A Warning for America From two Former Prime Ministers

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When two former Prime Ministers from one of the leading democracies in the world sound the alarm about Fox News, and specifically, the sprawling media empire of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, it’s time our elected politicians in America stop sitting on their asses and do something.

While Fox has been spewing its brand of hate, division, and lies over here for decades now, in some ways, it’s comforting to know that it’s not just happening over here. Australia, too is suffering from the same infection. It appears that their parliament has begun to take it serious enough to conduct an inquiry into the media giant, spurred on by a petition signed by 500,000 Australian citizens and initiated by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Both Rudd and one of his successors, former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, testified on April 12 to parliament about the dangers of News Corp and its threat to democracies worldwide. Turnbull did not mince words: “News Corp outlets were utterly liberated from the truth,” he said. “They don’t care about lying; they don’t care about making stuff up.” Rudd called News Corp a “cancer on democracy.”

Both are well aware of the events of January 6, 2020, at our nation’s Capitol and Trumbull lays much of the blame squarely on Fox News’ continuous and blatant rhetoric that the 2020 election was fraudulent.

“What does Vladimir Putin want to do with his operations in America? He wants to divide America and turn Americans against each other,” he said. “That is exactly what Murdoch has done: Divided Americans against each other and so undermined their faith in political institutions that a mob of thousands of people, many of them armed, stormed the Capitol.” Indeed.

It’s a pretty sad state of affairs when political leaders from other countries worldwide have a better take on what’s happening in America than do its own elected officials. Republicans in Congress would much rather talk about anything else, unfortunately. It’s time to move on, they say. Yet, it’s pretty clear that the rest of the world grasped the enormity of what happened on January 6.

And why would that be? Because whether we like it or not, the rest of the free world sees our democracy as the crown jewel, the one beacon of light that shines on regardless of its imperfections and setbacks. If America comes within an eyelash of coming apart at the seams, the rest of the world takes notice. And so too, it seems, do the autocratic leaders currently in power in places like Russia, China, Hungary, Poland, and Brazil, to name a few.

Those strong-armed leaders are watching and watching closely. While Republicans would like you and me to think January 6 was nothing but a few malcontents getting a little carried away, Putin and others like him see it as a way to put the whole idea of democracy in question. Fueled by the rise in white nationalism here, the insurrection also gave authoritarian governments around the world even more credence to their own divisive and hateful movements.

In other words, the same kind of crap Fox News pushes on a nightly basis. “He wants to divide America and turn Americans against each other.” Ominous words from a former Prime Minister, and spot-on. It’s precisely what they do at that network, and they’ve managed to convince a relatively large part of this country that people who don’t look like them are not to be trusted. Oh, and the scientists and other elitists? You can’t trust them either.

Yet, they’re allowed to continue saying whatever the hell they want because we have something in America called the First Amendment, and it’s a slippery slope when we ever go down the road of trying to curtail people’s right to free speech. So what can we do about it?

In Australia’s case, the inquiry that Rudd spearheaded with his petition surrounds the idea of media concentration and ownership. The idea is that News Corp is becoming too big, owning several print publications and other media outlets and broadcast networks.

Here, though, it’s even more complicated than whether certain media companies are too large or whether one media company should be able to own multiple print, online, and broadcast media in specific markets. It’s an argument we need to have in this country. But not now.

What’s really at issue is that folks on Fox can say anything they want, regardless of whether it’s provably false or not. And what we need to ask ourselves is whether we’re ok with a network that spouts conspiracy theories and outright lies that continue to put Americans in danger. Is it free speech, or should we start labeling it dangerous speech? Is there not a difference?

We’ve got to do something about it. Rudd and Turnbull know the danger News Corp poses to their country, and they also know what it’s doing to America through its TV network Fox News. Perhaps Australia will answer with legislation limiting what types of media a specific individual or corporation can own. Or, maybe they’ll end up doing nothing.

The bottom line, though, is that democracies around the world are under assault. And when the leading nation of the so-called free world is nearly overrun by a bunch of flag-waving lunatics trying to overthrow an election, we better wake the hell up.

I’m not well-versed in Australian politics’ inner workings, but I know a little about what’s going on over here. And it’s not good. One of our political parties has long left the building, at least as far as feeling a sense of patriotism and love for our form of government. Who the hell knows what they care about anymore?

After 9/11, we came together as a country, at least for a while. We all felt the pain of that day, and both political parties managed to stand on the steps of the Capitol to sing God Bless America. Remember that? It seems so long ago. So much has changed in 20 years. It’s a wonder we can even name a post office anymore without partisan bickering and backstabbing.

