Wednesday, March 02, 2011

What the hell is Rupert Murdoch up to?

"Der Antisemitismus ist der Sozialismus der dummen Kerle"
"Antisemitism is the socialism of fools"

August Bebel

David Seaton's News Links
I am coming to the conclusion that something very strange is going on. 

I come to that conclusion merely starting from the simple premise that a central reason for the world's most powerful media lord being so rich and powerful is that employees of Rupert Murdoch's vast empire are not allowed to do anything that is not productive for Rupert Murdoch.

Murdoch, who besides owning Fox, owns The Wall Street Journal,The Weekly Standard,and many other assorted media in America and abroad, is consciously permitting his employee, Glenn Beck to tread rather heavily upon the toes of Jewish feelings; allowing him to cross red lines of perceived antisemitism, to commit transgressions that today would be career breakers for anyone without Murdoch's powerful backing. Following my original premise, Glenn Beck is no more responsible for the harm he does than a pit-bull is for mauling a child... it is the pit-bull's owner's fault, for unmuzzling him.  Beck's master is Rupert Murdoch.  

An example of how powerful the taboos that Beck is breaking are could be the nearly instantaneous defenestration of the fashion designer, John Galliano

Galliano is considered one of the world's most talented designers, credited with singlehandedly saving the house of Dior from oblivion, but a private, drunken, antisemitic diatribe in a Paris nightclub was enough to send him packing. Here is how a commentator on a NYT article about Galliano compared the two cases:
Too bad that doesn't get Glenn Beck fired here, where he doesn't just say anti-semitic remarks in a bar, but broadcasts them via television and radio to millions of people. We tolerate hate speech when the network has a highly rated host who is a puppet for the views of his bosses. No matter that he is a hate-monger teetering on the edges of sanity. Dior is more responsible than Fox or the FCC. -  "Ground Control" (commenting in the NYT about John Galliano's firing)
The people lining up against Beck are not chopped liver, here is a sample:
Prominent US conservatives have begun to distance themselves from Glenn Beck, the radio and television host, after outbursts warning of a looming caliphate in the Middle East and likening Reform Judaism to “radicalised Islam”.(...)  Mr Beck, a broadcasting and publishing phenomenon with an annual income estimated at $32m, was dubbed “the most disturbing personality on cable television” last week by Peter Wehner, who served in the last three Republican administrations.(...) Jennifer Rubin, who writes a Washington Post column called Right Turn, urged conservative groups and candidates to disassociate themselves from Mr Beck. “If they host, appear with or defend him they should be prepared to have his extremist views affixed to them,” she wrote. The comments follow an article by Bill Kristol, the conservative editor of the Weekly Standard, warning that Mr Beck’s “hysteria” in seeking to link “caliphate-promoters” with figures on the left of US politics was unhealthy.(...) “He’s marginalising himself, just as his predecessors did back in the early 1960s,” Mr Kristol wrote. Mr Beck dismissed Mr Kristol’s remarks as evidence that a Republican “fiefdom” had lost touch with conservatives and was set on preserving its own power. - Financial Times
But Glenn Beck keeps pushing the envelope. Murdoch has got Beck's back and Beck is as cool as a cucumber. Why?

Off the top of my head I can think of two reasons for Murdoch's evident blessing of Beck's flirting with antisemitism and I would love to hear other opinions, but these are the first two that occur to me for the moment. 

One is "reductionist" and the other one is big and fat, but they are not mutually exclusive.

The first one is simply that the extensive market research, focus groups and private polling that Murdoch's organization must certainly do in order to stay in touch with their readers and viewers may have turned up a tolerance or even a "market" for antisemitism in the conspiracy sodden American public, addicted as they are to wild theories of every stripe. In short, this behavior is profitable. I don't think that Murdoch would ever back up Glenn Beck this way for very long if something like that wasn't already on his radar.

This brings me to something fatter and juicier: the immanent collapse of America's traditional foreign policy in the world's oil-patch, the Middle East.

Here is how Thomas Friedman describes the situation in the New York Times:
Add it all up and what does it say? It says you have a very powerful convergence of forces driving a broad movement for change. It says we’re just at the start of something huge. And it says that if we don’t have a more serious energy policy, the difference between a good day and bad day for America from here on will hinge on how the 86-year-old king of Saudi Arabia manages all this change. Thomas Friedman - NYT
Imagine if you will, that a long, hard fought, Libya-like, civil war, broke out in Saudi Arabia, and its oil fields were paralyzed like Libya's as the country imploded and then morphed from a friendly, medieval monarchy into the "Islamic Republic of Mecca and Medina". A US invasion to prevent that, with pork eating marines patrolling the Kaaba, would probably set the entire Muslim world in flames and the "cure" could be much worse than the disease.  Riots and countless acts of terrorism, all over the planet for starters, would probably just be the "good news".

