The Lies Killing America

While many reformers have focused on money in politics, a parallel danger comes from the billions of dollars that right-wing ideologues have poured into media. The likes of Rupert Murdoch have made an art form out of peddling “populism” that serves the financial elites, as Bill Moyers and Michael Winship note.

By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

Here in Manhattan the other day, you couldn’t miss it the big bold headline across the front page of the tabloid New York Post, screaming one of those sick, slick lies that are a trademark of Rupert Murdoch’s right-wing media empire. There was Uncle Sam, brandishing a revolver and wearing a burglar’s mask. “UNCLE SCAM,” the headline shouted. “U.S. robs bank of $13 billion.”

Say what? Pure whitewash, and Murdoch’s minions know it. That $13 billion is the settlement JPMorgan Chase, the country’s biggest bank, is negotiating with the government to settle its own rip-off of American homeowners and investors — those shady practices that five years ago helped trigger the financial meltdown, including manipulating mortgages and sending millions of Americans into bankruptcy or foreclosure.

Media magnate Rupert Murdoch, one of the billionaire. (Photo credit: World Economic Forum)

Media magnate Rupert Murdoch, one of the billionaire. (Photo credit: World Economic Forum)

If anybody’s been robbed it’s not JPMorgan Chase, which can absorb the loss and probably take a tax write-off for at least part of it. No, it’s the American public. In addition to financial heartache we still have been denied the satisfaction of seeing jail time for any of the banksters who put our feet in cement and pushed us off the cliff.

This isn’t the only scandal JPMorgan Chase is juggling. A $5.1 billion settlement with institutional investors has just been announced and criminal charges may still be filed in California. The bank is under investigation on so many fronts it’s hard to keep them sorted out everything from deceptive sales in its credit card unit to Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme to the criminal manipulation of energy markets and bribing Chinese officials by offering jobs to their kids.

Nor is JPMorgan Chase the only culprit under scrutiny. Bank of America was found guilty just this week of civil fraud, and a gaggle of other banks is being investigated by the government for mortgage fraud. No wonder the camp followers at Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, CNBC and other cheerleaders have ganged up to whitewash the banks.

If justice is somehow served, this could be the biggest egg yet across the smug face of unfettered, unchecked, unaccountable capitalism. One face in particular: Jamie Dimon, the chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase. One of Murdoch’s Fox Business News hosts, Charlie Gasparino, claims the Feds are on a witch-hunt against Dimon for criticizing President Barack Obama, whose administration, we are told, “is brutally determined and efficient when it comes to squashing those who oppose their policies.”

But hold on: Dimon is a Democrat, said to be Obama’s favorite banker, with so much entree he’s been doing his own negotiating with the Attorney General of the United States. But that’s crony capitalism for you, bipartisan to a fault.

Rupert Murdoch has been defending Dimon in his media for a long time. Last spring, when it looked like there might be a stockholders revolt against Dimon, Murdoch was one of many bigwigs who rushed to his defense. He tweeted that JPMorgan would be “up a creek” without Dimon. “One of the smartest, toughest guys around,” Murdoch insisted. Whether Murdoch’s exaltation had an effect or not, Dimon was handily reelected.

Over the last few days, The Wall Street Journal, both Bible and supplicant of high finance as well one of Murdoch’s more reputable publications at least in its reporting echoed the “UNCLE SCAM” indignation of the more lowbrow Post. The government just wants “to appease their left wing populist allies,” its editorial writers raged, with a “political shakedown and wealth-redistribution scheme.” Perhaps, the paper suggested, the White House will distribute some of the JPMorgan Chase penalty to consumers and advocacy groups and “have the checks arrive in swing Congressional districts right before the 2014 election.”

We can hear the closet Bolsheviks panting for their handouts now and getting ready to use their phony ID’s to stuff the box on Election Day with multiple illegal ballots. Such fantasies are all part of the Murdoch News Corp. pattern, an unending flow of falsehood and phony populism that in reality serves only the wealthy elite.

Fox News is its ministry of misinformation, the fake jewel of the News Corp. crown, a 24/7 purveyor of flimflam and the occasional selective truth. Look at the pounding they’ve given Obama’s healthcare reform right from the very start, whether the non-existent death panels or claims that it would cause the highest tax increase in history.

While it’s true that the startup of Obamacare has been plagued by its website nightmare and other problems, Fox News consistently has failed to mention Republican roadblocks that prevented the program from getting proper funding or the fact that so many states ruled by Republican governors and legislatures more than 30 have deliberately failed to set up the insurance marketplaces critical to making the new system work.

Just the other day, Eric Stern at fact-checked a segment on Sean Hannity’s show. “Average Americans are feeling the pain of Obamacare and the healthcare overhaul train wreck,” Hannity declared, “and six of them are here tonight to tell us their stories.” Eric Stern tracked down each of the Hannity Six and found that while their questions about health reform may have been valid, the answers they received from Hannity or had decided for themselves were not.

