Rupert Murdoch. Reuters/Paul Hackett
The Joseph Kennedy portrayed in The Patriarch, David Nasaw’s magisterial new biography, didn’t dislike Jews per se. In fact, he rather admired the way they stuck together, looked out for their corporate interests and ultimately, in his view, trapped (or brainwashed) Franklin Roosevelt into allowing the United States to become embroiled in the fight against Nazi aggression. But he blamed “a number of Jewish writers and publishers” for trying to “precipitate a war with Germany.” While Jewish community leaders were desperately trying (and failing) to convince Roosevelt to intervene on behalf of the victims of Hitler’s repression (soon to be genocide), and to lobby other nations to do so, Kennedy—then ambassador to the Court of St. James’s—did everything in his power to frustrate these aims, believing that Nazi Germany’s treatment of Jews was unworthy of American attention.
One particularly disturbing aspect of the story Nasaw tells concerns the tendency of Jewish communal leaders—particularly the Zionist leaders—to fool themselves about Kennedy. Rabbi Stephen Wise, for instance, wrote his colleagues in New York that the new ambassador was “going to be very helpful, as he is keenly understanding” of the Jewish position on immigration and could be counted on to lobby Roosevelt in its favor.
Like Joseph Kennedy, Rupert Murdoch is a man of immense wealth and political influence, much admired in the Jewish professional community. Also like Kennedy, Murdoch sees a world in which Jews use their financial power on behalf of the Jews themselves. Or, more accurately, he thinks this is what they should do, and complains when they do not.
During the initial days of the recent Israel-Hamas conflict, Murdoch tweeted, “Why is Jewish owned press so consistently anti-Israel in every crisis?” Consistent with the Murdoch media ethos, he presented no evidence for either contention: that the US press was “Jewish owned” or that it was “consistently anti-Israel.” In fact, both contentions are ridiculous. The mainstream media are largely owned by multinational corporations. The most powerful single owner of media in the United States is Murdoch himself. Viacom, Disney, Comcast, Time Warner and Bertelsmann are not “Jewish owned.” Neither, though it may come as a surprise to Murdoch, is The New York Times. Arthur Sulzberger Jr. is neither Jewish by birth—according to traditional Jewish law—nor by choice. (He was raised Episcopalian, his mother’s faith.)
True, the percentage of Jews working in the MSM is high, as it is in the medical, legal, financial and entertainment fields. But most of the time, when someone insists that Jews use their power in these industries on behalf of so-called Jewish interests—much less bias their actions deliberately on behalf of another country—they are correctly deemed to be anti-Semites. Would Murdoch expect a Jewish president to act explicitly on the basis of what was “good for the Jews”? If so, maybe we should scotch that idea right now, since my landsmen do not represent even one-fiftieth of the country’s population.
It’s worth remembering that Murdoch’s employees at Fox News have been known to engage in some hateful Jewish stereotyping as well. Fox News host Bill O’Reilly once told a Jewish caller to “go to Israel” if he found himself offended by public Christmas displays. Glenn Beck, while a Fox employee, slandered George Soros as America’s “puppet master,” an old anti-Semitic canard, and even displayed the image of a Star of David while doing so.
Complaints about the allegedly Jewish-owned media are supposed to spur organizations like Abe Foxman’s Anti-Defamation League into action. But Murdoch is not only a powerful right-wing publisher; he is also a billionaire who funds quite a few of the right-wing Jewish publications and organizations he does not own, picking up awards (and apologists) from them like lint on a cheap suit. I didn’t make it to the ADL International Leadership Award dinner honoring Murdoch, or the Simon Wiesenthal Humanitarian dinner, the Museum of Jewish Heritage Award dinner, the American Jewish Committee National Human Relations Award dinner, etc., though I did once attend a United Jewish Appeal-Federation “Humanitarian of the Year” ceremony for the guy. (The award was presented, I kid you not, by Henry Kissinger.) Norman Podhoretz took the podium to thank Murdoch for helping keep Commentary afloat after the American Jewish Committee (belatedly) cut it loose.
Now that Commentary, like a family dry-cleaning business, has been passed down to the younger (and lesser) John Podhoretz, it is not so surprising to see its blogger, Jonathan Tobin, endorse Murdoch’s anti-Semitic formulation. Tobin, who recently worked himself up into a froth over an allegedly anti-Semitic Maureen Dowd column about Mitt Romney’s foreign policy advisers that made no mention of anyone’s religion or ethnicity, insisted that “it wasn’t unreasonable for the non-Jewish Murdoch to wonder why these [Jewish-owned] papers as well as much of the liberal media are often so reflexively hostile to Israel’s cause.” Other Jewish neocons followed suit. When Murdoch issued a narrowly worded clarification, Seth Lipsky’s New York Sun (which I did not know still existed) declared that Murdoch’s “apology was unnecessary.” Michael Goldfarb, a former Bill Kristol protégé now at a Koch brothers–sounding outfit called the Center for American Freedom, tweeted “New York Times proves @RupertMurdoch correct,” also apparently unaware that the paper is not Jewish-owned (nor, it must be said, consistently or even inconsistently critical of Israel). Foxman, too, has chimed in on Murdoch’s behalf.
When FDR died in April 1945, Joe Kennedy, while admiring the Jews’ “marvelous organizing capacity,” nevertheless celebrated the fact that “the power of certain groups to control the future life of this country [is] finished.” Rupert Murdoch is apparently betting that the old man was wrong yet again.
So who really does own the media? More and more, it’s the fewer and fewer. Read New Press head André Schiffrin on “How Mergermania Is Destroying Book Publishing.”