Why the ‘Washington Post’ buried the story of Murdoch’s bid to buy US presidency

Israel/Palestine
on 9 Comments

Carl Bernstein, of All the President’s Men fame, has a revealing commentary in the Guardian today, though revealing not entirely in a way he appears to understand. Bernstein highlights a story first disclosed earlier this month in the Washington Post by his former journalistic partner Bob Woodward that media mogul Rupert Murdoch tried to “buy the US presidency”.

A taped conversation shows that in early 2011 Murdoch sent Roger Ailes, the boss of his most important US media outlet, Fox News, to Afghanistan to persuade Gen David Petraeus, former commander of US forces, to run against Barack Obama as the Republican candidate in the 2012 presidential election. Murdoch promised to bankroll Petraeus’ campaign and commit Fox News to provide the general with wall-to-wall support.

Murdoch’s efforts to put his own man in the White House failed because Petraeus decided he did not want to run for office. “Tell [Ailes] if I ever ran,” Petraeus says in the recording, “but I won’t … but if I ever ran, I’d take him up on his offer.”

Bernstein is rightly appalled not just by this full-frontal attack on democracy but also by the fact that the Washington Post failed to splash with their world exclusive. Instead they buried it inside the paper’s lifestyle section, presenting it as what the section editor called “a buzzy media story that … didn’t have the broader import” that would justify a better showing in the paper.

In line with the Washington Post, most other major US news outlets either ignored the story or downplayed its significance.

We can probably assume that Bernstein wrote his piece at the bidding of Woodward, as a covert way for him to express his outrage at his newspaper’s wholesale failure to use the story to generate a much-deserved political scandal. The pair presumably expected the story to prompt congressional hearings into Murdoch’s misuse of power, parallel to investigations in the UK that have revealed Murdoch’s control of politicians and the police there.

As Bernstein observes: “The Murdoch story – his corruption of essential democratic institutions on both sides of the Atlantic – is one of the most important and far-reaching political/cultural stories of the past 30 years, an ongoing tale without equal.”

What Bernstein cannot understand is why his media masters don’t see things the way he does. He reserves his greatest dismay for “the ho-hum response to the story by the American press and the country’s political establishment, whether out of fear of Murdoch, Ailes and Fox – or, perhaps, lack of surprise at Murdoch’s, Ailes’ and Fox’s contempt for decent journalistic values or a transparent electoral process.”

But in truth neither of Bernstein’s explanations for this failure is convincing.

A far more likely reason for the US media’s aversion to the story is that it poses a danger to the Matrix-like wall of static interference generated by precisely the same media that successfully conceals the all-too-cosy relationship between the corporations (that own the media) and the country’s politicians.

The Petraeus story is disturbing to the media precisely because it tears away the façade of US democratic politics, an image carefully honed to persuade the American electorate that it chooses its presidents and ultimately decides the direction of the country’s political future.

Instead, the story reveals the charade of that electoral game, one in which powerful corporate elites manipulate the system through money and the media they own to restrict voters’ choice to two almost-identical candidates. Those candidates hold the same views on 80 per cent of the issues. Even where their policies differ, most of the differences are quickly ironed out behind the scenes by the power elites through the pressure they exert on the White House via lobby groups, the media and Wall Street.

The significance of Woodward’s story is not that it proves Rupert Murdoch is danger to democracy but rather that it reveals the absolute domination of the US political system by the global corporations that control what we hear and see. Those corporations include, of course, the owners of the Washington Post.

The saddest irony is that the journalists who work within the corporate media are incapable of seeing outside the parameters set for them by their media masters. And that includes even the most accomplished practitioners of the trade: Woodward and Bernstein.

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books).  His new website is www.jonathan-cook.net.

About Jonathan Cook

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His new website is jonathan-cook.net.

Other posts by .


Posted In:

9 Responses

  1. Les
    December 21, 2012, 1:44 pm

    “I’d take him up on his offer.”

    If sincere, it means Petraeus was willing to take advantage of such corruption.

  2. Annie Robbins
    December 21, 2012, 2:22 pm

    A far more likely reason for the US media’s aversion to the story is that it poses a danger to the Matrix-like wall of static interference generated by precisely the same media that successfully conceals the all-too-cosy relationship between the corporations (that own the media) and the country’s politicians.

    The Petraeus story is disturbing to the media precisely because it tears away the façade of US democratic politics, an image carefully honed to persuade the American electorate that it chooses its presidents and ultimately decides the direction of the country’s political future.

    great read Jonathan Cook.

  3. pabelmont
    December 21, 2012, 2:46 pm

    When BIGs control, they usually are not so brazen to desire (or allow) announcement of the fact. BIG-BANKS control the too-big-to-jail banks that are bringing EU to its knees. BIG-ARMS keep the USA’s empire going. BIG-ZION needs no introduction here. BIG-PHARMA & BIG-MED-INS spoiled Obamacare to a large extent. BIG-COAL/BIG-OIL are working to ensure the worst possible climate change.

    Big-Zion donors to NYC Synagogues desire to suppress news of their suppression of opinion from rabbis and others. NPR & WNYC suppress news of the kind we read here at Mondoweiss, but will not admit that money talks (and silences).

