President Biden called Rupert Murdoch, the Founder of Fox News, the “most dangerous man in the world,” according to published reports.
But what does this mean?
From degradation of global democracy, to climate skepticism, to war in Iraq, to undermining public health messaging during a pandemic, Murdoch’s Fox News has done tremendous harm to Americans and to U.S. institutions.
While reviewing reports about Murdoch, a singular motivation seems to persistently emerge: his relentless pursuit of financial gains. Sensational news garners higher viewership, which in turn rakes in more advertising revenue. This cycle, with profit at its core, often sidelines the imperatives of truth and public welfare.
At the heart of Murdoch’s sprawling media empire, the guiding forces seem to be a relentless drive for self-aggrandizement and an insatiable greed, often at the detriment of the greater societal good.
Fox News Promoted Vaccine Skepticism During A Viral Pandemic
In 2022, The Washington Post delved into the role Fox News played in the anti-vaccination sentiment prevalent during the pandemic. The findings were stark, highlighting the sheer extent and potential fatal consequences of the misleading narratives Fox News propagated.
One of the most alarming findings was the stark contrast between Rupert Murdoch, the figurehead behind Fox News, and the information his network promulgated. A revelation from a 2020 HuffPost piece showcased this contradiction vividly: Murdoch, fully cognizant of the COVID-19 vaccine’s importance, didn’t hesitate to get inoculated in December. Yet, the network he presided over continued to profit from, and amplify, vaccine misinformation. This created an environment of skepticism and doubt regarding the vaccine’s efficacy among a significant portion of its viewers.
The consequences of such a stance were dire. An analysis by The Washington Post revealed that approximately a quarter of all U.S. COVID deaths could have potentially been prevented through adequate and timely vaccination. To put this in perspective, if people had chosen to get vaccinated when it was first recommended, tens of thousands of lives might have been saved. These figures shine a glaring light on the tangible human cost of misinformation and the perilous position in which Fox News placed its audience.
However, it wasn’t just observational data that underscored the harm caused by Fox News. Rigorous academic investigations affirmed the detrimental effects of its biased reporting. One particular study published in Political Analysis in 2023 drew definitive links between Fox News’s coverage and health choices made during the pandemic. This research pinpointed how the network’s distorted representation of COVID-19 and its vaccine significantly swayed public health decisions. Considering Fox News’s vast audience, the cascading effects of such influence were likely vast and profound.
Amid this backdrop, The New Republic in 2021 spotlighted Murdoch, dubbing him the “Oligarch of the Month.” This feature painted a bleak portrayal of a media titan who, in his personal capacity, wasted no time in securing protection against the virus. Yet, the media empire under his command became a fountainhead for anti-vaccine sentiments, potentially jeopardizing countless lives.
Moreover, it wasn’t just the pandemic where Fox News’s influence raised concerns. The network’s pattern of misrepresentation spanned various issues. For instance, Public Citizen in 2019 highlighted Fox News’s role in climate change denial, a stance that, given global climate-related mortality figures, may have far-reaching implications for public understanding and response to environmental crises.
By weaving together these strands of evidence from various sources, a consistent narrative emerges. Fox News, as a media juggernaut, has the capacity to shape public perceptions and behaviors in powerful ways. However, its track record during pivotal moments, like the pandemic, suggests a proclivity for misinformation that could have tangible and tragic consequences for its viewers and the broader public.
Fox News And the War in Iraq: A History of Lies and Human Carnage
Fox News, as a dominant media powerhouse, wields immense influence over its audience. When such a platform disseminates misinformation or champions controversial actions, the ripple effects can significantly shape public discourse, political decisions, and even election outcomes.
No event exemplifies this more starkly than the Iraq War. There’s mounting evidence suggesting that if not for Fox News’s unrelenting support, the war might never have materialized. Kevin Drum’s bold assertion in Mother Jones, that “Without Fox News, There Would Have Been No Iraq War,” speaks volumes about the network’s influence. Rather than presenting balanced news, Fox News’s persistent drumbeats for war and propagation of misleading narratives distinguished it from traditional news outlets, positioning it more as a far-right propaganda mechanism. This not only swayed public opinion but also led to grave real-world implications.
