Long stories short
- The Bank of England prepared for its 12th consecutive rate rise to curb stubborn UK inflation.
- Ukrainian soldiers helped a Russian to surrender by sending him a “follow me” message by drone.
- Rishi Sunak scrapped a plan to scrap thousands of EU laws.
The tragedy of Rupert
The man who founded Fox Broadcasting says the man who built it into a behemoth allowed it to spread poison that would “stain him and his reputation forever”.
So what? Far worse has been said of Rupert Murdoch, but in this case the speaker was Barry Diller – his friend, former business partner, guide to Hollywood and apprentice in the elite art of multibillion-dollar media buccaneering.
Diller, now 81, was speaking at the first Sir Harry Evans Global Summit in Investigative Journalism, at which Murdoch’s legacy was a recurrent counterpoint to Sir Harry’s – the ruthless business instinct that still shapes politics and bends truth juxtaposed with the great editor’s “fistfuls of facts”.
In the course of the summit
- Dominion Voting Systems’ co-founder, John Poulos, revealed that his lawyer didn’t let him leave the courtroom after his recent $787 million defamation settlement with Fox News until the money had been transferred to his firm’s account.
- Bob Woodward, the Watergate reporter and co-author of All The President’s Men, said journalists should drop their “obsession” with Tucker Carlson, until recently Murdoch’s top draw at Fox, and “listen to all the people instead”.
- Jesse Armstrong, creator of Succession, said his research for the hit series extended to Robert Maxwell and Viacom’s Sumner Redstone as well as the Murdochs and that what they had in common was “lying as a superpower”.
The Sun King. But it was Diller who knew Murdoch best. He called the News Corp founder one of the greatest and shrewdest risk-takers he’d ever met; someone “who enjoyed actually betting the company on something that didn’t exist”.
When it worked – as in the early days of Fox, when Diller and Murdoch spent nearly $1.3 billion in 1980s dollars to create a fourth US TV network for which no one else thought there was a market – it felt triumphant.
“He is the Sun King,” Diller said, no slouch at buccaneering himself (he was chairman of Paramount Pictures at 32). “And when the sun shines from the Sun King it’s a wonderful thing. You can’t have a better atmosphere [than] the joyousness with which he fights establishments and fights to establish new things.”
When it didn’t work it was disastrous: “The tragedy of Rupert is that he is going to be known for what is a hideous service in Fox News. Allowing those commentators, which they did with their eyes open, to pour that kind of divisiveness consistently, is a poison which… is going to stain him and his reputation forever”.
Not Venezuelan. Fox News’ current predicament stems in large part from its anchors’ endorsement of a baseless story peddled by pro-Trump lawyers in the aftermath of the 2020 election that Dominion’s voting machines were developed in Venezuela to enable President Hugo Chavez to rig elections and never leave power. The story was so readily believed by Fox viewers that one of them, John Poulos’s mother-in-law, said to her daughter: “I never knew John was Venezuelan”.
Carlson and others knew the Venezuela story was nonsense but promoted it anyway, dragging US voters ever deeper into what some call the post-truth age.
Not good enough. Woodward and Carl Bernstein, in a rare joint London appearance, rejected the “post-truth” label as a lazy accommodation with the web. “Don’t let it happen,” Woodward said. “We cannot let it happen.” Bernstein lamented the arrival of a journalistic culture “infected by speed and a lack of curiosity”. He said too many reporters were “looking on Google and the internet and not going out and knocking on doors”.
Sir Simon Schama ventured that the truth was fighting back – as Carlson announced he would be relaunching his cancelled Fox News show on Twitter.
- Tina Brown’s conversation with Barry Diller
- Emily Maitlis interviews Woodward and Bernstein
- Masih Alinejad and Paul Caruana Galizia on Iran’s war on journalists
- The full summit livestream
Also, in the nibs
Photographs Anthony Harvey/Getty Images
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