Sep 20, 2023

Book Review: ‘The Fall,’ by Michael Wolff

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A Deep Dive into Murdoch’s Marriages, Family Dynamics, and the Changing Landscape of Fox News

In Michael Wolff’s “The Fall,” readers are invited into the tumultuous world of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, marked by a series of divorces, family conflicts, and significant shifts in the landscape of Fox News. The book delves into Murdoch’s fourth marriage, which is coming to an end, and explores the strained relationships with his children from his second marriage, including James, Lachlan, and Elisabeth.

While the year-and-a-half timeline might not provide enough fresh drama, Wolff skillfully revisits earlier episodes of palace intrigue and family dysfunction, offering readers a historical perspective of Fox News during the Trump era. These years witnessed the departure of Roger Ailes, the influential figure behind Fox News, and the sale of Murdoch’s non-news television assets to Disney. According to Wolff, Ailes, who had wielded considerable power within Murdoch’s empire, was not brought down by the women he had mistreated but rather by Rupert’s own sons, who profited handsomely from the Disney deal.

The root of this vendetta, as portrayed by Wolff, was the glaring clash between the Murdoch children’s liberal values and Fox’s strident conservatism. James, depicted as an idealistic figure, aimed to transform the channel into a force for good, a sentiment that Wolff presents with a touch of irony, highlighting the stark contrast between the Murdoch offspring and the Fox brand.

This divergence extends to Rupert Murdoch himself, whose political stance, according to Wolff, adheres to Reagan-Thatcherite principles of anti-left, pro-business conservatism. Under Roger Ailes, Fox News evolved into something far more intense—an outlet for cultural paranoia and racial resentment often cloaked in populist rhetoric. While Wolff’s examination of Tucker Carlson provides insights, it may not fully address the overt use of white supremacist language within Carlson’s discourse. Nevertheless, Wolff underscores Fox’s willingness to acknowledge the liberal case against itself by firing Carlson following the Dominion settlement.

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Throughout the book, Murdoch is quoted expressing disdain for Donald Trump, describing him as an idiot, a fool, and plainly nuts. Yet, the heart of “The Fall” lies in the schism between the former president and the network that had served as his de facto propaganda arm. Wolff ponders the power struggle between the Fox monopoly backed by Murdoch and the former president, who had become a global icon. Ultimately, “The Fall” unveils a complex web of personal and media drama, shedding light on the ever-evolving dynamics within the Murdoch empire.

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