Understanding the depth of Fox News’s advocacy requires a closer look at the human repercussions of the Iraq War. The MIT Center for International Studies paints a harrowing picture: from 2002 to 2006, the war resulted in an overwhelming mortality rate. Drawing from the detailed 2021 Brown University report on the war’s costs, the tragic statistics reveal a grim landscape: thousands of U.S. coalition forces dead, tens of thousands wounded, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed or injured, and massive casualties among Iraq combatants.
Such a portrayal by Fox News wasn’t an isolated instance of skewed reporting. Stephen Kull’s piece in Nieman Reports highlights the pivotal role played by the press, especially Fox News, in forming public perceptions about the Iraq War. This contributed to widespread misinterpretations, reinforcing the idea of Fox News’s capability to steer narratives decisively.
Moreover, Fox News’s history of shaping narratives isn’t confined to war. As recent as the COVID-19 pandemic, this pattern of influence was glaringly evident. The Washington Post has delved deep into how Fox News fueled right-wing opposition to vaccination, illuminating the network’s instrumental role in fostering vaccine hesitancy. A study from 2023, published in Political Analysis, further underscores the “Fox News effect” on health behaviors during the pandemic, establishing that the channel’s influence spans well beyond its war endorsements.
Delving further, the influence of Fox News extends to American voting behaviors. The study revealed a significant correlation between the viewership of Fox News and voting patterns favoring Republican candidates. Regions with increased Fox News viewership exhibited a prominent shift towards the Republican party during elections. Crucially, the 2000 Presidential Election could have seen a different outcome without Fox News’s influence, potentially favoring Al Gore over George W. Bush. The study also points to the network’s pivotal role in amplifying support for Bush’s policies, including the Iraq War. In the absence of this influential media backing, the Bush administration might have encountered stronger public opposition to its contentious decisions.
Furthermore, the long-term effects of such a partisan media cannot be understated. As a media behemoth, Fox News has played a critical role in escalating political polarization, yielding a more fragmented electorate. The implications are stark. In democracies, where media should be a neutral information conduit, the emergence of staunchly partisan outlets can distort public discourse severely.
The interplay between Fox News and the Bush administration encapsulates this phenomenon, prompting pressing questions about media’s role in democracies. It underscores the challenge of ensuring citizens make well-informed choices in a milieu dominated by partisan rhetoric.
Fox News is Actively Undermining American Democracy
At the heart of every democracy lies trust in its institutions, an emphasis on free speech, and the promise of accurate information. These principles, however, seem to be at odds with the trajectory of Fox News in recent years. The network’s actions, particularly in the post-2020 U.S. Presidential election, are cause for concern, as suggested by a growing chorus of leading publications.
Prospect Magazine made it clear in 2023: the strategies employed by Fox News pose significant risks to the foundational principles of democracy. The network’s coverage of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election and its aftermath raised numerous red flags. While elections often have their fair share of controversies, the 2020 iteration was unique in the claims it attracted, most notably about the election being “stolen”. Despite these allegations being thoroughly debunked by multiple sources, Fox News not only amplified them but, at times, championed them.
The repercussions of this were not confined to television screens. They spilled onto the streets and ultimately led to the terrifying events of January 6, 2021. The U.S. Capitol siege wasn’t just a manifestation of civic discontent; it was a symbol of how distorted narratives, when left unchecked, can lead to a direct assault on the democratic process. Many of the individuals involved in that day’s events have attributed their motivations to the information they consumed, with Fox News being a primary source.
In 2023, further light was shed on the inner machinations of Fox News. Gizmodo revealed that key figures at Fox, including Rupert Murdoch, recognized the baselessness of the “stolen” election claims. What’s more disturbing is the implication that the falsehoods broadcasted might not have been out of genuine belief, but perhaps more out of fiscal motivations. Murdoch’s comments alluded to the profitable nature of the ‘Stop the Steal’ narrative, suggesting a prioritization of revenue over democratic stability.
The aftermath saw Fox News facing financial consequences to the tune of $787 million, a hefty penalty for perpetuating election misinformation. Yet, this sum pales in comparison to the potential long-term damage inflicted upon the democratic fabric of the nation.
Beyond the 2020 election saga, Fox News’s influence on public discourse and perception is not a new phenomenon. Wired, in a 2019 article, went as far as labeling Fox News a threat to national security. Such a label, coming from a respected tech publication, emphasizes the gravity of the network’s actions and its potential to not only misinform but to actively endanger.
