My debut article for US outlet The Intercept:
RUPERT MURDOCH, who oversees a global media empire that includes Fox News, doesn’t like losing, but he just tasted defeat in Australia’s election. Despite years in which Murdoch’s media properties vociferously backed conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Labor leader Anthony Albanese won the May 21 contest. Australia saw a wave of climate-friendly, independent candidates and Greens politicians take power in a thorough rejection of the culture wars around trans rights and “religious freedom” unleashed by Morrison and his backers in the Murdoch media.
Morrison lost for a range of reasons, including the basic fact that he’d become a deeply unpopular and unsympathetic figure after his Liberal Party had been in power for nearly a decade. He routinely mismanaged cases of sexual abuse and rape of women at the Australian Parliament House in Canberra. No amount of support and scaremongering from media outlets owned by Murdoch, who controls a stunning 65 percent of newspaper circulation in the country, could persuade voters to keep Morrison in power.
Despite daily attacks on Albanese and the other candidates who won office, the Murdoch campaign failed spectacularly. This shows that the power of the Murdoch empire isn’t enough when it’s selling rotten goods. More importantly, it shows the effectiveness of loud voices taking on Murdoch directly. Nobody does it better than former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who has spent years publicly condemning the mogul’s right-wing agenda. Rudd has urged politicians to reject Murdoch’s divide-and-conquer tactics, to name and shame the journalists and editors who produce Murdoch’s confected culture war poison. Albanese has been treading carefully, embracing a pro-business agenda and softening some of his previously more left-wing positions, but he mostly hasn’t taken Murdoch’s bait on race, climate, gender, or Covid-19. The majority of Australians simply didn’t like what the Murdoch press was selling.
The clout of the Murdoch empire is routinely examined in the U.S. and Britain but far less in Australia, where Rupert was born in 1931 and where his power began to take root. Australia was the first testing ground for the type of tabloid tactics that are now routine at Fox News, which Murdoch founded in 1996. In Australia, Murdoch’s media properties have long argued against the existence of climate change, let alone backing serious action to curtail it. Race-baiting, demonization of Muslims, and pro-war advocacy is built into the company’s journalistic DNA.