Tuesday, 19 July 2011

The Murdoch hearings, digested

So, James and Rupert Murdoch are giving evidence to Parliament.

It's not very enlightening. Murdoch Sr. seems to have been reading a lot of Beckett and Pinter: long pauses followed by monosyllabic replies. Sometimes he appears to be blaming his son. James seems to be suffering too: nobody calls him Mr. Murdoch, and his expressions betray hatred of not being the top dog in the room.

Their defence appears to be - rather implausibly - that they didn't know anything, nobody told them anything. They're completely surprised by the implication that there's anything untoward about press moguls have frequent, complete and secret access to Prime Ministers. Democracy, it seems, is an alien concept of which they've heard without being tempted to try.

In some ways, it's an object lesson in PR tactics. The Murdochs have clearly been coached: stay polite, talk for a long time but don't give anything away, reel off dates and figures to avid the impression of waffling. At times it gets farcical, reminding me of another character: 'that would be an ecumenical matter'. (Sorry about the ad, couldn't find one without).

It's not entirely working though. Murdoch Sr comes across as senile. Perhaps this is his tactic, but I suspect it's an inability to deal with a situation which he can't control. I doubt he's ever been compelled to answer questions or follow someone else's line of thought.

OK, it finished with Murdoch getting a custard pie in the face, the egregious Louise Mensch scraping together enough brain cells for a good question or two, and Murdoch dropping the senility act in favour of reading out a prepared statement that sounds ('my son and I') like he's apologising to the neighbours for James breaking a window with a football. And almost as sincere.

What we didn't learn was much about the command structures, who's paying for what, and what responsibility the Murdochs will take. Murdoch seems to feel that he's the victim ('I was betrayed by people trusted by people I trusted'). Humbug!


Graham Quirk said...

It's interesting that News Corp's share price has risen during the hearing. Tom Watson did a great job of pinning them down, but the Scottish M.P afterwards (i don't know his name) completely destroyed the momentum by asking a rather obtuse question about the back door of No.10 (i get the literal and figurative implications)which didn't work. The tactic generally seems to be to plead ignorance and heap the blame on Brooks - who i'm sure will gladly take the hit as she counts her multi-million pound pay off.

The Red Witch said...

The highlight of the whole thing was the guy who tried to smash a pie in Murdoch's face. When Murdoch says he was not responsible, did he never read his own paper and see what was going on?