Rupert Murdoch seeks to own George Orwell.
Murdoch's News Corp. announced on Monday a $349 million deal to purchase Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's book publishing unit, whose massive backlist encompasses Orwell's "1984" and "Animal Farm."
If the deal goes through, big-lie purveyor Fox News Network will be in the same stable as Orwell's novels. Newspeak will co-exist on Fox broadcasts and the pages of "1984."
Murdoch's Harper Collins will also gain rights to J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, Virginia Woolff's novels and Robert Penn Warren's "All the King's Men."
When envisioning Willie Stark and the corruption of populism, Warren might not have imagined the Republican assault on democracy fueled by Fox News. But his examination of political power and its abuses remains valid.
Murdoch, in owning the work of Orwell, Woolf, Tolkien and Warren, shows a cynical contempt for the power of ideas. The aging media mogul and political manipulator likely believes that the lies of Fox News will prevail. "Who controls the past controls the future," Orwell warned. "Who controls the present controls the past."
The deal, following the announcement of Penguin Random House's $2.2 billion acquisition of Simon & Schuster, will bring further consolidation of the book-publishing industry. The Harper Collins-Houghton Mifflin Harcourt coupling raises familiar fears about a chill on new voices and unorthodox ideas.
Big brother will be watching even closer. Already in charge of the Wall Street Journal, New York Post, London Times and other British newspapers, the Times Literary Supplement and Fox News, Murdoch will own even more of the media industry.
All publishers will be equal, but some will be more equal than others.