In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, the reaction of one media owner stood out: Rupert Murdoch, he of News Corporation, the Sun, the New York Post, and of course Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse) reacted with horror. Although he has now taken US citizenship – necessary in order for him to own those Stateside interests of his – he looked back to his native Australia.
“Terrible news today. When will politicians find courage to ban automatic weapons? As in Oz after similar tragedy” he Tweeted, the tragedy in question being the Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania. The shooter on that occasion was armed with a semi-automatic rifle (not fully automatic, so a direct parallel with US laws) and had killed 35 others before being arrested.
Gun laws in Australia were tightened significantly in the wake of this killing spree. But Rupe was clearly wary of any action in the USA: “Nice words from POTUS on shooting tragedy, but how about some bold leadership action?” was his follow-up Tweet. So it’s clear to anyone in the Murdoch empire where the boss stands. And the papers have followed his lead.
The Super Soaraway Currant Bun was unequivocal: “End the lunacy” shrieked the headline, calling the Sandy Hook shootings “America’s Dunblane”, that being the 1996 school killings that were the trigger for a handgun ban in the UK. Barack Obama’s speech was extensively quoted. Photos of all 20 children killed were shown. It was no different at the New York Post.
There, in an article titled “Remembering the kids gunned down in the Newtown massacre”, there is a recollection of all those children – four aged seven, the remainder just six – and an accompanying editorial that asks the question “Has technology rendered the second amendment to the US Constitution obsolete?” which is then answered in the affirmative.
So far, so encouraging, but when it comes to Fox News, everything changes: the word has gone out not to talk about gun control. There have been what had to be necessary exceptions, such as Chris Wallace’s Fox News Sunday discussion, which would have sparked real outrage if the subject had been off-limits on a show which remains one of the channel’s few less than totally partisan broadcasts.
But Fox News has a problem with this whole business: boss Roger Ailes and at least one of his hosts – professional loudmouth Sean Hannity – have permits to carry concealed weapons in New York state, there is the channel’s appeal to the libertarian and Tea Party constituency to consider, and their previous form on the issue. But they will have to say something, and say it soon.
And then we will see just who calls the shots at Fox News Channel.