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Byron Shire
May 23, 2024

The price of lies

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Rupert Murdoch.
An American citizen. David Lowe with Midjourney AI.

This week we found out that Australia’s most embarrassing export, Rupert Murdoch, will pay US$787.5 million to avoid having his corporation further humiliated in court for telling lies about the US election, specifically regarding Dominion voting machines.

While this is a victory, of sorts, for Murdoch’s enemies, there is no accompanying ruling for Fox News to tell the truth about why they settled out of court, least of all to their own viewers, and it appears they will have some or all of Dominion’s costs covered by libel insurance.

The prospect of a six week trial of the key Murdoch players (from both sides of the camera), and a potential $1.6 billion settlement, has been whisked away. While Dominion and their investors have had a remarkable payday, it seems unlikely that this result will do any lasting damage to Fox News, or the wider Murdoch empire. Fox News reported $2.9 billion in pro-forma earnings last year, with the company worth upward of $16 billion. Their stock price barely wavered following the announcement.

As for reputational damage, the pre-trial evidence of internal communications from within Fox has made it clear that this is not a news organisation at all, in the traditional sense. Fox News knowingly told lies to their audience and destabilised the United States because it was profitable to do so, and it still is.

This week they took out full page ads in The New York Times claiming they are America’s most trusted network for news: ‘Trusted Now. More Than Ever.’ George Orwell knew what he was talking about.

Despite its context of a national election, and a potential coup, largely powered by untruths, this trial only happened at all because one corporation trod on the toes of another. For many politicians, and not just in America, telling the most impressive lies has basically become politics. It’s a difficult slope to get off, especially at election time.

Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Stop the Lies) Bill 2022

Here in Australia it remains ‘perfectly legal’ to lie in political advertising, as independent federal MP Zali Steggall has pointed out. South Australia and the ACT have attempted to do something about this, but the federal sphere remains untouched, leading to a worsening soup of half-truths and falsehoods from both sides, particularly regarding the alleged plans of their opponents.

Ms Steggall’s bill to address the problem remains in limbo, as the ALP considers a review (they promised to introduce their own truth in political advertising laws during the last election). We might see some action after August, maybe. Unfortunately this will probably be too late to stop the misinformation damage already flying around the Voice.

In state-controlled countries like Russia and China, lying has been defined out of existence at a government level, with the truth being pretty much whatever the leader decrees.

Boris Johnson.
Boris. David Lowe with Midjourney AI.

In Britain, which used to have standards around this sort of thing, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson pushed the lying envelope as far as it could probably go, first as a journalist and then as a politician.

Having destablised his country with a mis-represented Brexit, he then went on to destroy his own career, unfortunately in that order.

Lies with that?

In Australia, documented examples of knowingly, provably false statements by political leaders were once rare.

John Howard normalised the practice, which led to his nickname ‘the lying rodent’, and the situation got worse under his protege Tony Abbott, who lied about things including Pauline Hanson, Cardinal Pell, carbon tax impacts, climate change, asylum seekers, China’s CO2 emissions, broadband, debt, productivity, tax reform and Tasmanian forests. Then again, he had been hit in the head more than once at university.

Long before Fox News was a twinkle in Mr Murdoch’s eye, its creator’s noxious influence has been a key factor in our own homegrown culture of political untruths.

Uncle Rupert. David Lowe with Midjourney AI.

His organisation News Limited was originally created to counter union voices in Broken Hill in the 1920s, and has moved steadily further to the right since Rupert took control in 1952.

Lachlan Murdoch is currently suing Australia’s Crikey for suggested that the Murdochs were ‘unindicted co-conspirators’ in the deadly Capitol riots. It will be interesting to see how the Dominion decision affects that case.

There are also a number of other legal cases in the wings in the USA for Fox News and their fellow travellers, some claiming even higher damages than those sought by Dominion. Will the next claimants take the money and run, or force extreme broadcasters to trial for monetising mis-truths?

As Dominion’s lead attorney Justin Nelson said on the courthouse steps after the trial was dissolved, ‘Lies have consequences.’ Unfortunately the consequences can be unpredictable.

* This morning Lachlan Murdoch dropped his defamation case against the publisher of Crikey.

David Lowe
David Lowe – photo Tree Faerie

Originally from Canberra, David Lowe is an award-winning film-maker, writer and photographer with particular interests in the environment and politics. He’s known for his campaigning work with Cloudcatcher Media.

Long ago, he did work experience in Parliament House with Mungo MacCallum.

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  1. You just spouted stuff from CNN that is provably false. As in, US fed gov footage and docs can disprove it. The point of CNN, Fox, and the others, is to lie in both directions so that the public spends its time and energy arguing about the reality of unimportant, yet highly hyped events. “We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false.” – CIA Director William Casey

  2. The fact that Keith Murdock created “The Barrier Miner” in Broken Hill to counteract the truth being published by the Barrier Daily Truth” is the absolute truth. They have been promulgating misinformation ever since.

  3. Yep, libel insurance will likely come to dear Rupert’s rescue.

    One court case (USA ), down and out – Dominion wins
    Next court case ( Australia ), defamation against Crikey – now abandoned by Newscorpse
    Still coming court case (USA ) – Smartmatic, they going bigger than Dominion with a claim US$2.7billions worth!

    Dear Rupert, you’ll soon be uninsurable so please do keep the path to self bankruptcy going.

  4. Black Rock has offered Rupert $90b for Fox, but they want Tucker gone. Black Rock had its company Dominion sue Fox. Instead of fighting it, Rupert ordered Fox to pay $0.8b and use it as an excuse to terminate Tuckers contract. Rupert gets richer, Black Rock – Dominion stays profitable, you all get to believe voting machines are safe and effective, Tucker has a $25m offer from OAN. Everyone is happy.


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