  4. irmep
    December 21, 2012, 3:42 pm

    The indispensable Harry Shearer played extended audio clips of Petraus on his “Le Show” a couple weeks ago. Creepy to listen to. Starts around 22:00

    link to download.kcrw.com

  5. DICKERSON3870
    December 21, 2012, 5:00 pm

    RE: “Bernstein is rightly appalled not just by this full-frontal attack on democracy but also by the fact that the Washington Post failed to splash with their world exclusive. Instead they buried it inside the paper’s lifestyle section . . .” ~ Jonathan Cook

    SEE: “Amazing Story Of Why Washington Post Is So Weirdly Neocon”, By M.J. Rosenberg, TPM Cafe, 09/20/10

    [EXCERPTS] Yesterday the Washington Post published Lally Weymouth’s interview with British Vice Prime Minister Nick Clegg which wasn’t too bad until she became prosecutor, not interviewer, when the subject of Israel came up. (Weymouth is the daughter of former Post publisher Katherine Graham and mother of current publisher and CEO, Katherine Weymouth).
    I wondered how Lally Weymouth, the Post heir, became such a right-wing Zionist. . .
    . . . this is an amazing story – link to nymag.com
    . . . Sad that it is about her 42 year old boyfriend’s funeral
    — he really was a tragic case. . .
    . . . the problems of Weymouth’s boyfriend started when, as a Senate Intelligence Committee staffer, he was busted for a heroin purchase. But that did not stop him from being hired by Rupert Murdoch as editor of the New York Post or, in any way, slow his rise within the fanciest of bipartisan social and political circles. Nor did it affect his right-wing politics.
    “After a period of rehabilitation, for his body, his psyche, and his reputation, Breindel signed on at the [N.Y.] Post’s editorial page in 1986. And immediately, he came out shooting bullets. Homeless people, poor people, gay people, the mentally ill, single mothers. All were subjected to Breindel’s uncharitable lashings. There were never even subtle shadings in his writing that indicated he was someone who knew what it was like to stumble, to give in to temptation, or simply to suffer from some common human failing…”
    Favorite part, about the funeral itself. Even at the saddest of moments, Marty goes off.
    “All of the speakers, even the pols, kept to the imposed three-to-four-minute time limit. Except Marty Peretz. Distraught over the loss of his friend and unhappy about sharing the moment, the Harvard professor and owner of The New Republic went on for nearly half an hour. . .

    SOURCE – link to tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com

    • DICKERSON3870
      December 21, 2012, 5:06 pm

      P.S. ALSO RE: “Bernstein is rightly appalled not just by this full-frontal attack on democracy but also by the fact that the Washington Post failed to splash with their world exclusive. Instead they buried it inside the paper’s lifestyle section . . .” ~ Jonathan Cook

      SEE: “Katharine Weymouth Steps in It Again”, By Jack Shafer, Slate, 09/15/09
      A ‘Washington Post’ piece gets spiked after its publisher expresses a preference for happier stories.

      (excerpts). . . Earlier this summer, Weymouth got in Dutch when a Post plan to sell off-the-record access to reporters and government officials at “salons” at Weymouth’s home was made public by ‘Politico’. Weymouth and Post Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli quickly canceled the events after much confusion over whether the paper had put its soul up for sale or whether miscommunication on the part of the management team was to blame.
      In the latest Weymouth miscue, she appears to have told freelancer Matt Mendelsohn, a friend of hers, that advertisers desired “happier stories, not ‘depressing’ ones” like the one he had been working on about a young woman whose arms and legs were amputated. His piece was ultimately killed by the Post’s Sunday magazine. The editor who killed it, Sydney Trent, told the Post‘s Howard Kurtz that the spike had been delivered “because it was clear the newspaper wanted to move in a different direction. That handwriting was very clearly on the wall.”
      Mendelsohn doesn’t blame Weymouth directly. . .
      . . . The controversy has both Weymouth and Brauchli standing on their chairs insisting that the church-state boundary at the paper was never, ever breached.
      Brauchli tells the Post, “We are not driven by what one of our business-side colleagues, or even our publisher, thinks about a piece. We follow a journalistic compass.” From Weymouth: “I would never interfere in an editorial decision and I had no intention of interfering.”
      Can you believe for a moment that Katharine Weymouth’s ideas don’t drive what the Post prints? Or, to put a finer point on it, that her ideas shouldn’t drive what the Post prints? Weymouth is the one in charge. . .

      ENTIRE ARTICLE – link to slate.com

  6. David Doppler
    December 21, 2012, 8:08 pm

    Thanks, Jonathan, I had totally missed that. The Ever Essential Mondoweiss.

    With Murdoch you have the broad UK scandals as backdrop, so the kid gloves treatment is extra appalling. Plus, you have Petraeus as DC sex scandal of the month last month with no mention of or attention to this juicy detail tying one scandal to another, as ordinary sensational journalism would be prone to do, even without evidence. Applying lessons from Kremlinology, the disappearance of any interest in who the two dueling Mata Hari’s might be connected to in their efforts to be close to Petraeus and Allen, and the lack of interest in Murdoch’s trying to buy the presidency through Petraeus leaves one left to speculate on whether and how they might be connected.

    Here’s a link to Cliff Kincaid in Accuracy in Media on The Decline of the Washington Post, in which its dealings and news treatment with its subsidiary for-profit Kaplan Universities, and its selling of reprint space to Russian and Chinese propaganda agencies is detailed. link to aim.org It’s a great read on a sad subject.

    I hope Mondoweiss readership and revenue are growing as fast as MSM’s are dropping. That would be well-deserved on the basis of quality of journalistic product.

  7. Citizen
    December 21, 2012, 8:08 pm

    Maybe a decade after the USA has been embroiled in a full-blown war with Iran and its allies, a third party candidate will have a real chance to get elected POTUS in America?

  8. seafoid
    December 21, 2012, 11:14 pm

    Is there something up with the math for the end of year fundraiser?

    Donated + matched = 22200
    Remaining = 13800

    Sum of these = 36000
    Target = 40000

Leave a Reply