Murdoch empire ruled by arrogance and denial (and respected by few)

Jay Rosen on a bloated corporate culture that indulges and fellates power. Oh, and loves wars against Muslims:

When the news broke that the Murdochs had hired the Edelman firm to handle public relations in the UK, I thought to myself, “Edelman has a crisis response practice, but do they have a denial division?”

Because to me that is the most striking thing about the way News Corp has reacted to these events from the beginning. Denial! Not only in the sense of deflecting questions with “move along, nothing to see here…” (when, in fact, there is something) but that deeper sense of denial we invoke when we say that a woman is in denial about her unfaithful husband or a man about his coming mortality.

Denial is somehow built into the culture of News Corp, more so than any normal company. It isn’t normal for the CEO to say, as Murdoch said on July 15, that his company had handled the crisis “extremely well in every way possible,” making just “minor mistakes,” when the next day the executive in charge (Rebekah Brooks) resigns, then a day later gets arrested, followed by Murdoch’s closest aide, Les Hinton, who also resigned in hopes of reversing the tide of defeats.

Your top people don’t quit for minor mistakes, but no one in News Corp seemed troubled by that July 15 statement. The Wall Street Journal reported it without raising an eyebrow. Murdoch was confronted with his “minor mistakes” quote in Tuesday’s parliamentary hearing but he turned down the chance to take it back. Where does denial so massive come from?

Here’s my little theory: News Corp is not a news company at all, but a global media empire that employs its newspapers – and in the US, Fox News – as a lobbying arm. The logic of holding these “press” properties is to wield influence on behalf of the rest of the (much bigger and more profitable) media business and also to satisfy Murdoch’s own power urges.

However, this fact, fairly obvious to outside observers, is actually concealed from the company by its own culture. So here we find the source for the river of denial that runs through News Corp.

Fox News and the newspapers Murdoch owns are described by News Corp, and understood by most who work there as “normal” news organisations. But they aren’t, really. What makes them different is not that they have a more conservative take on the world – that’s the fiction in which opponents and supporters join – but rather: news is not their first business. Wielding influence is.

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