from the australia-is-the-upside-down dept
Earlier this week, the popular Australian news publication Crikey, published what it is referring to as “The Lachlan Murdoch letters.” Lachlan Murdoch, as you likely know, is one of Rupert Murdoch’s sons, and who has increasingly been taking over the worst aspects of Murdoch’s approach to dividing society and profiting off of the carnage: namely Fox News.
It began with an article that Crikey published on June 29th with the provocative title: Trump is a confirmed unhinged traitor. And Murdoch is his unindicted co-conspirator. The piece takes the evidence coming out of the January 6th Committee regarding Trump. It actually barely even mentions any of the Murdochs. It focuses on much of the evidence about how Trump was literally encouraging the overthrowing of American democracy, but concludes with this:
The Murdochs and their slew of poisonous Fox News commentators are the unindicted co-conspirators of this continuing crisis.
I mean, that’s pure commentary and opinion. It barely names the Murdochs, and doesn’t even call out Lachlan specifically.
Lahclan Murdoch loses his shit over this throwaway line:
Crikey says they pulled down the article a day after it was originally published, after receiving a legal threat letter from Lachlan Murdoch.
They published a copy of the initial threat letter that Murdoch sent them which lays out the basic claims — which are absolutely ridiculous (though I will note that Crikey has made it difficult to download that threat letter, which is a pain). Out of that one single line in the original Crikey article — really a throwaway line at the end — little melty snowflake Lachlan Murdoch claims there are FOURTEEN “defamatory imputations.”
- Mr Murdoch illegally conspired with Donald Trump to overturn the 2020 presidential election result;
- Mr Murdoch illegally conspired with Donald Trump to incite an armed mob to march on the Capitol to physically prevent confirmation of the outcome of the 2020 presidential election;
- Mr Murdoch illegally conspired with Donald Trump to incite a mob with murderous intent to march on the Capitol;
- Mr Murdoch illegally conspired with Donald Trump to break the laws of the United States of America in relation to the 2020 presidential election result;
- Mr Murdoch knowingly entered into a criminal conspiracy with Donald Trump to overturn the 2020 presidential election result;
- Mr Murdoch knowingly entered into a criminal conspiracy with Donald Trump and a large number of Fox News commentators to overturn the 2020 election result;
- Mr Murdoch engaged in treachery and violent intent together with Donald Trump to overturn the 2020 presidential election result;
- Mr Murdoch was aware of how heavily armed many of the attendees of the planned rally and march on the Capitol building were on January 6 before it occurred;
- Mr Murdoch was a co-conspirator in a plot with Donald Trump to overturn the 2020 election result which cost people their lives;
- Mr Murdoch has conspired with Donald Trump to commit the offence of treason against the United States of America to overturn the 2020 election outcome;
- Mr Murdoch has conspired with Donald Trump to commit the offence of being a traitor to the United States of America to overturn the 2020 election outcome;
- Mr Murdoch should be indicted with conspiracy to commit the offence of being a traitor to the United States of America to overturn the 2020 election outcome;
- Mr Murdoch should be indicted with the offence of being a traitor to the United States of America to overturn the 2020 election outcome
- Mr Murdoch conspired with Donald Trump to lead an armed mob on Congress to overturn the 2020 election outcome.
Nah, dude. It was one throwaway sentence at the end of a long article. No one without a very, very guilty conscience would think any of that. Most normal people read the original article and recognized that it called out real evidence of actual criminal behavior on the part of the former President and was simply calling out your shit channel, Fox News, for misleading the public about all of it, and egging on the anger of a portion of the gullible electorate — and then cashing in on it all. But, I mean, Lachlan, if you get the other 14 things above out of that article, that kinda speaks a lot to your own demons.
Australian defamation law is ridiculous and censorial, but may be changing…
And, at this point, it’s important to make a brief aside to discuss Australian defamation law. It’s sometimes difficult to understand just how upside down Australia is regarding regulation of speech. Australian defamation law is some of the most extreme and absurd that we’ve seen. At the very least, it heavily favors the plaintiff, allows for very broad claims of opinion to be considered defamatory (for example by saying that the mere “imputation” of negative ideas about a person could be defamatory).
That said, just last year most of Australia started using new “Model Defamation Amendment provisions” that sought to raise the barriers to censorial SLAPP-style suits that had become common in Australia, and to require plaintiffs to show “serious harm” from the commentary, and FINALLY offering up a “public interest” defense.
Crikey strikes back:
Anyway, it appears that Crikey was stewing on this legal bullying by Lachlan to suppress pretty mild criticism, looking at the changes to Australian defamation law, and then decided “fuck it.” They republished the article along with a series of other articles starting with an open letter to Lachlan Murdoch, which is pretty short and to the point:
As you know, nearly two months ago Crikey published a piece of commentary about the sorry state of US politics, and the January 6 insurrection, that mentioned the Murdoch family name twice.
You responded through your lawyer with a series of letters in which you accused us of defaming you personally in that story.
Crikey is an independent Australian news website, launched in 2000, covering politics, media and public issues. We at Crikey strongly support freedom of opinion and public interest journalism. We are concerned that Australia’s defamation laws are too restrictive.
Today in Crikey, we are publishing all the legal demands and accusations from your lawyer, and the replies from our lawyers, in full, so people can judge your allegations for themselves.
We want to defend those allegations in court. You have made it clear in your lawyer’s letters you intend to take court action to resolve this alleged defamation.
