Newscorp’s contrition drive is already at warp-factor nine. But it’s all bollocks.
As most Sloggers are well aware, you can’t always tell that Rupert Murdoch’s lying just because his lips move: like any other crocodile, old Rupe can lie through a smile without moving his lips at all. His auto-ventriloquism over the last week has been a masterclass in looking happy when you’re furious; but yesterday he changed tack, and worked at looking contrite when he didn’t give a monkeys.
His meeting with the Dowlers took place amid flashing cameras, and was followed by a public statement in which the Dowlers were foolish enough to announce that they found Mr Murdoch’s apology totally sincere. Keith Rupert Murdoch has never had a sincere thought or said a sincere thing in his long and destructive life. He came on like an Aussie in awe of The Times, then ruined it. He changed his nationality to American when he began to conquer objective news there, and to be on the safe side, became a born-again Christian to keep his hard Right audience onside. And when he spotted early that the Chinese were going to run the 21st century, he ditched his long-suffering wife and married a Chinese woman. Now he pulls a disgusting publicity stunt to save Newscorp’s skin.
Yesterday, having pr’d his way to an acceptance of this baseless apology from the naive Dowler family, Murdoch took full-page ads saying how sorry he was for “all the wrongdoing” at the News of the World. I have interviewed the best part of a dozen former Newscorp journalists over the last seven months, and I can tell you categorically: they’d find the idea that Murdoch didn’t know what was going on hysterically funny and twisted at one and the same time. Lest we forget, he announced just six days ago that he had “total” confidence in the She-Devil on whose watch most of this wrongdoing took place; had it not been for an Arab threat to destroy his business, she would still be in place today.
And yet somehow, Murdoch’s obsessive mendacity is contagious. With notable exceptions (like Andrew Neill) most of those who work with the Newscorp mogul wind up being infected – or do I mean currupted? – by this Hobgoblin. Or again, perhaps its just that he attracts shits. For my money, both reasons are in play…as I’ll demonstrate by example.
Here, for instance, is what Rebekah Brooks, told parliament in written evidence to its committee on Culture, Media & Sport in 2003:
“The days of foot-in-the-door harassment and snatched photos are gone. The pictures of journalists mobbing ordinary people as portrayed by television are a travesty of the truth.”
What a Wapper: this lie was emitted during a period when (and this is an inescapable fact) those working for her and Coulson were hacking into phones. But then, Rebekah Redtop’s ambition-drive was out of control long before she met Rupert Murdoch.
The same cannot be said of Les Hinton – by all accounts a decent and honest man. With Hinton, one suspects corruption out of loyalty to the man with whom he’d been working, until yesterday, since the age of 15. In 2003, Les – the boss of News International until 2007 – defended press self-regulation and media treatment of ordinary people.
“There is probably no part of the code (of practice) that is paid greater attention than the issue of intrusion into grief,” he fibbed in response to questions from the CM&S committee, “Editors at all levels, on a daily basis, and journalists as well … are not unfamiliar with the need to behave according to the strictures of the code in taking care not to intrude into the grief of bereaved members of the public.”
What a Wapper. And it was Hinton in 2007 who testified that a “full and rigorous internal inquiry” had been conducted into a case of phone hacking, and that he believed it was limited to one rogue reporter.
So what are we to make of Newscorp’s latest friend and facilitator, Prime Minister David Cameron? For me, the evidence suggests that Dave is somewhere between Hinton and Brooks on this scale of natural or contagious lying.
Certainly, Cameron seems to regret nothing about his use of the Murdoch clan in his failed attempt to be elected Prime Minister in charge of a Conservative Government: until last week, he was still very much part of the team.
Only a few months back, Cameron declared the receipt of a gift from Rebekah Brooks. Three months after Coulson ‘resigned’ as his Number Ten Communications Chief, the Head Wapping Liar was entertained by him at Chequers. After his resignation, the PM went out of his way to say his comms supremo had been “punished twice”. David Cameron entertained Murdoch’s son James at his official country residence even as a probe was under way into whether Newscorp should be allowed to take full control of broadcaster BSkyB: “James Murdoch and his wife received official hospitality at Chequers on 7 November 2010,” Cameron said on February 3 in a written answer that went largely unreported at the time. Last Christmas, he celebrated with both Brooks and Murdoch Jr. But these were his weasel words in answer to Labour MP Paul Farrelly’s Parliamentary question earlier this year: “I have met Rebekah Wade [Brooks] and James Murdoch at social occasions”. Two months back – during a point-to-point meeting near to his Chipping Norton home – the PM is alleged to have texted to Brooks (who was also an attendee), ‘It wouldn’t look good for us to be seen together here”.
Make no mistake, to an as yet unknown degree, David Cameron was dragged down into the decadent lifestyle, plans and values of these people. Such unethical amorality is alleged by several MPs to have shown itself in Newscorp issuing the worst kind of mobster threats.
Clive Soley, once the Chairman of the parliamentary Labour Party, and now in the Lords, accused Brooks in 2003 of making threats and “a thinly disguised attempt” to warn him off digging into allegations of bullying and sexual harassment at the Sun itself. Other MPs have alleged the same thing to me.
Tom Watson, along with Chris Bryant the most outspoken anti-Murdoch Labour MP, has noted the House’s inability to tackle gross abuses by Newscorpers: “In this House we are all, in our own way, scared of the Rebekah Brookses of this world, ” he told parliament last year, “The barons of the media, with their red-topped assassins, are the biggest beasts in the modern jungle. They have no predators; they are untouchable. They laugh at the law; they sneer at parliament. They have the power to hurt us, and they do, with gusto and precision, with joy and criminality. Prime Ministers quail before them, and that is how they like it. That, indeed, has become how they insist upon it.”
I have to believe Watson in this regard, because his account reflects exactly the one I was given by a former Labour Cabinet Minister early in 2009. There is something about the culture of a Murdoch company which starts from the assumption that anyone and everyone working for it has the right to shove people out of the way, shove money into their hands, shovel up their past as a threat, and tell anyone in authority to shove it. The arrogance is near-universal, and in part stems from Murdoch’s shrewd policy of putting his own kind (rather than locals) into the key positions around the world. Brooks was the exception – but as Elisabeth Murdoch rather disingenuously told friends two weeks ago, “That bitch f**ed the company” – and so it’s unlikely to happen again.
Sure enough, as the waters closed over the Ginger Queen, a safe pair of Murdoch Kiwi hands was preferred to any other. Tom Mockridge, 55, chief executive of Sky Italia, will take over as the UK CEO immediately. The Slog will report back on what he’s about in due course.