If you have not had the pleasure of seeing this site before can I introduce you to Crikey, possibly the best news and political analysis site in Australia. It is the home of Bernard Keene who in my view is one of the most perceptive commentators on news and economics.
Recently Crikey has taken on one of the big media companies, no less than the Murdoch empire. in June Bernard Keene accused Donald Trump of being a “confirmed unhinged traitor” and Murdoch as “his unindicted co-conspirator”.
Murdoch responded by threatening legal retribution. Initially Crikey took the post down. But following the exchange of correspondence between lawyers Crikey has reposted the opinion piece, published the legal correspondence that has been exchanged, and taken out advertising in the New York Times inviting Murdoch to sue.
The Guardian has the details:
A small independent news website in Australia is taking on the Murdoch empire, buying a full-page ad in the New York Times inviting Lachlan Murdoch to sue them over an alleged defamation.
In dispute is an apparent opinion piece, and associated social media posts, published by Crikey.com.au in June headlined: “Trump is a confirmed unhinged traitor. And Murdoch is his unindicted co-conspirator” – analysing the 6 January insurrection by supporters of defeated presidential candidate Donald Trump. In legal letters published by Crikey, lawyers for Lachlan Murdoch argue the publications contain “scandalous allegations of criminal conduct and conspiracy” and carry a number of “highly defamatory and false imputations about him”.
Written by Crikey’s politics editor, Bernard Keane, the 29 June piece mentions the Murdoch name twice: in the headline and in the closing paragraphs.
The article is largely concerned with the evidence of former White House staffer Cassidy Hutchinson to the US House select committee on the January 6 attack. Hutchinson did not mention Murdoch in her testimony.
Having discussed Trump’s continued peddling of the “big lie” that he won the 2020 US presidential election – he lost 306 electoral college votes to 232, and the popular ballot by 7m votes – Keane argues “the world’s most powerful media company” continues “to peddle the lie of the stolen election and play down the insurrection Trump created”.
Keane argued former US president Richard Nixon was infamously the “unindicted co-conspirator” in the Watergate scandal and drew an analogy that “the Murdochs and their slew of poisonous Fox News commentators are the unindicted co-conspirators” in the events of 6 January.
The analogy has considerable merit in my personal view. Fox News has over the past three decades destroyed the prospect of civilised discourse in US politics. Now nearly half of the country believe in bizarre conspiracy theories and thought that Donald Trump would be a good President. Basing a business model on disinforming deluded citizens should have a cost.
Crikey’s response has an Arkell v Pressdramm vibe to it. This is where Private Eye magazine was threatened with defamation for claiming that Mr Arkell had been receiving backhanders in consideration of which he had been providing work to a third party.
Private Eye published the letter of demand and it’s response which read:
We acknowledge your letter of 29th April referring to Mr. J. Arkell.
We note that Mr Arkell’s attitude to damages will be governed by the nature of our reply and would therefore be grateful if you would inform us what his attitude to damages would be, were he to learn that the nature of our reply is as follows: fuck off.
Crickey’s response to Murdoch’s demand is in a similar vein. And it is an important issue. Freedom of the press should mean that we can have a proper debate about the destructive effects that News Corp and the Murdochs are having on western democracies.
I wish Crikey all the best in the fight to come.