Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Murdoch in London, and don't forget to mention rosebud ...

(Above: James Murdoch).

In the old days it was possible to go to bed with the stocking under the tree (actually the pond preferred a hefty pillow case to cope with all situations) and dream of waking the next morning with a vast array of gifts.

The time zone meant that Santa set off in good time from the North Pole, and was well away by morning, leaving the usual stuff, toys, popcorn and chocolates.

It was only later that the pond dreamed of getting a copy of Citizen Kane, and watching William Randolph Hearst in the shape of Charles Foster Kane in the body of George Orson Welles show what it was to be a larger than life media mogul.

These days, the wretched internet has ruined it all. There's chairman Rupert twittering away in a frenzy, damning the British government and Europe to hell. Imagine, instead of Charles Foster Kane heading off to the opera to write a scathing review of the performance of his beloved, we get Rupe twittering like a twit:

Tough on tax avoiders, soft on hard-up Britain. What a man. Sure it might just be a kind of chaff - the aluminium detritus dropped by aircraft to fool radar turned into verbiage to fool inquiries and politicians - but never retreat, never surrender.

All the same, could anyone imagine Hearst as a first class twittering tweet?

And if that's not enough, you can plug into the intertubes, and get a direct feed of the Leveson inquiry and young James Murdoch being put through another round of interrogations.

That's when it stopped feeling like Xmas, and boredom, if not a profound ennui began to creep in.

What could Orson Welles have done with a script with dialogue like "At the time I had no reason to believe otherwise", "I think I would have had a reasonable expectation that having a legal manager so close to the newsroom was a protection that it ultimately proved not to provide", "... at the time I didn't have the view whether they (the controls) were insufficient or not" ...

It was the Bart Simpson defence writ large. I didn't do anything, and you have no proof. Why I might have tried to familiarise myself with the Sun and even read the News of the World, but not all of it, but so what, it was the pawns and the minions and the politicians what did it, or didn't do it, according to what you think should or shouldn't have been done

What on earth is the point of an emperor or a sun king if they don't know what's happening in their patch of the world? On and on and on, yadda yadda, a most impressive impersonation of the three monkeys in one man, a trinitarian feat, no doubt about it.

Oh he tried and he struggled, while being paid millions, but would the myrmidon minions listen? No way!

That is my understanding that is something I have struggled with as well. Why wouldn't they tell me? They didn't. I don't want to conjecture but I think that must be it, that I would say 'cut out the cancer' and there was some desire not to do that.

A helpless, hapless patsy, a mushroom kept in the dark, and fed nothing but cancer-inducing manure. Nobody would tell him anything:

The fact it suggested other people might have been involved in phone hacking – that part of its importance was not imparted to me that day.

I don't remember words like that, I don't remember taking notes, I don't think so, and so on and on.

It turns out, thanks to ITN and The Guardian, that live blogging and live coverage can be a bit like watching paint dry.

By the time the inquiry had reached lunch-time, the pond was done and dusted, sated.

By end of day, the only news to emerge was even more evidence of the ongoing intimacy of politicians and the Murdoch press. What's one person's idea of "legitimate advocacy" might be another's vision of a lap dog taken for a walk in the park.

While David Cameron seems to have dodged the flack (though he supped with the devil often enough), it's hapless alleged cheerleader Jeremy Hunt that's copped a pounding, what with furtive mobile calls and a desire to avoid strong legal advice not to meet James Murdoch and discuss the BSkyB takeover bid. Ah the life of a lap dog, just wanting to do the bidding of others, and people always getting in the way ...

By mid-afternoon, it was clear where it was heading, with Ladbrokes suspending betting on Hunt being the first Minister to leave the cabinet. Then Paddy Power suspended betting as well. And others were tweeting:

There was some other collateral damage - it turns out Alex Salmond was doing his bit for Scotland by doing his bit for Murdoch - and amazingly Murdoch junior seems to have mounted a strong case for government regulation of the press in Australia:

The things to weigh up are a stronger enshrining of speech rights, coupled with a stronger set of consequences ... just as one of the great learnings for us has been not to allow an operating company to investigate itself without absolute transparency to the corporate centre, it is also difficult to allow an industry to control itself on a voluntary basis given the concerns we obviously all have.