Any version this scenario would send the price of crude oil into the stratosphere, cause a world economic depression, possibly set off World War Three and for sure cost Rupert Murdoch, and all those who sail in him, a lot, but a lot, of money. My feeling is that Murdoch is moving to prevent that outcome.

How might all this fit in with Glenn Beck's strange, paranoid, fantasy world and the millions of viewers who devoutly follow his every program? How might his craziness fit into the surely ice cold calculations of Rupert Murdoch?

This is what occurs to me:

It may be too late, but perhaps the only thing that could shore up the regional prestige of the Saudi monarchy save their throne (and skins) and maybe cool off and distract the Middle East right now would be if the United States could encourage the Israelis to accept the Saudi Peace Initiative. The plan is considered by most observers as the only serious blueprint for true peace in the Middle East. This the resolution that was unanimously approved by the Arab League on March 27th 2002 and re-endorsed in 2007consists of the following:
(a) Complete withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the 4 June 1967 line and the territories still occupied in southern Lebanon; (b) Attain a just solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees to be agreed upon in accordance with the UN General Assembly Resolution No 194. (c) Accept the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied since 4 June 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital. In return the Arab states will do the following: (a) Consider the Arab-Israeli conflict over, sign a peace agreement with Israel, and achieve peace for all states in the region; (b) Establish normal relations with Israel within the framework of this comprehensive peace. Wikipedia
Now it is easy to imagine how much enthusiasm the Israeli right, those who govern Israel, feel about a plan that would mean dismantling all the settlements, giving back East Jerusalem and permitting a fully sovereign Palestinian state to exist in Judea and Samaria... and making some sort of settlement with the refugees of 1948. Of course in theory the United States has the power to make the Israelis accept the Arab Peace Initiative, but you can easily imagine the sort of pressure that AIPAC would bring to bear on the president, the congress and opinion makers to keep the US government from ever applying anything like the pressure necessary. But, if Saudi Arabia is hanging in the balance and with it the entire world economy, this is getting really serious. America depends on cheap energy, is addicted to it. Anything like a dramatic and prolonged rise in oil prices could take us directly to Kunstler and Orlov scenarios. I don't think that some people, in whose number I include Rupert Murdoch, would stop at anything to keep that from happening.

How could Murdoch make AIPAC an offer it couldn't refuse?

At this point we should let the air out of the vicious antisemitic canard which accuses the Jews of controlling the news media. Australian born, of Scottish ancestry, Rupert Murdoch, the world's most powerful media lord, is about as Jewish as a shrimp cocktail. Any support he might have ever given the Jewish people and Israel or ever will give them in the future has been and will be entirely contingent on his interests.

In my opinion Murdoch is using his creature, Glenn Beck, to fire a shot across the Israel lobby's bow. I can think of no other reason for him to allow an employee of his to offend the Jewish people in such a gross manner with such impunity.

The deal is, again in my opinion, either they don't rock the boat in the US establishment's efforts to maintain America's position in the Middle East by keeping Saudi Arabia afloat or Murdoch will send out Glenn Beck to stand in front of millions of American rednecks and Tea Partiers and with his funny little "professorial" glasses on, chalk in hand, go to his huge blackboard and diagram "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" for the folks.  You don't think he is capable of that? Antisemitism is the easiest, cheapest, shot of all, like falling off a log. As the August Bebel quote that tops this page says, "antisemitism is the socialism of fools": Beck's audience would eat it up. Then, if it is convenient for him, Murdoch will bow his head and hang Beck out to dry... but the damage will be done. DS


bailey said...

Interesting article David.

Sometimes I take issue with the way in which you compile your 'posts' but this one is so intriguing, it's content so beautifully collected, adroitly done.

May I say, benissimo.

Publius said...

Agreed. Interesting hypothesis. Time will tell... and probably the second hand, not the minute or hour hands.

I've wondered for years when the inevitable conflict between our desire for "cheap" oil and our support of Israel would manifest itself. This seems to be the time: the Great Arab Awakening is so massive that even AIPAC can't control the fallout. It will be thus proven that AIPAC and the hardliners in Israel have been undermining Israel's security to the point of national suicide.

Anonymous said...

Saudi Arabia is a very tribal society, in which traditions are thoroughly inculcated into subjects' heads.

It's when they try to abolish their traditions overnight, as in Libya and Iran under the Shah, have kings put in by foreigners within living memory (Iraq), or when the economy melts down totally France 1789 that you see revolutions.

Dismal economic times call for a freak show to distract; enter Mr. Beck.

JTBLA said...

Not sure if you saw it, but you are quoted in this terrific James Wolcott piece:

Anonymous said...