It’s a small sign of a big problem. Rupert Murdoch, owner of News Corp, has been regularly tweeting islamophobic conspiracy theories about the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines flight. The disappearance showed that jihadis were making trouble for China, that the plane was hidden in a secret SPECTRE lair in Northern Pakistan, etc. Now, Arsalan Iftikhar, a muslim human rights lawyer and commentator, has righly called him out on it.
Smoke, fire: what is this a symptom of? This is a deeper malaise. The Murdoch empire is deeply saturated in islamophobic ideation. We see it most starkly perhaps in the British tabloid The Sun:
Ah, yes, Norway’s “Al-Qaeda massacre”, perpetrated by anti-Muslim right wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik. A headline made before any evidence had been released. And after the news that this was a blond, blue-eyed terrorist should have maybe made someone in the newsroom think twice. That was just one of the worse ones. The low-grade ones are somehow worse, gradually shifting the conversation on religion and Islam.
Another example is Fox News. The US’ leading cable news operation has had anti-muslim bigotry as a staple part of its programming. From the Sunday morning book chats:
To the pundits:
Which also rakes in advertisement money from anti-muslim hate groups:
And if they can’t quite show your ads in prime-time, they can probably find a way to show that ad anyway. (Though they tastefully blur the word “savage”).
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I highlight the most dramatic examples, but this has been a problem in a huge swathe of News Corp’s holdings. Rupert Murdoch, whether it was by creating an architecture for it, or by leading by example, has created the most massive and widespread purveyor of discourse-shifting anti-muslim propaganda. A part of the explanation is, it seems, the man himself and his apparently quite strongly held beliefs about Muslims.
A more important problem is that Murdoch’s organisation didn’t merely find this opinions lying around in the population and played to them. His institutions helped create them. Through decades now of anti-immigrant ideas, News Corp has helped create the ideologized islamophobia which we now see in full bloom across the West. That’s worth remembering when considering the role of News Corp on public discourse.