Oh indeed. Who could argue, especially when you consider the creepy crawly way that The Australian conducts itself.

But the best action happened outside and after the inquiry, as when Simon Kelner, one time editor of the Independent, provided his version of James Murdoch at large in the rag's office in April 2010:

I sat on a sofa, Brooks perched on the arm of another sofa, and Murdoch walked and talked. He was excitable and angry. "You've impugned the reputation of my family," he said at one point. He called me "a fucking fuckwit" and became furious at my bemusement that he should find our campaign so upsetting, given that one of his newspapers famously claimed that it did indeed decide elections.

Brooks said very little, but, when her boss's rage blew itself out, chipped in with: "We thought you were our friend". Their use of language and the threatening nature of their approach came straight from the "Mafioso for Beginners" handbook.

Sorry Mr Kelner, that's hard cop soft cop, as any Sydney copper could tell you, and remember they didn't produce a telephone book, which hurts but minimises bruising.

There was only one way it was going to end, and the angle for the day was set, with Hunt now turning from lap dog to looking a bit like a fox in a hunt. Lord Sugar looked like the master of the hounds:

Naturally Tom Watson was off in print, Now Jeremy Hunt must resign (Jeremy Hunt's cosy relations with News Corp executives shocked even cynical Leveson watchers), and the dear sweet persecuted Hunt wanted to move forward his appearance at Leveson to defend himself, but the headlines suggest which way the wind is blowing:
In the end it was the pollies that copped the pounding, revealing in the process how it always goes for the rich and the powerful, with the divvying up of goods and services conducted in private over well-heeled meals. A tidy facade, and under the water the duck's webbed feet in overdrive in search of tasty treats.

All that said, the pond was shattered, or at least despondent. Did it have to be so dull for so long? Is the internet designed mainly to show what it's like to sit in a committee room all day? Couldn't there have been close ups of chewed pens and broken paper clips?

It showed how far Citizen Kane was from reality. Instead of Orson Welles, it was hour upon hour of emails, minutes, notes, and phone calls pored over, scrutinised and discussed, and at the centre of it was a kind of bespectacled banality, given to all sorts of righteousness, and not a hint that this was the mouth that at one time might have given vent to words like fucking fuckwit ...

Except for an instant disqualification for breaching Godwin's Law, the pond might have invoked Hannah Arendt's phrase the "banality of evil".

Never mind. It means an even heavier burden now falls on Chairman Rupert. It's left to him to show the defiance of the mogul, to roar like an ageing lion, and drive these feral jackals into a quivering heap of despair. Murdoch senior understands show business, so let the show begin. If it's good enough, it might even make an opera, like Nixon in China.

Murdoch in London.

Unless there's a mention of rosebud and perhaps even a sled being fed in to a basement burner, the pond is not certain it can do another day at the Leveson inquiry ...


  1. Yairs, DP, I'm pretty sure that if I got down the old bloke's modest cluster, Pacific Star & such, and strapped it on, I'd get a surge of the true-blue. Hearing Roop's clarion call tomorrow, "Oz needs US nuclear subs!", I'd be right behind him. To hell with blood & guts, let's vaporise the bastards before their heathenish ways corrupt, absolutely, our traditional ways of doing business.
    And, DP, fancy Father Slipper as a high-flown cleric of The Church? Does that account for his hubris and his habits?

    1. Here it is.
      Why are they so predictable?
      (DP, is there something wrong with your date-time stamp? EST is now 0745 on 26/4.)

  2. Yes, the date-time stamp is out of whack. The settings within blogger are EST Australia, and show the right time and date, but it comes out garbled. Tech support will no doubt take a look at it in due course, but it's just another bit of useless Google technology. Still, the pond has always prided itself on being behind the times.

  3. Though never as far behind as Greg Sheridan ...


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