of far-right, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslims views as the terrorist who carried out the attack in Christchurch.
If Murdoch's media houses are growing a chorus of those who hate and fear Muslims in Australia—who express their animus mostly online or in the quiet confines of friendly company—then he’s fueling the ideology for an army of far-right thugs who openly and regularly take to the streets to carry out acts of intimidation and terror against Muslims in Britain’s streets.
Murdoch’s British tabloid newspapers are arguably even more vicious than their Australian counterparts, taking every opportunity to cloak any story involving a Muslim with negative stereotypes, often portraying him/her as backwards or barbaric, while also making every effort to tie Islam to terrorism or criminal behaviour.
“One in Five British Muslims Sympathize for Jihadis,” read the headline to the front page of the Murdoch owned newspaper The Sun on 23rd November 2015, which claimed 20 percent of Muslims in the UK supported those who had joined the terror group ISIS (Daesh).
The problem? The headline was determined by the media watchdog Independent Press Standards Organization (IPSO) to be completely misleading, while another that falsely tied Muslims to terrorism, including “Muslims Silent on Terror,” have been refuted by UK counterterrorism officials, while others such as, “Muslims Tell British: Go to Hell,” and “Muslim Schools Ban Our Culture,” and “Britain Goes Halal,” are commonplace.
The story has since then been deleted from The Sun - but the damage had already been done.
It’s little wonder then that polls reveal more than 50 percent of Brits perceive Islam to be a threat to British values. It follows then that there's been a double-digit year-on-year increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes in the UK, not forgetting the 2017 attack on Finsbury Park mosque by a right-wing extremist who had been radicalised within a month of consuming right-wing, anti-Muslim propaganda.
As for Murdoch’s cable TV channel in the United States - Fox News - one could dedicate an entire book to how the right-wing network has contributed to radicalising Americans into carrying out acts of anti-Muslim terrorism.
The Guardian produced a documentary titled “White Fright,” which narrates a foiled right-wing plot to carry out what would’ve been the largest terrorist attack on US soil since 9/11 in the predominately Muslim village of Islamberg in upstate New York.
During his trial, jurors heard how the leader of the plot, Robert Doggart, a Tennessee minister, and his co-conspirators, had been radicalised into orchestrating the terrorist plot by segments they had watched on Fox News that falsely claimed the village was a “terrorist training camp.”
Sowing hate and fear not only radicalises white men into carrying out acts of terrorism, but also undermines our best weapon against terrorism – social cohesion, and without the glue that keeps our “imagined communities” together, democracy is unable to thrive and prevail.
Furthermore, a healthy and thriving democracy is dependent upon informed voters. If the public is fed misinformation and disinformation, they’ll make choices that run counter to both their personal needs and that of the country. With that said, a 2016 scientific study found that Fox News’ viewers are less informed about current events than those who watch no news at all.
So, this is where we find ourselves today: Murdoch news media is making us ever more violent and less informed about the world around us.
You had a good run.
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