Here's what you may not know about Rupert Murdoch: he's one of the leading religion publishers in the world.
Here's what you do know: The top executive in Murdoch's UK power base, Rebekah Brooks is under arrest. The top UK police officer -- Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson -- has just announced his resignation given the corruption of the police by Murdoch company officials. Rupert Murdoch could be arrested too, as could his son.
Murdoch-owned companies have intercepted the voicemail messages of murder victim Milly Dowler, hacked into the phones of the parents of one of murder victims, listened in to the mobile phones of the families of the 7/7 London bombings, hacked phones of servicemen killed in Afghanistan. They have conspired to corrupt the top ranks of the UK police. They have allegedly hacked the phones of 9/11 victims.
Here's what we also know: Without the "Tea Party" there wouldn't be far right ideologues in Congress like Michele Bachmann empowered to play Russian roulette with America's future over the debt ceiling. And without Fox News and the Wall Street Journal there would have been no Tea Party, let alone Republicans "successfully" obstructing the President at every turn.
Who is the sole source of this combination of paparazzi hell tabloid amorality gone wild, sleaze and decadence along with breeding the most extreme right wing politics America's ever known since the days of radio host and fascist sympathizer Fr. Coughlin?
Where do all these downward paths meet: In the person and career of Rupert Murdoch. And his company has spent tens of millions to settle scores of scandals as is so well documented by the New York Times.
And now the Murdoch scandal has spread from the just closed News of the World to the Sun and the Sunday Times of London. So it is not about "one bad apple" but about Murdoch's company's methods across the board, as extensive coverage in the Guardian has proved.
Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown suffered from years of criminal intrusion by the Murdoch team, including pilfering medical records of his child. His infant son's medical records were obtained by the Sun. And Brown's tax returns were hacked. Murdoch companies corrupted the police, bribed them into handing over information on their targets, including the prime minister and the queen.
So why are religious moralizers writing about high-minded ethical themes still prepared to enrich Murdoch as they are doing?
Murdoch is one of America's biggest publishers of religious books, including the 33-million seller Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Murdoch is also publisher of Rob Bell's Love Wins. And he also publishes Deepak Chopra and even Desmond Tutu!
Do these religious authors -- and many more besides -- writing about ethics, love and moral rectitude wear gloves when they cash their royalty checks?
Murdoch bought into the billion-dollar American religion market. He bought the venerable evangelical Zondervan publishing house. He bought the religion web site Beliefnet. And he owns HarperOne that publishes Chopra and Tutu.
Back in the day when I was an evangelical author/activist - I've long since fled that world -- and working with my father Francis Schaeffer who was a founder of the religious right, I knew the founding Zondervan family. They were a clan of strict Bible-believing Calvinists who'd have bathed for a week in the Jordan River to purify themselves if they'd ever even brushed up against Murdoch and his minions, let alone stumbled on the ubiquitous nude centerfolds Murdoch puts in his "newspapers." Later generations sold out in the religion version of the family that sold the once respected Wall Street Journal into Murdoch bondage.
My question is this: What religious author - conservative or liberal -- would knowingly work to enrich Murdoch now? He is the epitome of everything that religion says its against: lies, greed, criminality, and sheer exploitation of the defenseless. He is the Fox News hate facilitator who gave us Glenn Beck.
Okay, they deserve a second chance.
I published two books with HarperCollins some years ago soon after Murdoch had taken over. I had a deal with the Smithsonian that was tied into HarperCollins for distribution, then the Smithsonian backed out but my books stayed at Harpers. After they were published I thought about - and regretted -- helping Murdoch in however small a way. I've never published with them again.
I only have one excuse, I didn't know much about Murdoch then. But who would willingly publish anything with any Murdoch paper, magazine or book publisher now, knowing what we all know?
Non-religion authors like Jeff Jarvis have pulled books from HarperCollins because it's owned by Murdoch as he writes in the Huffington Post : "[my] next book, Public Parts, was to be published, like my last one, by News Corp.'s HarperCollins. But I pulled the book because in it, I am very critical of the parent company for being so closed. It's now being published by Simon and Schuster."
Post UK meltdown, post Fox News leading the charge on facilitating the potential destroyers of the US economy, all because they want to take down the first black American president, will Tutu, Bell, Chopra et al - big time authors with a choice of publishers -- still publish yet more books with HarperOne, and/or with Zondervan?
Will liberals in Hollywood still underwrite Murdoch with their lives and continue to work for Fox TV and Fox Films? They used to boycott working in the old apartheid South Africa with the cry, "We won't play Sun City!" (an entertainment complex that tried to book big American entertainers).
Now the Hollywood "liberals" like James Cameron's movies underwrite this right wing zealot, pouring Fox News lies into every home in the world. The message of Cameron's film Avatar was all about the environment, and anti-war, a sensitivity that Fox News has done its best to destroy with their anti-belief-in-global-warming lies, not to mention making the Bush war in Iraq possible by backing the Bush lies. Making Avatar with and for Murdoch was as appropriate as publishing the Diaries of Anne Frank with a company controlled by the Arian Nation.
Next time you read Chopra, Bell and Tutu or re watch Avatar, remember this: there is a direct line from these spiritual enlightened works to Rupert Murdoch's bank accounts and to the pay checks Fox News and Wall Street Journal "reporters" will draw next week.
It's time to hold Murdoch's collaborator's feet to the fire no matter what their progressive or religious credentials are, especially the famous authors who can publish anywhere. Without writers willing to contribute to Murdoch's publishing/entertainment empire, there'd be no empire and no Fox News and Wall Street Journal, perverting American politics and rooting for the destruction of the US economy all to please the lunatic far right/religious right fringe that's taken over the Republican Party.
We can't boycott every dubious corporation on earth. But with Murdoch a line's been crossed.
I know it's not considered polite to be judgmental but I'll say it: to work for any part of Murdoch's empire, let alone to publish religious books with him, or to make spiritually sensitive films for him strips the author (or film maker) of moral authority and it should strip that person of his or her readers and viewers too.
Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His most recent book is Sex, Mom, and God: How the Bible's Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics--and How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus).