Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.
Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.
Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters
Fox News has traditionally treated bigotry as a core part of its business model. But since the political rise of President Donald Trump, the network’s commentators have adopted talking points that had previously been the province of hardcore white supremacists. The reported manifesto of the gunman who murdered 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso, TX, on Saturday is all but indistinguishable from transcripts ripped from its prime-time shows. This shift is not an accident but a programming decision, one the network has pursued even as its hosts’ racist rhetoric has triggered costly ad boycotts.
Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan Murdoch are ultimately responsible for this toxic programming. Rupert, chairman of parent company Fox Corp., laid the foundation for the shift. He then ceded much of the day-to-day authority to Lachlan, who maintained that heading as the Fox Corp.’s executive chairman and CEO.
Fox is feeding its audience a poisonous stew of bigoted, xenophobic conspiracy theories because that is what the Murdochs want the network to do.
A New York Times Magazine investigation found that in recent years, the Murdochs’ media empire has been “instrumental in amplifying the nativist revolt that was reshaping governments not just in the United States but also across the planet,” with their outlets fueling xenophobia and ethnonationalism to achieve political aims in the U.S., the United Kingdom, and Australia.
In the United States, that meant taking advantage of a rare opportunity to reshape Fox News following the removal of network co-founder Roger Ailes and the swift departures of longtime network hosts Bill O’Reilly, Greta Van Susteren, and Megyn Kelly.
Stepping in as acting CEO to replace Ailes, Rupert responded to the vacancies by giving Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham their own prime-time shows.
As prime-time hosts, Carlson and Ingraham turned their shows into clearinghouses for white supremacist talking points about an “invasion” of migrants, screeds about the systematic “replacement” of white Americans by people of color through immigration, and dire warnings that if something wasn’t done soon, the nation would be imperiled.
In short, Rupert thrust two of the network’s most anti-immigrant personalities into its biggest spotlight and they’ve performed as expected, moving the network closer to Lachlan’s reported goal of solidifying the family’s empire as “an unabashedly nationalist, far-right and hugely profitable political propaganda machine.”
The result has been programming that courts high viewership from Fox’s core audience but also repeatedly led major companies to pull their ads rather than risk associating their brands with bigotry.
Lachlan has been the public face of the company, defending Fox amid criticism from other journalists and advertiser boycotts.
Ingraham’s show drew controversy and bled advertisers throughout 2018, particularly after she tweetedan attack on Parkland, FL, school shooting survivor David Hogg, compared detention centers for immigrant children to “summer camps,” and warned that thanks to immigration, “massive demographic changes have been foisted upon the American people, and they are changes that none of us ever voted for, and most of us don’t like.”
Asked about the criticism the network was taking during a November appearance at The New York Times’ DealBook conference, Lachlan claimed that the “biggest critics of Fox News are not watching Fox News” and argued that people should be more tolerant of the opinions of the networks’ hosts.
Just a month later, Carlson embroiled the network in a firestorm after he argued that immigration makes the United States “poorer, and dirtier, and more divided.” When the dust had settled, two dozen companies had pulled future spots on his show and its ad load was slashed.
The cycle repeated itself earlier this year.
In March, as Fox prepared for an unprecedented early sit-down with ad buyers, controversies involving bigoted comments by Carlson and fellow Fox host Jeanine Pirro brought more devastating headlines and fleeing advertisers.
Two months later, Lachlan again defended the company, telling Wall Street analysts that the ad boycotts were having no effect and that even if they did, “it wouldn’t affect the way we program that channel.”
And now there’s a national debate over how Fox’s inflammatory programming was echoed in a white supremacist terrorist’s manifesto — one that has triggered not internal reflection at the network, but a circling of the wagons. Earlier this week, Carlson delivered another defensive rant on his show, asserting that the idea that white supremacy is a problem in America is a “hoax” and a “conspiracy theory used to divide the country.” The Murdochs stayed silent.
Using the El Paso terrorist's manifesto, I connected the dots for folks still having trouble doing that.
This is just the first page. pic.twitter.com/mQcW3doGNF
— Brandon Friedman (@BFriedmanDC) August 4, 2019
The Murdochs appear to have been every bit as supportive of their hosts’ bigoted commentary in private as they are in public. After Carlson drew criticism for claiming that immigrants make this country “dirtier,” Lachlan reportedly sent him “personal text messages of support.” Rupert reportedly criticized Ingraham last year — for apologizing for her comments about Hogg, which he thought made her appear “weak in the face of negative public sentiment.”
So the Murdochs are the reason Fox’s weeknight prime-time block features segments that are distinguishable from white supremacist YouTube videos only in their production values. The harder question to answer is why. The family has built an international media empire that wields substantial political power on three continents.
Are they actual nationalists who truly agree with Carlson and Ingraham that an invading force of minorities is putting the nation at risk? Or are they simply motivated by instrumentalism, happy to have their employees make those arguments because it bolsters their influence over right-wing governments which then support policies that bolster their own economic standing?
In the end, it hardly matters: Fox has spent the last few years diving ever deeper into a cesspool, and there’s no sign the network plans to change course.
The union I lead, the United Steelworkers (USW), believes in unity, that “all working men and women, regardless of creed, color or nationality” are eligible for membership.
That was the guiding principle of the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC) when it formed in 1937.