“I don’t doubt that these six individuals believe that Obamacare is a disaster,” Stern reported. “But none of them had even visited the insurance exchange.”

And there you have the problem: ideology and self-interest trump the facts or even caring about the facts, whether it’s banking, Obamacare or global warming. Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists say that climate change is happening and that humans have made it so, but only four in ten Americans realize it’s true.

According to a new study in the journal Public Understanding of Science, written by a team that includes Yale University’s Anthony Leiserowitz, the more that people listen to conservative media like Fox News or Limbaugh, the less sure they are that global warming is real. And even worse, the less they trust science.

Such ignorance will kill democracy as surely as the big money that funds and encourages the media outlets, parties and individuals who spew the lies and hate. The ground is all too fertile for those who will only believe whatever best fits their resentment or particular brand of paranoia.

It is, as an old song lyric goes, “the self-deception that believes the lie.” The truth will set us free; the lie will make prisoners of us all.

Bill Moyers is managing editor and Michael Winship, senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos, is senior writer of the weekly public affairs program, Moyers & Company, airing on public television. Check local airtimes or comment at

6 comments for “The Lies Killing America

  1. jd
    October 27, 2013 at 05:57

    Of course climate change is happening, its always been happening. The earth has never had a stable climate. You mention the checking of evidence by looking up the six people from Hannity’s show and examining where they were coming from. However, you don’t think of doing this with the scientists who claim global warming (changed of course to ‘climate change’, now I wonder why there was a change in the terminology?) is man-made. Did you check to see if these people and the institutions they represent have a vested interest in making this claim. No you don’t, in this case you just accept they must be being truthful, something you criticize in the article. Many scientists who disagree with the prevailing viewpoint very quickly find themselves lifting unemployment benefits. Now why might that be the case and why might that explain why so few scientists would oppose the claims? Quite simply, if the evidence for global warming was so strong then why would the University of East Anglia, the main university regarding the collection of data for the UN on this subject, need to diddle the figures to prove their point. Climategate gives the lie to the claim ‘the science is settled’, in itself an unscientific statement.

    • Luther Bliss
      October 31, 2013 at 11:30

      In Canada we have a right-wing, pro-oil, climate-change skeptic Prime Minister who has declared war on science: the science budget is slashed, govt. scientists are muzzled and need govt. clearance to speak, many are now “lifting unemployment benefits”.

      The choice between the pro-science ‘Left’ [and their climate-change “diddling” (as you call it)] & the anti-Science ‘Right’ [who answers to the oil lobby and Christian fundamentalists] is an easy one for me.

      The funny part is I’m actually agnostic on ‘climate change’ – but I have no time for the typical Murdoch-reading ‘climate change’-denier. Same with Obamacare, its’ horrible legislation but watching the ‘South rise up’ to fight it like it was coming of the Anti-Christ has made me defend it at points.

      If you think that the one sentence on climate change is the most important sentence in that article, you are seriously confused

  2. F. G. Sanford
    October 26, 2013 at 15:23

    J.P. Morgan Chase is laughing all the way to the bank…or in their case, all the way home. $13 billion represents 1% of their annual profits, which are ballooned by continuing the same fraudulent practices that set off the 2008 crash. So, what the government essentially did was wink, smile and nod, and say, “Have at it boys, drinks are on us!”

    • Rob
      October 26, 2013 at 19:02

      Are you saying that J.P. Morgan has annual profits of 1.3 trillion dollars? Though they may be crooks, even they aren’t that good at it.


      • F. G. Sanford
        October 26, 2013 at 23:01

        The settlement may wipe out between $100 billion and $200 billion in potential liability. In other words, they settled for about ten cents on the dollar. The Federal Housing Finance Agency was suing Chase and its affiliates for $33 billion. The ongoing Bernie Madoff Ponzi scandal was suing Chase for upwards of $19 billion. The settlement is only $9 billion in cash, with $4 billion earmarked for “mortgage relief. The $9 billion in fines are tax deductible, so we taxpayers bail them out again. Chase got to buy Bear Stearns with $29 billion in Fed guarantees to bail out the Ponzi scheme mortgage fraud that came with it. Bloomberg reports that Bear’s value increased by $36 billion since the publicly subsidized purchase by J.P. Morgan, and its retail banking earnings have increased almost 1000 percent. Its banking deposits have more than doubled, and it gained banking branches in both California and Florida, states where it previously had none. Bernie Madoff only caused about $18 billion in losses. Unlike Jamie Dimon, he got 150 years in jail.

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        You do the math, but yeah, in the long run, they MADE money. I exaggerated when I said it cost them one percent. In the long run, it didn’t cost them a dime. See the Matt Taibbi article above.

        • Rob
          October 28, 2013 at 01:24

          I agree that these fines are paltry in comparison to the amounts that were heisted from investors, borrowers and taxpayers. In effect, they signal the banksters to carry on. It’s the smart business move. Probably nothing short of criminal convictions will be enough to alter behavior, and I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

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