The year 2023 will go down in history as the year that media mogul Rupert Murdoch retired and Logan Roy, a fictional character on the hit TV show “Succession,” died. While Roy’s death may have saddened fans, Murdoch’s retirement leaves behind a wake of destruction that cannot be ignored.
It is difficult to summarize Murdoch’s toxic and pernicious record in a few words. His influence on politics, media, and the world as a whole is immeasurable. Three of the most destructive events of recent times—the Iraq War, Brexit, and the rise of Trump—simply could not have happened without Murdoch’s involvement.
In the lead-up to the Iraq War, Murdoch’s media empire actively pushed for invasion. Every single one of the 175 Murdoch-owned papers examined by The Guardian supported the invasion—an alarming coincidence, to say the least. Fox, Murdoch’s American news outlet, also played a significant role in advocating for the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Even years after the invasion, a survey found that more than half of Fox’s viewers believed that WMDs had been discovered.
But Murdoch’s influence extended beyond his media organization. In a revealing diary entry, top aide Alastair Campbell documented a phone call between Murdoch and then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair, where Murdoch pressed for a quicker timeline for the invasion. Whether or not Murdoch was lobbying for war on behalf of U.S. Republicans, it is clear that he played a role in making the Iraq War happen.
Brexit is another event in recent history that bears Murdoch’s fingerprints. The Sun, a hard-right tabloid newspaper owned by Murdoch, went beyond simply endorsing Brexit—it actually registered with the U.K.’s electoral commission as a pro-Brexit campaign group. The newspaper’s impact on public opinion cannot be understated. A study found that residents of Liverpool, who boycotted The Sun due to its false reporting, were less eurosceptic than the rest of the U.K. This boycott also led to an improvement in their views of the European Union.
Lastly, Murdoch’s central role in the rise of Donald Trump and the propagation of the Big Lie cannot be ignored. Fox, with its continuous coverage of “birther” conspiracies and anti-immigrant sentiments, laid the groundwork for Trump’s victory in 2016. The network essentially became Trump’s propaganda arm during his presidency, perpetuating the idea of a stolen election in 2020. Despite Rupert Murdoch privately acknowledging the falsehood of Trump’s election narrative, Fox continued to push the Big Lie because of its ratings-driven approach to news.
In the end, Murdoch’s actions were not driven by principle or ideology, but by a thirst for power and money. He pushed for the Iraq War, Brexit, and the Big Lie to further his own interests, without concern for the devastating consequences these decisions had on the world. Murdoch’s retirement may mark the end of an era, but his legacy of destruction will continue to be felt for years to come.