I return to that statement in times like these, times when terrorists shoot up mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 50 worshipers; a synagogue in the USW’s hometown of Pittsburgh, killing 11; an African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, killing nine; a Sikh temple near Milwaukee, killing six; a nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 mostly young gay people.
The USW membership eligibility statement is an assertion of inclusion. All working men and women qualify. They can all join. They can all attend local union meetings at which members call each other “brother” and “sister.” This practice creates artificial, but crucial, bonds between them. This solidarity gives the group strength when facing off against massive multinational corporations and demanding decent pay and dignified working conditions.
To erode that solidarity, some billionaire hedge fund owners and multinational CEOs work to divide workers. These wealthy .01 percenters separate people by cultivating hate. Some are the same billionaire sugar daddies of alt-right hate sites like Breitbart and more conventional hate media outlets like Fox News. Investigative journalist Jane Mayer wrote a book about their efforts titled Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.
This hate-mongering sets workaday people against each other. That weakens them politically. And it contributes to false-fear–provoked violence.
Look, the labor movement is far from perfect. A couple of decades ago, African-American USW members had to sue steel corporations and the union to secure equal opportunity. Clearly, we haven’t always lived up to our principles. But the goal of brotherhood and sisterhood among all workers is a noble one that must be strived for. We all sweat together to support ourselves and our families. We all come to each other’s aid when a fellow worker’s home burns down or child falls ill. We stand shoulder to shoulder to demand a just portion of the profits created by our labor.
Exclusion is self-defeating, whether workers belong to a labor union or not. Because every man and woman is needed on deck, we can’t let billionaire hate purveyors like the Mercers and Murdochs split us, in our workplaces or in our communities.
Robert Mercer, 72, who made his billions as a hedge fund manager, is a major funder—more than $10 million—of Breitbart, the website once run by former White House aide Stephen Bannon. This is what the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization devoted to monitoring and exposing domestic hate groups and extremists, wrote about the site:
“In April of 2016, the SPLC documented Breitbart’s embrace of extremist ideas and racist tropes such as black-on-white crime and anti-Muslim conspiracy theories. Further analyses showed how under executive chair Stephen Bannon, Breitbart’s comment section became a safe space for anti-Semitic language.”
Bannon specifically told Mother Jones magazine that Breitbart was the platform for the alt-right, which has lifted anti-Semitic and white supremacist voices.
At the same time, the Mercers, Robert and his daughter Rebekah, were giving millions to right-wing anti-union groups through the Mercer Family Foundation. These include the virulent anti-union Heartland Institute ($6.68 million), Heritage Foundation ($2 million), CATO Institute ($1.2 million) and Manhattan Institute for Policy Research ($2.18 million).
It includes the Center for Union Facts ($900,000), a secretive group for corporations and wealthy individuals who oppose unions and who are willing to fund its lies about labor organizations, and the Freedom Partners Action Fund ($2.5 million), which, in turn, has given millions to anti-union groups like the National Right to Work Committee. And the Mercer Foundation gave $100,000 to the State Policy Network, the umbrella group for 100 state-level organizations devoted to destroying labor organizations.
The media mogul Rupert Murdoch, 88, is a slightly older version of Robert Mercer. He made his feelings about labor unions clear 30 years ago when he moved his London newspaper operations overnight to a barbed-wire–enclosed bunker in the neighborhood of Wapping and told unions he’d fire all workers who did not immediately transfer to the new building and use its new technology. When the print unions resisted, Murdoch fired 5,500 printers.
He also served on the board of directors of the anti-union CATO Institute. Murdoch, who is worth about $20 billion, is listed as chairman and president of a Murdoch Foundation, but it has no assets and has made no grants in more than a decade.
On Fox News, the television network controlled by Murdoch, numerous commentators, including the currently suspended Tucker Carlson and Jeanine Pirro, are openly hostile to labor unions and are viciously anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim. The Council on American-Islamic Relations has called for advertisers to boycott Fox News unless it fires Carlson and Pirro.
A former senior vice president at Murdoch’s News Corp, Joseph Azam, told National Public Radio this week he left his job in 2017 over the network’s coverage of Muslims, immigrants and race. The NPR story says, “the rhetoric coming from some of his corporate colleagues sickened him: Muslims derided as threats or less than human; immigrants depicted as invaders, dirty or criminal; African-Americans presented as menacing; Jewish figures characterized as playing roles in insidious conspiracies.”
Last weekend, a Muslim news producer, Rashna Farrukh, announced that she quit Fox’s corporate cousin, Sky News Australia, over its coverage of Muslims on the days after the massacre at the two Christchurch mosques. She wrote this in a post for ABC News:
“I compromised my values and beliefs to stand idly by as I watched commentators and pundits instill more and more fear into their viewers. I stood on the other side of the studio doors while they slammed every minority group in the country—mine included—increasing polarization and paranoia among their viewers.”
Billionaires such as Murdoch and Mercer wield immense power. Organizations they stealth-fund are dedicated to dividing and conquering workers. They’re dangerous because they breed, broadcast and promote hate.
The only way to deal with them is with solidarity. Workers must have each other’s backs. They must see each other as brothers and sisters. Their guiding principle must be that all working men and women, regardless of creed, color, nationality or sexual orientation are welcome.
Leo W. Gerard is the international president of the United Steelworkers Union (USW).
This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.
IMAGE: Hedge-fund billionaire, anti-union ideologue, and Breitbart financier Robert Mercer.
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