This brief history of Rupert Murdoch by Bruce Page, author of the book “The Murdoch Archipelago,” originally ran in 2009 as a straightforward antidote to Michael Wolff’s “sycophantic” (in Page’s view) 2008 book on the international media mogul, “The Man Who Owns the News.”
Page traces the Murdoch family history from the early 20th century, when Rupert’s father, Sir Keith Murdoch, became chief editor of the Melbourne Herald in Australia, to the recent past. The feared Australian billionaire “began with an honorable path before him,” Page writes, before mobilizing his inheritance to strap together a powerful, vast tabloid and propaganda machine that enabled him to shape the behavior of international political figures as well as those who worked under him. —ARK
Rupert’s father, Sir Keith, founded the dynasty during World War I as a dirty-tricks minion for “Billy” Hughes, probably Australia’s nastiest prime minister. His cover myth as a heroic war reporter has been so thoroughly dismantled that now it impresses none but family retainers.
At Versailles, Keith was Billy’s ever-present aide in striving to make the Peace Conference into a vicious cock-up, rich in racist and imperialist content. Curiously, the pair would have had zero leverage but for the failure of a plot of Keith’s, which sought in 1918 to remove Australia’s battlefield commander on the Western Front, John Monash, for being an unheroic Jew. (Monash wrote home that it was a bore having to fight a “pogrom” at the same time as fight Ludendorff.) The overall commander, General Douglas Haig, wouldn’t play: and Monash’s divisions led the British breakthrough at Amiens which, ruining Ludendorff, put Germany – suddenly, unexpectedly– at the Allies’ mercy.
... This ironic history yields two items of present relevance. One, we see the core of the Murdoch business: offering political propaganda services, disguised thinly as journalism. Two, there’s the stunning Murdoch talent for seizing the wrong end of any available political or military stick. Keith’s estimate of Monash and Rupert’s of the pseudo-warrior Bush Jr. were reciprocals, to be sure, but identically crass.
Sir Keith Murdoch, Rupert’s father, was an Australian journalist.