Friday, December 31, 2010

Corruption is...Part III: Beck and Murdoch – the Terrible Two

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The following article is part III of III from guest author, Paul WestlakeHe  is a 23-year media veteran with a professional background in film, video and multimedia production, video journalism, sports journalism, music composition, advertising, and political communications. He currently teaches performance and production at a broadcasting school in New York and consults on a wide variety of media-related projects, from developing educational DVDs to pitching clients to networks for interview programs. Paul has a BA in Liberal Arts from The New School, a Broadcasting Certificate from the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, and a Teacher License endorsed by the NY State Education Dept. Paul is the blogger behind Journo Watch and a frequent commenter on the Mediaite news media blog. The purpose of this essay is to provide a better understanding of the context that allows Glenn Beck to engage in his manipulative propaganda.

P. Westlake

Beck and Murdoch – The Terrible Two

Rupert Murdoch is losing money with Glenn Beck. Let me say that again. Rupert Murdoch is losing money with Glenn Beck. According to Angelo Carusone, founder of, 141 companies refuse to allow their ads to run on Glenn Beck’s Fox News program. The NY Times places that number at 302. And that’s just in the United States. His block of airtime on Fox News International in the United Kingdom has run commercial-free for nearly nine months. An analysis and accompanying article by Jim Edwards (former AdWeek Managing Editor) for CBS BNET this past July revealed that only 12 of 27 ad slots were actually used for fully-paid commercials during Beck’s program, including one by Nestle that the company says was aired in that slot by mistake. Edwards’ analysis makes the assumption that Beck’s remarks about president Obama being a racist “with a deep-seated hatred for white people” is at the root of the ad drought. While there can be no doubt that the remarks made an impact, it is more likely the sustained efforts of people like Mr. Carusone that have been the decisive factor. Either way, the important truth is that Beck is a money-loser for Fox News, Newscorp and Rupert Murdoch.


Even though Beck spends most of his time at a chalk board, his show is not cheap to produce or air. It takes a full team of full-time staffers, so-called researchers, and whole ranks of technicians to pump Glenn Beck out to the masses. And the satellite fees alone would be a prohibitive factor to his airing in the UK by any other sensible television operation. The only business reason to send his show across the pond is if the advertising revenue exceeds the cost of transmission, or if another program that would run in its place would constitute a net negative on the bottom line. Neither of those conditions is true without advertisers on Beck’s program. No matter what was produced in his place, any other program would make more money because it would garner the sponsors Beck can no longer acquire. You could run static pictures of puppies in hats for a full hour and make more money than Glenn Beck. Why does Murdoch, a business tycoon, put up with a financial loss? That Rupert Murdoch is willing to lose money, and not just a little money but a fortune, on airing Glenn Beck every day, is where the rubber of corruption meets the road.

People the world over have come to terms with the way Wall Street works. Many of us don’t like it, but we get it. CEOs and their officers have a fiduciary responsibility, codified in law, mandating that they do everything in their power within the limits of the law to maximize profits for their shareholders, including the occasional cut corners and greased palms.(1) We know how it works, and as long as nobody is getting seriously hurt in the process, we accept it. That’s life – nothing personal, it’s just business. So then, how do we explain one of the most successful media moguls of our era making such obviously counter-productive business decisions? How can a man who openly prides himself on pursuing profit above all other things consistently fail to make the obvious business decision of replacing Glenn Beck’s show with something that can actually turn a profit? Leave aside the gross marketplace distortions caused by horizontal integration (the reason Teddy Roosevelt was a trust-buster in the first place) that enables Murdoch to lose money on his pet projects, from Glenn Beck to the Wall Street Journal, and consider that this is not a manifestation of John D. Rockefeller. John D, who once saidcompetition is a sin,” went out of his way to eliminate any and all competitors, using some seriously unethical and even violent tactics, so he could control as much of a market sector as possible and raise prices without worrying about losing customers. But in John D’s case, he was trying to create a monopoly. Criminal and immoral? You bet. But did it lack business savvy? No way. There’s a Rockefeller Center in New York City for a reason.

Murdoch is not like John D. As we have already explored in the first two parts of this piece, Fox News uses the rest of the so-called “lamestream media” as a foil for their own propaganda. Fox News’ brand of advocacy “journalism” depends on having detractors to maintain its underdog status and prop up the credibility of the very concepts of “fair and balanced.” Without CBS and NBC, Fox wouldn’t be half what it is today. So the last thing Rupert Murdoch really wants is a monopoly on the airwaves. Without his detractors, he has no crosses to bear, and without crosses to bear, “fair and balanced” loses its luster. It is precisely because “fair and balanced” is sold as being thrown in the teeth of the grinding “liberal” media machine that it has purchase with the Fox News audience in the first place. If that “liberal” machine were to disappear as a result of Fox’s success, Fox would lose its appeal as an underdog and could rapidly lose its very reason for being. Fox needs the audience it has. They cannot remake themselves and garner a new demographic, they cannot stop feeding the red meat that makes their viewers hopping mad, they cannot at any time relent in their paranoid attacks on all things “other,” all for fear of losing their loyal audience.

There are two ways to make money in this world – honestly and dishonestly. In America, that translates to one of two conditions – with or without lobbyists on Capitol Hill. (Guess which is which.) But lobbyists can only go so far. Politicians need cover for enacting policies that very obviously benefit a select few at the expense of our entire economy and way of life, and media consolidation has been at the vanguard of those efforts for decades. There is a case to be made that the vast majority of the mainstream media is actually biased in favor of corporate priorities, but I won’t make it here. The larger point is simply that controlling the messaging systems helps control the policy. It doesn’t always work but it’s better than not having any control at all, at least from the perspective of a person trying to make money dishonestly. But when legitimate journalists can’t be controlled enough to squelch important news or prevent an investigation that would reveal immoral and possibly criminal activities, there is another method that can be employed to stop the bad news – attack the messenger. But the problem with attacking the messenger yourself is that everyone expects it. It’s like Roger Clemens attacking the guy who gave him steroids – nobody is either surprised or convinced. So when ABC or CNN or NPR comes out with a story that doesn’t bode well for the inter-connected and deeply incestuous corporate elite, who you gonna call? Fox busters!