But maybe the answer we seek is a simple one. Perhaps we should start requiring news outlets to begin carrying a public service message before a program begins. Something along the lines of this: The program you’re about to see does not necessarily reflect the views of management and whose intent is for, but not exclusive to, the entertainment of our viewers.

Perhaps that statement sounds somewhat familiar because it’s similar to what Fox’s lawyers argued in a recent lawsuit targeting Tucker Carlson for slander. In part, the judge’s opinion read like this: The “’general tenor’ of the show should then inform a viewer that Carlson is not ‘stating actual facts’ about the topics he discusses and is instead engaging in ‘exaggeration’ and ‘non-literal commentary.’”

She then wrote: “Fox persuasively argues, that given Mr. Carlson’s reputation, any reasonable viewer ‘arrives with an appropriate amount of skepticism’ about the statement he makes.”

If Fox hosts had to precede their shows with something similar, maybe it would, at the very least, inform their viewers that much of what they say is nothing but bullshit.

If that’s what it takes to help save our democracy, why wouldn’t we make them do it?

16 comments

  1. Great post, Jeff! Just this morning, after hearing of Tucker Carlson’s idiotic claim about the Derek Chauvin verdict, that something needs to be done about Fox. Burn it down was my first thought, but of course I would go to prison for that, and with my luck I’d have to share a cell with Chauvin! A disclaimer is a decent idea, but I’d be harsher … something like “There is no truth to anything you will hear on this network — this network exists only for entertainment, not for truth”. Sadly, some 40% of this nation are not well-educated enough to discern for themselves that the Fox opinions are false, and they hang on every word of Hannity, Ingraham, Pirro, Carlson and others. Cooler heads simply must prevail … there must be some restraints on the “right to free speech”, else within the coming decade, we will lose it altogether. I shall re-blog this evening.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Jill for the reblog! I think I like your disclaimer better! That network really is a danger to our country. I turned it on for one damn minute, only to hear the idiot Carlson blaming Maxine Waters and Biden for the jury verdict. You’ve got to be kidding me!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. They are a danger, indeed! Far too many people refuse to use their brains, refuse to find other sources to verify what they hear on Fox, but instead lap it all up and then repeat it to their equally-ignorant friends. Our system of education obviously needs some work, for we are turning out an increasing number of people who are content to take one opinion without questioning it. Tucker Carlson is among the worst of the lot, and the most dangerous with his damn ‘replacement theory’ that people believe to be true. Sigh.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Jeff, I went a different route on a Mid-week Musings piece. Carlson, Hannity, Ingraham, Rivera, etc. as well as Maddow and O’Donnell are opinion hosts, basically entertainers telling people what they want to hear. Their opinions are not as well informed as their smugness would make you believe, so they all should be taken with a grain of salt. While Maddow and O’Donnell tend to be better grounded in facts, they are still stating an opinion and often are over-dramatic. I would encourage people NOT to get news from any of these sources and seek out real news sources. I do not watch any of the sources I noted above for this reason. Keith

    https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2021/04/21/mid-week-musings-2/

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I hear you Keith. I do watch Maddow and O’Donnell but they certainly aren’t my only source. I read Washington Post, USA Today, Reuters etc.. I try to get as much perspective as I can. I just do not watch Fox. Not for anything longer than a minute or two just to see what crap they’re spewing.
      As for the news on MSNBC, usually during the day it’s much more news based, while the night time hosts are more opinion. Personally, none of those Fox Hosts can hold a candle to Maddow. She’s very fact based in her reporting, but yes, she’s a liberal. However, she actually won an Emmy for her reporting on the Flint, MI water crisis. I can’t think of any kind of award Fox News would ever receive unless it’s the “Most told Lies” award. Anyway, I get your perspective Keith, and totally respect it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Jeff, you are right Maddow and even O’Donnell are a cut above their Fox counterparts, but the idea of the network is to be biased source like Fox but to the left leaning folks. Maddow does her homework, but she could be less of an entertainer at times for my taste. I choose to watch neither network for that purpose. Keith

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on Filosofa's Word and commented:

    The First Amendment Freedom of Speech … how far does it go? Too far? These days, in the age of conspiracy theories and faux news as promoted by the likes of Fox ‘News’, it seems that perhaps it’s time to place a few constraints on that freedom. As I’ve long said, every ‘right’ is accompanied by a responsibility, and for the past decade or more, far too many have shrugged off the responsibility. Our friend Jeff has written his thoughts, and the thoughts of other well-qualified people, on this topic. Thanks Jeff!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m grateful that FOX News doesn’t have a direct presence in the UK! When I was checking the websites on the day of the Presidential Elections, I knew FOX was to be avoided at all costs. I’ve never seen such bias from ‘journalists’.

    Liked by 1 person

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