We await your writ so that we can test this important issue of freedom of public interest journalism in a courtroom.
It kicks off with a much more direct and stronger condemnation of Murdoch’s role in the January 6th insurrection. Remember, the original just kind of had a throwaway “unindicted coconspirator” line at the very end. The new one tackles Lachlan’s role head on. Here’s just a snippet:
It’s no exaggeration to say that Fox News is an existential threat to US democracy. Its entire business model has been to stoke, amplify and feed a perverse sense of victimhood among its target audience of older white Americans — the most privileged people on the planet — and convince them they and the values they hold dear are under threat.
The source of that threat? “Liberals”, people of colour, migrants, feminists, LGBTIQA+ people, the “woke”, Democrats, climate scientists, and moderate Republicans, among others. The mechanism of the threat? An amorphous plot by these “elites” to destroy the American way of life and freedom.
Fox News was present at the creation of the Tea Party movement. It was a vehicle for its bastard offspring, the birther movement. Then it went all in for Trump. Inevitably, it became a vehicle for pandemic and vaccine denialism. This pandering to grievance and promotion of division meant it commanded the biggest cable TV audiences in the US and made billions for the Murdochs.
It goes on from there and gets pretty damning:
The Murdochs, their staffers in the propaganda outlets they own, and their supporters will all insist they merely support free speech. As we’ve seen demonstrated over and over in Australia, the News Corp idea of free speech is free speech for them and their allies and for the views they endorse. But should anyone use free speech to express a viewpoint News Corp disagrees with, or to attack News Corp’s allies, then they risk becoming the target of a torrent of vicious public attacks. Yassmin Abdel-Magied. Roz Ward. Gillian Triggs. Robert Manne. Paul Barry. Julian Disney. Just to name a few.
At News Corp, free speech is for punching down, never for punching up. It’s for speaking power to truth, not truth to power.
There’s much more in the larger collection of stories, including calling for more scrutiny on Murdoch’s role in inciting January 6th, as well as his impact on Australia.
In commentary to the media, Crikey’s execs have made it clear they went all out, in part, to test these new Australian speech protections in court.
Lachlan Murdoch can’t handle a little minor criticism:
Anyway, as if to prove that he’s very much only for his own free speech — and very much against the free speech of those he disagrees with — Murdoch has now followed through on his threat and has filed a defamation lawsuit against the publication and some of its editors. You can also read the laughable complaint that he filed.
In the US, this complaint wouldn’t just be laughed out of court, there’s a decent chance that Murdoch would be paying Crikey’s legal fees.
There’s so much that’s bizarre in the complaint, but which only serves to highlight how utterly backwards Australian defamation law is. The complaint talks up what an important person Murdoch is. In the US, that would make it clear that he’s a public figure, subject to an even higher standard, since criticism of public figures is kind of a core component of the 1st Amendment. The complaint complains that Crikey staffers told another publication about his threat letter! Seriously, it goes on at length about how they talked to the Sydney Morning Herald about the threat letter.
Apparently, Lachlan Murdoch believes that when he sends legal goons to threaten you to shut up, you also are supposed to shut up about his threats.
The complaint whines that Crikey made the article “FREE TO READ” rather than put it behind a paywall.
It also complains about every social media posting Crikey made, claiming this is “republication.” This goes on for pages and pages and pages. The complaint doesn’t even mention what Murdoch found defamatory (again, that one throw away line) until almost halfway through the complaint.
The Streisand Effect Down Under
Somewhat incredibly, the complaint more or less reveals that the original article didn’t get much attention at all. According to the complaint, the article received 71 comments when it was initially published. Crikey’s first tweet about it got seven replies, 62 retweets, and 108 likes. Its second tweet about it got one comment, six retweets, and 23 likes. That’s… not exactly a story that’s gone viral.
Of course, now, thanks entirely to Lachlan Murdoch’s threat letter and follow up lawsuit, tons of people are reading about it.
Congrats to Lachlan Murdoch for making a story that made a rather mild criticism of you and what you’ve done into a massive story — inspiring a deeper look at what a shitbag you and your organization are.
A true attack on free speech
At some point, did anyone bother to remind Lachlan Murdoch that he, too, is in the news business and subject to defamation law? Remember, Fox News is already having some trouble dealing with defamation cases in the US (where defamation law is much more defendant friendly) over Dominion Voting’s claims against the company (notably, on an issue related to what Crikey is talking about).
You’d think at some point, it would get through Lachlan’s apparently thick skull, that maybe having stronger defamation laws protects him and his employees from lawsuits as well. But apparently that small hit on his ego was too much to bear and he had to sue… to drive much more attention to that original criticism, and kick off that much more scrutiny about Murdoch’s Fox News.
All while his propagandists at Fox News prattle on about how Fox News stands for free speech.
I do wonder, Lachlan, will Fox News cover how you’re currently being a censorial thug and legally attacking a small publication in Australia over mild criticism? Will Tucker Carlson have on Crikey’s publisher to talk about how Lachlan Murdoch is trying to “cancel” their publication? Will brave Sean Hannity talk up the importance of free speech while condemning Lachlan Murdoch for trying to stifle speech? Or, will they prattle on about how some hypothetical “libs” are trying to silence real Americans?
I think we all know the answer.
Filed Under: australia, defamation, free speech, imputations, lachlan murdoch, rupert murdoch, streisand effect, unindicted co-conspirator
Companies: crikey, fox news