Carbon Sequestration Environmental Justice Indigenous Sovereignty Politics and Protest

Greenwashing Counterinsurgency: How the Murdoch Media Empire is Rebranding its Climate Denial with Cowboy Mythology

For decades, Rupert Murdoch’s flagship U.S. TV channel – Fox News – has led the charge in denying the reality of climate collapse. Fox has distorted the overwhelming scientific evidence, incessantly lied and denied obvious facts in their coverage, and demonized as “un-American” environmental justice, grass-roots activism, and even mild pro-climate policies.

Rupert Murdoch’s media empire is a global juggernaut. NewsCorp was the world’s largest media company before it sold 21st Century Fox in 2013. By other metrics – such as climate denial – it remains unrivaled today.

As climate disasters accelerate and evidence of the sixth mass extinction continues to pile up, the volume and tenor of NewsCorp’s denial is heating up to jam these signals.

Consider Fox News’ February 2023 report (narrated by the most-watched host on U.S. cable news, Tucker Carlson): THE CLIMATE CULT HAS ONLY GROWN STRONGER. The premise of Carlson’s diatribe is that climate activism is not based on science at all, but is actually “the New Religion of Choice.”

He begins this fear-mongering screed by identifying “their Eden” as “the world before the settlers arrived,” and throws in evident falsehoods like denying that hurricane damage and intensity has increased with global heating. By the end of his rant, he equates the very notion of climate action with the so-called “primitive religions… of the Mayas, the Aztecs,” because preventing climate collapse demands the “sacrifice” of substantially reducing fossil fuel and beef consumption.

A big fan of Jair Bolsonaro, whose ecocide in the Amazon Rainforest made way for beef cattle ranching through Indigenous dispossession, Tucker Carlson met with the former Brazilian President for this questionable photoshoot.

But what does Murdoch’s mouthpiece know about sacrifice? During radio appearances over the last decade, Carlson has boasted about the wealth he amassed as a trust-fund kid. When asked in 2008 how he pays his bills, Carlson replied that he’s “extraordinarily loaded” just from “inheritance from my number of trust funds.” Tucker Carlson seems to have inherited both the wealth and the brand of his ancestor Henry Miller, the “Cattle King of California.”

Such a legacy is unsurprising for Fox News’ chief demagogue. In 2015, the network described itself as engaging in a “rhetorical war” to defend the cattle sector from “global warming alarmism,” and used the counterinsurgency rhetoric of waging “an ongoing battle for… ‘hearts and minds'” to deny the industry’s massive emissions crisis.

Strategically, Fox News was founded on the media power of the “Cowboy President.” The company’s first CEO, Roger Ailes, had previously served as the campaign media director for three U.S. presidents: Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush. Before running his own cable news station, Ailes worked out a theory on the political importance of television performance. This strategy found its application in “Hollywood Cowboy” John Wayne, whom he instructed his candidates to channel in their bids for electoral success. 

After Roger Ailes disgracefully resigned from Fox News in 2016, Rupert Murdoch took over as Executive Director. Today, the billionaire oligarch himself has a new home on the range (345,000-acres, to be precise). Of course, Murdoch’s investments in cattle ranching — much like his holdings in petroleum — are nowhere near the scale of his media empire. 

Rupert Murdoch’s purchase of the Beaverhead Ranch from fellow climate deniers and oil billionaires, the Koch dynasty, was the biggest private land deal in Montana state history.

Yet this acquisition may be crucial to understanding the network’s full-spectrum strategy of climate jamming: Murdoch’s $200 million ranch is planning to sell carbon credits. Based on the disproven theory that intensive cattle ranching — done “regeneratively” — sequesters more carbon in the soil than the cows emit as gas, these credits seek to monetize the “natural capital” of this soil carbon. 

Earlier that same year, the Murdochs profited from the largest ever sale of soil carbon credits based on this premise, in a deal with Microsoft brokered by Regen Network Development. Half of these credits came from Rupert’s personal ranch, the Cavan Station, with the rest from the family-owned Wilmot Station (both in Australia). These stations are managed by the Wilmot Cattle Company, owned by eldest daughter Prudence Murdoch and her husband Alasdair MacLeod.

Until the billionaire couple stepped down to focus on the family ranching business in Australia, they were NewsCorp Australia executives for two decades, with a record of climate denial rivaling Fox News. Yet the Murdoch family ranches claim to have achieved “net carbon sequestration.” 

According to Wilmot, this accomplishment is a result of “holistic management.” The man behind this theory, Allan Savory, admits he has “no expertise in climate change” and asserts that his method of carbon sequestration “cannot be peer-reviewed.” Still, he boasts that it is infallible based on “300 years of European military experience of planning in immediate battlefield situations.”


In Part 1 of this series, Branch Out unearths the origins of Allan Savory’s theory of grazing in the Rhodesian counterinsurgency. As the white supremacist regime’s leading field instructor in military intelligence, Savory developed “holistic management” through his regular practice of war crimes.

In Part 2 of this series, we follow Savory into exile where the newly-elected Reagan administration put him to work across the U.S. federal bureaucracy as it enacted massive environmental rollbacks, and Savory attained cult-like status as a “Messiah” promising good news of (holistic) ranching born again.

In Part 3 of this series, we explore the international growth of the Savory Network, and how its operations in Argentina have become essential in its efforts to develop its ecological accreditation schemes.

In Part 4 of this series, we return to Turtle Island and Savory’s rise to stardom as a false ‘climate leader’ over the last decade, as he works with big oil and agribusiness to greenwash their operations.

In Part 5 of this series, we conclude with the rise of “regenerative capitalism,” and how the Murdochs have deployed blockchain technology to scale up the Savory Method. As an alternative to “holistic management,” we highlight permaculture as an ethical framework supporting climate justice when rooted in decolonization.

Finally, as an appendix to our reporting, we are releasing an executive summary of scientific evidence refuting the Savory Method. Version 0.9 is available here, with a completed review to be published with the series’ conclusion.

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