The erosion of democracy doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a gradual process, fueled by a combination of misinformation, skewed priorities, and a lack of accountability. When a media giant such as Fox News is implicated in promoting narratives that distort reality for apparent profit, the pillars of democracy tremble.
In a nation where democracy is prized above all, the role of the media is crucial. It’s not just about reporting events, but about preserving the essence of democratic principles. The patterns seen in Fox News’s coverage, particularly post-2020, suggest a deviation from these principles. Whether it’s for profit, influence, or a combination of both, the implications for American democracy are deeply troubling.
It’s essential, now more than ever, to understand the role of media, not just as a source of information but as an influencer of behavior, perceptions, and ultimately, the health of a democracy. As the recent events and revelations surrounding Fox News have shown, the stakes are incredibly high.
Fox News Undermines Climate Change Mitigation
As our planet witnesses increasing climate calamities, Fox News has emerged as a significant influencer in steering public sentiment on climate change, embedding the discourse with unwarranted doubt.
The importance of factual information dissemination is underscored by a Monash University study that ties abnormal temperatures, predominantly resulting from anthropogenic climate change, to over five million deaths annually.
The concern regarding Fox News arises not merely from occasional misinformation but from an apparent systematic pattern.
A detailed 2019 report by Public Citizen titled “Foxic: Fox News Network’s Dangerous Climate Denial” offered an illuminating investigation into this pattern. It spotlighted how Fox News has recurrently framed climate change, a subject of broad scientific consensus, as a disputable theory. By consistently sidestepping genuine scientific narratives in favor of climate denialist views, Fox News doesn’t merely distort the debate. It hinders progress, impeding collective efforts to confront the challenges head-on.
This platform’s portrayal has ramifications extending beyond the confines of television screens. By sowing seeds of skepticism, Fox News inadvertently fuels policy stagnation, emboldens climate deniers, and confuses the public.
The grave repercussions of such a stance are evident in the rising wildfires, floods, and other extreme climatic events demanding coordinated, informed responses. Instead, with Fox News introducing ambiguity, a substantial section of the population remains ambivalent or misinformed about the pressing nature of climate threats.
An analysis by Prospect Magazine in 2023 highlighted the inclination of Fox News to prioritize specific partisan interests, sometimes overshadowing factual and objective news reporting.
The network’s stance on climate change isn’t an isolated incident but appears to align with this broader editorial pattern. Such alignment seems less about delivering news and more about appealing to a specific demographic skeptical of established scientific conclusions. This strategy not only bolsters Fox News’s market share but also arguably capitalizes on the audience’s inherent biases.
Moreover, while Fox News’s portrayal might align with certain vested interests, its approach to climate change is in stark contrast to the urgency voiced by the global community. While countless researchers, institutions, and policymakers underscore the immediate need for action, the network’s divisive stance hampers cohesive efforts to tackle the crisis.
In looking at the broader media landscape, Fox News’s editorial decisions don’t merely emerge from an informational vacuum. They reflect a targeted strategy to cater to a segment of viewers that resonates with these divisive narratives. While this might translate into robust viewership metrics, the real cost is borne by the planet and its inhabitants. By consistently challenging established scientific consensus, the network has carved a niche for itself. But this niche feeds into a larger problem, detracting from the pressing urgency and collective response required to address the existential threat of climate change.
By resonating with an audience base skeptical of mainstream narratives and scientific consensus, Fox News secures its market foothold.
However, such catering comes at a considerable price. It’s not merely about ratings or revenue; it’s about the future of our planet. Climate change, with its undeniable evidence and devastating consequences, warrants united action, devoid of divisive rhetoric or misplaced skepticism. As media entities wield significant power in shaping public discourse, the onus lies on them to prioritize planetary well-being over partisanship. The pressing question remains: will networks like Fox News rise to the occasion or continue down a path of divisive, potentially detrimental reportage?
Murdoch Only Cares About the “Green”
Perhaps the most telling indicator of Murdoch’s priorities was captured during his deposition. In what seemed like a candid admission, he intimated that the allure of “green” — a reference to money — held precedence over ensuring truth, honesty, and accuracy when reporting on critical matters affecting the nation’s democracy, as uncovered by Gizmodo.
The implications of such an admission are vast and concerning. For instance, The Washington Post highlighted the considerable influence Fox News wielded in shaping right-wing opposition to COVID-19 vaccination. In an ironic twist, while Murdoch ensured he got his COVID-19 shot, his media establishments, as reported by HuffPost, churned profits by circulating vaccine misinformation. Such information campaigns had stark repercussions, with The Washington Post later stating that a substantial portion of U.S. COVID deaths might have been preventable with timely vaccinations.