The recent revelations about the US Chamber of Commerce and it’s multitude of tentacles in every pie, from anonymous political ad campaigns to influence peddling in foreign lands, should serve as plenty of evidence that the global corporate community is very much in cahoots with itself and any power player they can bring into the fold. Let there be no doubt that Murdoch (and his puppet, Ailes) are on the speed dials of many CEO cell phones. When an entire day, or week, of programming is devoted to “debunking” some story being reported on other outlets, that’s the direct result of one of those phone calls. Think of it as a football game. The running back (corporate elite) has the ball, and he’s about to be tackled by a linebacker (mainstream news story), when an offensive lineman (Fox News anchor) grabs the linebacker from behind and holds him back. In football, that’s called “holding,” and it’s a penalty (10 yards from the spot of the foul). Now, imagine the refs are the American people and we just blew the whistle for the holding call. In steps Glenn Beck with the challenge flag.

Beck is there to make the most outrageous claims imaginable. Beck is a self-described rodeo clown with a background in totally irreverent “morning zoo” radio. What better person to ask to make the outrage of the day than a person who is fearless, obnoxious, and totally ignorant? Savvy and intelligent, yes. But also deeply ignorant and uneducated. And it this lack of context that enables Beck to fire up his passion for things he doesn’t understand in any depth. Yes, he knows how to put the words together, and he has kind of a picture of what he’s trying to say, but his constant contradictions make it clear that he’s parroting someone else. His prep work every day begins with reading someone’s email and then figuring out how to work the day’s propaganda into his planned media culture shtick. And this is what makes all the money he costs Rupert Murdoch worth it. He is a genius at turning the corporate outrage of the day into a populist paean to culture. You can’t teach that. He has it naturally as part of his background as a fake (you don’t get a morning zoo job without being a good fake). And all the money Beck costs Murdoch comes back multifold in the form of deals, advertising, cross-promotes, joint ventures, and, perhaps even, all kinds of kickbacks, which is unproven but probably wouldn’t be too hard to find should anyone ever care to dig it up.

For thirty years, the corporate elite have conspired to remake the global economy in their image. There is information all over the web that can edify the reader on that point. While Lloyd Blankfein may be the chairman of that board, Murdoch is its press secretary. Murdoch serves the function of propagandist in chief to his cabal of corporate pals, and he’s outsourced the job to Glenn Beck. One of the best analogies I’ve ever encountered to describe this phenomenon was shared with me by Glenn Beck Review but comes from the comment section on Mediaite
Here’s the big picture about Rupert Murdoch. He is a modern day Joseph Goebbels, the charismatic propagandist who created and controlled all the media in the buildup to Hitler’s takeover of Germany and who inspired and brainwashed the German people to think they could take over the world. Goebbel’s contribution to media lore was the creation of the “Big Lie”. If you keep making preposterous statements people will eventually buy into the lies and distortions of truth. The British rejection of Murdoch is understandable in that they sense that Murdoch already has enough power in Britain and giving him more control would only continue to debase their culture. Murdoch already owns a number of newspapers and cable outlets and Brits have access on cable and the Internet to such Fox personalities as O’Reilly, Hannity and Beck, and definitely don’t want these cynical, lying, pandering characters to be on mainstream television in Britain. The BBC and the commercial TV companies in England are light years ahead of mainstream TV companies in this country in responsibly serving the public. It’s like the National Health System in Britain which despite the propaganda barrage here is supported by over 90% of people in Britain. Many Americans have been easily taken in by Murdoch and the cynics in his employ. It’s not all Americans, but mostly white, disaffected and semi-educated people bitter about the social and economic changes that we’re undergoing who watch Fox. Murdoch’s lust for more power and his subservience to our more backward corporative elements that will eventually bring about his downfall, and I applaud the British people for their commonsense in rejecting Murdoch’s reach for more power and control of their media.”
~~ ganymede December 28, 2010 at 3:23 pm

Beck, and by extension, Murdoch, make the world safe for the corrupt. That’s the role they play. It’s not an add-on. It’s not a side-effect. It’s in the job description. The outrages of Beck pile on higher and higher for a reason – they make the slightly lesser outrages on the remainder of Fox "News" seem even less outrageous. Beck makes it safe for other mainstream outlets to squelch liberal stories and promote corporate goals, because next to Beck, they look reasonable. Beck is the statistical outlier that must always be in order to allow the margins of acceptable business practice to expand ever-deeper into the very fabric of our lives. While Beck spews the outrageous and nonsensical lies about "socialist" Obama turning America into a fascist/Communist state, Murdoch’s pals in the corporate elite use their lobbyists to accrue ever-more power and influence over our economies and lives. And while the courtiers (American people) are busy having a food fight with the court jester (Beck), the merchant prince (corporate elite) is slipping out the back with all the King’s gold (our tax dollars). It is the very cornerstone of corruption that is at the foundation of the entire Murdoch enterprise. Beck is now that cornerstone, and cannot be dislodged, by anyone, least of all Murdoch. His very existence depends on it, and his corruption is incomplete without it. Corruption is… the job.

Corruption is… Part I: “We Report, You Decide”

Corruption is...Part II: "Fair and Balanced"

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1)  Domestic examples follow:
Mortgage Kickbacks:
Government Corruption:
Foreign Bribery: