Monday, February 17, 2014

Rupert Murdoch has turned Wall Street Journal into Political Rag

Investors need to know the truth. They need to know what is really happening that may affect the price of gold or oil so they can plan accordingly. That is why business journals have a reputation for telling it like it is. Their readers demand that they do.

That was before the advent of fact-free journalism, however. Rupert Murdoch, an advocate of fact-free journalism, has been encouraging Fox personalities to read the idiot cards without straying from the Republican Party line. Murdoch's most successful huckster at Fox, Bill O'Reilly, strongly advocates the doctrine of the Catholic Church. At least he did when Benedict was Pope. Pope Francis has led O'Reilly to challenge the papacy, however.

Francis has made the welfare of the poor the cornerstone of his mission:
As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems. Inequality is the root of social ills.
O'Reilly, who always contends that he is a good Catholic, addresses the problem of the poor quite differently, because he believes that
some people are the cause of their own poverty. “If you’re an [addict] and you can’t hold a job, and you can’t support your children, […] then you’re bringing the havoc. You’re asking people who may be struggling themselves to put food on the table to give their tax money to you, […] and then you’re going to buy booze and drugs with it.”
So O'Reilly is now arguing with the Pope, who is the spiritual leader of O'Reilly's professed faith. Francis states that market capitalism is the cause of inequality and inequality is the root of social ills. O'Reilly says we shouldn't help the poor because their condition, poverty, is their own fault. These two sentiments share no common ground. Either you help the poor by ending inequality, as Francis preaches, or you don't, as O'Reilly recommends, because the poor are not worthy of our help.

O'Reilly is an author who uses a tv show to sell his books. Murdoch is a media mogul who uses his outlets to sell his philosophy. His philosophy is simple: rich people should be protected against threats to their wealth from poor people. This means poor people should be taxed more to keep taxes low on rich people.

This philosophy also means that all corporate actions, especially dangerous and illegal acts, should be protected in the courts and in the press.

In the past 50 years, no corporate actions have been more destructive of property and human life than those of asbestos manufacturers and purveyors of products made using asbestos. My article gives details of the long struggle to force corporations to pay for their deliberate poisoning of the environment. The struggle is not over.

Here comes the Wall Street Journal with an article that ignores the existence of the struggle for justice. The WSJ accepts claims by a single bankruptcy court judge that it is really the plaintiffs--the people suffering from asbestos poisoning--who are causing problems. The victims, according to the judge and WSJ, are corporations who fought for 50 years to prevent the public from finding the truth about asbestos, who spent millions to pretend that some forms of asbestos are safer than others, who successfully lobbied for laws that made it more difficult for victims to get justice.

This judge took it upon himself to accept the asbestos-using company's estimate of $125 million in damages because, he said, plaintiff's lawyers lied about how many claims they were filing. The decision says, in effect, the damages to plaintiffs may be $1.3 billion, but the plaintiffs should sue other companies for it.

The judge accuses plaintiffs of a "pattern of misrepresentation", though the well-documented actions of defendants in outright lies about their products is just as serious. Defendants introduced 15 cases to support their thesis. The judge asserted that "more extensive discovery would show more extensive abuse", but this was an assumption, not evidence. Since there may have been thousands of asbestos cases over the years, 15 cases is hardly a large sample. These cases were chosen by defendants as being particularly supportive of their claims.

The judge repeats the falsehood, fostered by asbestos producers and the government of Canada, that chrysotile asbestos is "relatively less potent" than other forms of the mineral. In fact, studies have shown that chrysotile asbestos may be more toxic, not less.

The WSJ also states that several states have passed laws against plaintiff's practices, but fails to note that industry lobbying groups and the right-wing front group ALEC were influential in passing those laws.
Only at the tail end of the article did WSJ quote spokesmen for the plaintiffs, who correctly observed that the opinion of this judge was out of step with the vast majority of other courts that have ruled on this issue in recent years.

Once again and predictability, the WSJ has come down on the side of corporations and against their victims. Their coverage appears fair until you look more closely and discover their bias, subtle but absolute.

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