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(O'Rourke) - The View From the Couch: Murdoch's Death Book

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I think it was another curmudgeon, H.L. Mencken, who long ago said, "It's a free press as long as you own one." In my book on the 1996 presidential campaign I pointed out that Rupert Murdoch started Fox News in 1996 to put a Republican in the presidency in 2000. He, by the way, succeeded. In the old days, getting older all the time, people bought newspapers to wield political power in their home towns, to get individuals elected who would be beholden to them. Nowadays, you can't even get anyone to buy a newspaper. The Chicago Sun-Times, my old outlet, still can't get anyone to buy it. Owning a newspaper isn't sufficient power anymore, even in small cities, much less larger ones.

You have to be able to buy a television network and a cable outlet to have that sort of power now. And Rupert Murdoch, the conservative Aussie, controls a large portion of American public opinion. He even started a weekly journal of "opinion", The Weekly Standard, to get to the right wing "elite." I think he just sold that to another right wing troglodyte. The age of newspapers, alas, is over. Murdoch is the old style, pre-WWII style of newsman; he's yellow journalism through and through. Post-WWII, the fraud of "objective" journalism was visited upon the profession, in an attempt to lift it in the public mind and make the product more corporate and benign. To fool readers into thinking they weren't getting the opinion of the owners from the news. Oh, that's what the editorial page is for! Please. It's what you choose to write about, as well as how you write about it. But, don't get me wrong, I'm all for Yellow Journalism (named after the color of the paper used by lively big city newspapers of that era.) Murdoch, if nothing else, has a taste for irony and parody, since he uses "fair and balanced" as Fox News' slogan. They retain the pretense that they are just that, not the media cudgel they actually are. What is worse is that other network news organizations keep up the sham that they too are "objective", giving cover to the blatant editorializing of the news that goes on at Fox (and much more ineffectually elsewhere.)

This is in response to the "Death Book" story by Chris Wallace, the dainty guy and wayward son of Mike Wallace (star of 60 Minutes, which has been puffed up over and over the last week with the death of its founder, Don Hewitt.) I met Chris Wallace long ago when he was a cub reporter for the Boston Globe. But his treatment of the VA's booklet for end-of-life discussion is so beyond the pale, so retch making, he should be ashamed of himself. I guess, given his life-long rivalry with his famous father, he'll do anything to advance his career. He has more or less sold his soul to Rupert Murdoch.

The so-called "Death Book" is the same vocabulary as the bogus "Death panels" of Sarah Palin's lurid imagination. And on the same Sunday Wallace show (Fox News Sunday), the loathsome Arlen Specter, newly re-christened as a Democratic Senator, went along with the mock horror of such a publication and said he would look into an investigation of the VA to put a stop to it. All this makes me sick. President Obama knows how to dance with the so-called "liberal" media (supposedly everything but Fox News), but he sure doesn't know how to spar with the likes of Rupert Murdoch. The Death Book is news only to Fox News, but that is how it works, making up "news" in the hope it will advance Murdoch's life and loves, money and power. Murdoch is hoping to write a Death Book for Health Care reform. And he well may, given Obama's wavering. I hope the president is enjoying Martha's Vineyard.

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