Left-wingers like to imagine Rupert Murdoch as some sort of James Bond villain – a global media mogul who ruins the international socialist agenda with feisty tabloids and right-wing TV hacks.
No one imagines that more than National Public Radio, which fired Juan Williams for daring to associate with “The O’Reilly Factor.” NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik has obsessed over Murdoch for years and now has a new book out called “Murdoch’s World.” On Monday’s Morning Edition, NPR promoted its own reporter’s book, and his finding that “there’s a cruelty to his journalism,” that he’s “punitive” with political opponents.
As might be expected, the liberals are blind to the idea that liberal media outlets are “punitive” to conservatives. The Washington Post never wrote crummy stories from Mitt Romney's teenage years? The New York Times or "60 Minutes" or HBO was never cruel to Sarah Palin? What about NPR savaging Mother Teresa when she died? When I suggested this to Folkenflik on Twitter, he shot back “Surely you jest.” This is how the almost eight-minute interview ended:
STEVE INSKEEP, anchor: You've been talking about Rupert Murdoch, who is one of those intensely polarizing figures. People despise him. People love him. I wonder if you felt yourself pulled into either camp as you were trying to understand Rupert Murdoch, or if you felt that nobody really understood what this guy was.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK: There are ways in which I very much admire Rupert Murdoch. I admire the fact that he wants to imagine bigger things. He wants to figure out ways to reach people. You can look at a guy like Rupert Murdoch and look at what The Sun does with the page three topless girls and with phone hacking and bribery in Britain. And you can also look at the fact that he's also subsidized the Times of London and the Times Literary Supplement and other fairly thoughtful publications that have lost money.
At the same time, there's a cruelty to his journalism. There is a desire to be punitive at times to people who are critics or people who are political opponents.
Murdoch’s outlets are “conservative” media, but their opponents aren’t liberal, not inside the liberal media bubble of denial:
FOLKENFLIK: He very much cultivated this notion that the people who worked for him were swashbuckling buccaneers fighting against these elites at the [ahem, liberal] BBC and the New York Times and places like that.
INSKEEP: Newspapers and TV channels run by News Corp have taken a strong conservative line, even though Rupert Murdoch himself is considered somewhat less conservative on many issues.
Folkenflik then discussed how Murdoch was convinced by Al Gore and Tony Blair that climate change was a serious issue, and committed News Corp. to reduce its carbon footprint – but didn’t force that viewpoint into the news product:
INSKEEP: Well, I want to make sure I understand this, because you're telling me that Rupert Murdoch himself has acknowledged the importance of climate change, and yet his own publications have continued to reflect profound skepticism about something that he himself believes is real.
FOLKENFLIK: Well, I think it's a confluence of political conviction and a canny business sense. I think that Fox News has found it to its advantage to play up doubts, that it plays up to a certain very loyal, large part of its core audience. I would say the same for the Wall Street Journal's editorial page, although I would point out that I think it was doing that independently of the Murdochs well before the purchase in 2007 and, you know, has maintained a consistent conservative tone that is to the right of Mr. Murdoch.
Once again, are to guess that NPR doesn’t have a “canny” sense of playing up to “a certain very loyal large part of its core audience”? Or can its incessant liberalism never be strategic at the risk of being less than fully idealistic?