Murdoch’s empire’s influence is not restricted to the realm of health alone. Nieman Reports identified a discernible link between Fox News’ coverage and widespread public misperceptions about the Iraq War. This skewed reporting arguably played a role in fueling the war, resulting in devastating consequences, as documented by both the MIT Center for International Studies and Brown University.
The roots of this media conglomerate seem to penetrate even deeper, endangering the bedrock of U.S. democracy. An emblematic instance of this influence was the staggering $787 million settlement that Fox had to pay, a fact highlighted by CNN Politics. Yet, even such a significant financial penalty cannot genuinely account for the potential long-term damage to the democratic ethos. Murdoch’s influence through Fox News has grown so pronounced that outlets like Wired have labeled it a potential threat to national security.
Adding another layer to the multifaceted impact of Murdoch’s media outlets, Public Citizen reported on Fox News disseminating climate denial narratives. With global studies, such as the one from Monash University, attributing millions of deaths to abnormal temperature fluctuations, the pernicious effects of such denial become alarmingly evident.
- Ash, E., Galletta, S., Hangartner, D., Margalit, Y., & Pinna, M. 2023. “The Effect of Fox News on Health Behavior during COVID-19.” Political Analysis, 1-10. doi:10.1017/pan.2023.21.
- Barr, K. 2023. “Rupert Murdoch Agreed Fox News Was Seeing ‘Green’ During Stop the Steal, and More Revelations.” Gizmodo. https://gizmodo.com/rupert-murdoch-fox-news-trump-dominion-voting-1850170272.
- Brown University. 2021. “Costs of War.” https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/costs/human/military/killed.
- Bump, P. 2022. “How much of right-wing opposition to vaccination was Fox News’s fault?” The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/10/10/vaccines-coronavirus-fox-news/.
- Bump, P. 2022. “Quarter of U.S. covid deaths were probably preventable with vaccination.” The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/04/21/quarter-us-covid-deaths-were-preventable-with-vaccination/.
- Collinson, S. 2023. “The $787 million check that Fox must cut won’t restore damage to US democracy.” CNN Politics. https://www.cnn.com/2023/04/19/politics/election-lies-fox-settlement/index.html.
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- Drum, K. 2015. “Without Fox News, There Would Have Been No Iraq War.” Mother Jones. https://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/01/without-fox-news-there-would-have-been-no-iraq-war/.
- Graff, G. M. 2019. “Fox News Is Now a Threat to National Security.” Wired. https://www.wired.com/story/fox-news-is-now-a-threat-to-national-security/.
- Kull, S. n.d. “The Press and Public Misperceptions About the Iraq War.” Nieman Reports. https://web.archive.org/web/20110611121300/http://www.nieman.harvard.edu/reports/article/100831/The-Press-and-Public-Misperceptions-About-the-Iraq-War.aspx.
- Monash University. 2021. “World’s largest study of global climate related mortality links 5 million deaths a year to abnormal temperatures.” https://www.monash.edu/news/articles/worlds-largest-study-of-global-climate-related-mortality-links-5-million-deaths-a-year-to-abnormal-temperatures.
- O’Connor, L. 2020. “Rupert Murdoch Gets COVID-19 Shot While Profiting Off Vaccine Misinformation.” HuffPost. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/murdoch-covid-19-vaccine-fox-news_n_5fdcf450c5b60d4163423e7c.
- Public Citizen. 2019. “Foxic: Fox News Network’s Dangerous Climate Denial 2019.” https://www.citizen.org/article/foxic-fox-news-networks-dangerous-climate-denial-2019/?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=52dbcd4f-2756-4284-973a-7fe06c039cd5.
- Shephard, A. 2021. “Oligarch of the Month: Rupert Murdoch.” The New Republic. https://newrepublic.com/article/161886/rupert-murdoch-covid-vaccine-oligarch-month.
- Stelter, B. 2022. “Biden called Murdoch the ‘most dangerous man in the world,’ new book alleges.” CNN Business. https://www.cnn.com/.
- Tirman, J. n.d. “The Human Cost of the War in Iraq: A Mortality Study, 2002-2006.” MIT Center for International Studies. https://web.mit.edu/humancostiraq/index.html.