Fox News owner and media mogul Rupert Murdoch has launched an attack on the “woke orthodoxy” and “cancel culture”.
Murdoch, the owner of a vast right-wing global media empire including The Times, The Sun and Fox News, made rare public remarks at the weekend while accepting a lifetime achievement award from the Australia Day Foundation.
In his speech, the 89-year-old declared that he is “far from done” as he echoed the rhetoric found in many of his newspapers’ editorial pages.
He said: “For those of us in media, there is a real challenge to confront. A wave of censorship that seeks to silence conversation, to stifle debate and ultimately stop individuals and societies from realising their potential.
“This rigidly enforced conformity, aided and abetted by so-called social media, is a straitjacket on sensibility. Too many people have fought too hard in too many places for freedom of speech to be suppressed by this awful woke orthodoxy.”
Critics say Rupert Murdoch’s media empire has played a key role building ‘culture war’ narrative
Murdoch’s rare public comments come a year after the very public resignation of his son, James Murdoch, who has voiced discomfort with the growing toxicity of Fox News and other right-wing News Corp outlets.
Speaking to The Independent last year, James Murdoch explained: “I reached the conclusion that you can venerate a contest of ideas, if you will, and we all do and that’s important, but it shouldn’t be in a way that hides agendas.
“A contest of ideas shouldn’t be used to legitimise disinformation. And I think it’s often taken advantage of. And I think at great news organisations, the mission really should be to introduce fact to disperse doubt – not to sow doubt to obscure fact, if you will.”
Many of Rupert Murdoch’s most prominent outlets have developed an intense and hostile fixation on LGBT+ issues over the past few years as they appear to increase their focus on so-called “culture war” issues.
While Fox News has long held a reputation as a source of anti-LGBT+ disinformation, other Murdoch properties such as flagship UK newspaper The Times increasingly pump out articles critical of transgender rights.
The approach is mirrored by Murdoch’s influential Australian outlets, with the UN’s independent expert on LGBT+ rights Victor Madrigal-Borloz previously condemning attempts in the country to push “narratives that are not only profoundly incorrect, but also perpetuate harmful stereotypes which delegitimise the identities of trans people”.
‘Lies’ have unleashed ‘unleashed insidious and uncontrollable forces’, critics warn
In response to his “woke” criticism, Murdoch critics noted that his US outlets have been accused of pushing disinformation relating to the election.
@rupertmurdoch has spoken out against "awful woke orthodoxy". What he fails to understand is the seditious behavior his networks have propagated undermines our democracy. If that's woke, sign me and most of America up. If you can't deal with that, find a dictatorship to live.
— Joe Lockhart (@joelockhart) January 26, 2021
Fox News just purged employees involved in accurately calling the state of Arizona for Biden, but do go on, Rupert. https://t.co/9ww4mG1tsn
— Parker Molloy (@ParkerMolloy) January 25, 2021
Once Rupert Murdoch came to visit the building where I worked as his employee and we were told that if we looked him in the eye or said anything to him as he walked around, we would be fired
So no, I don’t take his concerns about cancel culture seriously https://t.co/2prqzBphPC
— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) January 25, 2021
After the storming of the US Capitol earlier this month, James Murdoch condemned outlets that propagate “lies”.
While stopping short of naming any outlet in particular, he told the Financial Times: “The damage is profound. The sacking of the Capitol is proof positive that what we thought was dangerous is indeed very much so.
“Those outlets that propagate lies to their audience have unleashed insidious and uncontrollable forces that will be with us for years.
“I hope that those people who didn’t think it was that dangerous now understand, and that they stop.”