24 February 2009

Murdoch Apologizes

Writing the The New York Post, Rupert Murdoch, head of News Corp. International, has apologized for the "chimp cartoon" that appeared in the Post last week, and which many folks viewed as a not-so-thinly-veiled racist statement. Murdoch has also promised that "the Post will work to be more sensitive." As Ben Smith suggests,
That apology, along with a pledge to be "more attuned to the sensitivities of our community,"is a huge departure for the combative tabloid [. . . .] a rare sign of weakness, a hint that the strongest company in the conservative news media is having a hard time adjusting to the Obama era.
Birthing pains, then? Admittedly, that Murdoch himself apologized surprised me, but Michael Wolff, author of Murdoch's biography, The Man Who Owns the News, suggests that Murdoch actually likes Obama and was infuriated by the cartoon when it appeared (this from his appearance on a cable news show; I'll post a source shortly).

Added: Aha! I couldn't find a YouTube link for the television interview, but here is Wolff's Newser column on The Post, the chimp, and Murdoch, whom, Wolff assumes, "is livid."


Anonymous said...

I've no idea how deep the parallels may run, but in the UK, one of Murdoch's papers, The Sun, is still very much non grata in the city of Liverpool after smearing soccer fans in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster - a tragedy that cost many lives.

The paper, under the ironic headline "The Truth" (the editor Kelvin Mackenzie was reportedly torn between that and "You Scum"), made allegations that after a crowd surge left many fans injured, dying, or dead, Liverpool fans urinated on the stricken, picked their pockets, and attacked police who were trying to resuscitate casualties.

In that instance, Murdoch eventually - very eventually - forced Mackenzie to issue an apology. The damage to The Sun's reputation (and it's a trashy rag anyway) lasts to this day, despite efforts to undo the damage to its reputation. For fuller accounts, just Google "the sun" + hillsborough.

If past form's any guide, where Murdoch's concerned, I doubt you need to look much further than readership and money for a motivation. Unless the old bastard's softening in his old age ...

mpandgs said...

Thank you, Anonymous.
I was not familiar with The Sun's treatment of the Hillsborough disaster. Dear God.

I recall when another of Murdoch's papers, The News of the World, kickstarted a pedophile panic by "naming and shaming" sex offenders, with the result that many innocent people were brutalized by vigilantes (in the southern village where I lived, one man was targeted by a mob--he was innocent). I don't think Rebekah Wade, the editor, ever apologized to the victims of that stunt, which Wade seems to have started as a cynical means of raising circulation rather than concern for children.

I will add that Wolff thinks Murdoch is becoming soft, and he attributes this to Murdoff's current wife.

Thanks for coming by and for commenting.


Anonymous said...

I've visited quite a few times over the last few months, but just felt I had 2p-worth to add on this topic. :)

Wade is nowadays editor of The Sun, and still as heinous as ever. The pedophile panic you mention was a real low point in rabble-rousing. A mob of idiots even targeted the house of a pediatrician (I'm not making this up!).

"I will add that Wolff thinks Murdoch is becoming soft, and he attributes this to Murdoff's current wife."

I heard that idea during the election, before Murdoch opted for McCain. I wonder if he's regretting that move now?

Still, in this case the apology came sooner rather than later, and from the boss himself as well as the mealy-mouthed editor. The guy's a rubbish cartoonist anyway, so hopefully he'll be looking for another gig soon.



mpandgs said...

Hello Anonymous Brit :-)

I think I recall the poor pediatrician. Wasn't it that the mob confused "pediatrician" with "pedophile," or am I confusing incidents?

I recall one man who was forced from town because the mob confused his name with one published on Wade's list. This was after they vandalized his home--spray painted obscenities on his garage and so on.

The fellow in our village was a bit on the slow side, and, granted, he was friendly with kids, but he was similarly friendly with everyone. A group of neighbourhood women decided that he must be a predator and--without any allegations or evidence, but acting only on assumption and fear--began distributing petitions in the center to get the poor man removed from town (completely illegal, of course). Then the chavs decided to have a go. Because I moved away, I don't know how it turned out. It only began, however, once Wade began encouraging the panic and it began to move through the country.

I knew Wade had moved on, but I didn't realize it was to another Murdoch paper. Last I remember (besides the NOTW fiasco) she was dating the fella who played Grant on Eastenders. :-)

From what I've heard, the Post's editor will soon have much free time, and the cartoonist--well, he'll just continue to suck (unless Murdoch decides to sack him as well). I do agree with you that, ultimately, it's sales that determines Murdoch's actions. Whatever the man truly believes, it's circulation and publicity that prompts his response.

Thanks again for your comments.

Anonymous said...

"Wasn't it that the mob confused "pediatrician" with "pedophile," or am I confusing incidents?"

Nope, you're right - that's exactly what happened.

The Sun's changed political allegiances over the years a few times - Labour, then the Tories with the advent of Thatcher, then New Labour. I can't really see Fox and rags like the Post going Dem, but stranger things happen at sea ...

Roy Greenslade of the Guardian has some good things to say about Wade and her penchant for campaigning journalism - he notes that one Sun campaign against domestic violence won widespread support, and I have to grant that a focus on issues like that is a obviously a good thing, but she's pretty scattergun. I find it hard to forgive the insensitivity of that pedophile campaign, though. The paper and she should have been prosecuted for incitement, IMO.

But I have to say, of the UK tabloid press, the Mail and Express are more pernicious if anything.

Thanks for the link to Newser, by the way - I'd not encountered that blog before, and it's now added to my already bulging blogroll.

I'll hopefully get a chance to talk to you again, either here or maybe on Rumproast.



mpandgs said...

Anonymous Brit--
Thanks for the Greenslade tip. I've not kept track of Wade (I returned to the States before her domestic violence campaign, so I'll definitely look that over).

I can't speak of the Express, but him indoors took the Mail, which I'll always associate with New Labour's victory and Paul Gascoigne's downfall. Hah!

Anonymous said...

Here's the Greenslade article I was referring to (he's more forgiving of tabloid excesses than I am, but he knows his stuff):


"... but him indoors took the Mail ..."

Oh well, my mum used to get the Daily Mail, so I guss I can't point any fingers. ;)

One final thing before I hit the sack, and forgive me if it's a silly question, but I've often wondered - what do the initials m, p, & g s stand for (assuming it's not a secret)?



mpandgs said...

Hi Anonymous Brit,
Thanks for the link--I'll certainly look at the article asap.

As for the acronym, well...it's "stood" for various things at various times, but currently, it's merely a string of letters. :-)

Anonymous said...

Great, thanks. I'd feared I was being dense about the initials!

Sorry for the long link, but I found this story on Jack and Jill Politics about the lobbying prior to Murdoch's apology interesting:


Thanks for your blog. This exchange has been interesting.