HACKGATE & THE MPs: the troika deflects the blame, but dooms Newscorp.

Three Murdochs at a funeral 

The Newscorp way: how everything happened at the level just below the top

In their own different ways, Rupert and James Murdoch probably destroyed Newscorp by their performance before the Culture, Media & Sport Committee this afternoon. In a sense, they were either going to destroy the company, or destroy themselves. They chose the former.

The two men were forced into this position initially by the extremely acute and street-wise questioning of Tom Watson, who is without doubt emerging from the Hackgate saga as a man of great skill and worth in public life. Completely devoid of any attempt to showboat, Watson stuck admirably to what was his one key objective: to either get the two men to admit they knew something (and were thus competent, but guilty of crimes) or knew nothing….in which case they were unfit to be senior officers of a quoted media company. I am sure the latter conclusion was what he wanted both the Government and Wall Street to reach. If so, his questioning was a spectacular success.

The most notable thing, however, was the massive difference between the unfitness of Rupert the patriarch, and that of his son.

It was obvious from the word go that Rupe was choosing to play as gaga as possible, but without raising expectations that he might be doubly incontinent. He looked blank, he hesitated, there were long silences. He hadn’t been informed, he knew nothing, he rarely rang his editors, he didn’t ask about payoffs. He kept this up throughout the entire session, but it was Watson who made him look much sillier than the old man had intended. From what I know of his corporate style, Rupert Murdoch lied consistently from beginning to end. But to those investors in the US who know little or nothing about him, any faith they had in the bloke will have been destroyed. I do not see how he can survive in his current role after this.

James Murdoch offered a disturbing contrast to his father. He gave a display of such jargonised obfuscation and corporate dissembling, it must have been obvious to anyone who has ever worked in big business that he was either very badly briefed, or negligently hands-off, or lying, or all three.

I have met a hundred James Murdochs in my long advertising career, and they never change: they fill every sentence with meaningless padding, wander off into technical bollocks in the hope you’ll forget the question, but at the end of the day, their excuse is always the same: I didn’t ask, it wasn’t me, and I wasn’t there. He was unconvincing as a witness, but more to the point he looked shallow, process-obsessed and untalented as a human being. The sons of creative geniuses are often like this; indeed, it is the basis of my implacable opposition to large-scale inheritance of unearned money.

Whereas Murdoch the Elder lies with a degree of plausibility and occasional charm (he’s been doing it since 1968 at least) James doesn’t. He looked shifty, scared, and yet could occasionally be seen looking offstage, as if to say, “Got out of that one, didn’t I, eh?” Like so many folks with an entirely undeserved superiority complex, his testimony was a classic example of their ever-present assumption: that others, being dense, will believe any old tosh they serve up as an explanation. He tried to use corporate banality, structures and values to hide culpability on a grand scale, and he failed miserably.

Louise Mensch (Conservative) did what most politicos do on such committees: given a rare public profile, she asked long questions which tried to answer themselves, and thus allowed the witness to say “No”. Ms Mensch “put it to” all three witnesses on lots of topics, but what she mainly got in return was shrugs and rambling trivia. A good example was her reference to the Daily Mail’s use of private detectives, which completely missed the point about Paul Dacre’s discovery of the hacking culture, and decision to get rid of it.

Not only did Ms Mensch wrongly accuse Dacre, she missed a golden opportunity to introduce Daily Telegraph surveillance into the Hackgate discussion – this newspaper being where most of the people cleared out by Dacre wound up. She does strike me as quite capable, but she typified, for all to see,  the examinary amateurishness of so many such events.

However, the one favour she did us all was to point out that Piers Morgan is getting off very lightly in the unwinding of the hacking scandal. She obviously doesn’t like him (he is an unashamed Brownshirt) and I salute her discernment in this regard. She accurately pointed out three times that Moron has boasted in print of his phone-hacking skills. It would be nice to think that Sue Akers will feel his collar before all this is over. As I’ve myself written two defamatory things about the Romping Arse* in recent weeks without any comeback, we can asssume that he does indeed have charges to answer, and is hoping that a low profile will see him through. His nightly show on CNN is as good a way of achieving this as anything else that springs immediately to mind.

* For newer Sloggers, I should point out that Romping Arse is an anagram of Piers Morgan.

—————————————

Once Rebekah Brooks entered the arena, the atmosphere changed. This was partly because the room had been cleared following a custard-pie attack on Rupert Murdoch (Met security strikes again to produce a situation that might so easily have become a Jack Ruby moment) but mainly because the feeling towards Becky Redtop was palpably more aggressive. I suspect this is because several panel members feel they have been threatened directly or indirectly by either her, or people who worked for her.

Watson kicked off, and within thirty seconds Brooks offered the blatant untruth that the Observer had been high on the list of papers using private detectives. This was silly, because another panel member who used to work for the Observer said the number she’d given was rubbish, but even more stupidly, she argued the point – and got buried. Watson’s questioning was tinged with disdain and obvious disbelief of almost everything she said.

The second session was something of an anti-climax. Apart from the fact that this description fits Rebekah admirably anyway, shorn of her power, Ms Brooks is not very impressive – and lacks the star quality that her Newscorp patriarch and mentor had in his heyday. She looked pale and smaller than usual. Mainly, she stuck doggedly to her defence of having been sensorily challenged for eleven years, and had thus noticed nothing rotten in Wapping.

—————————————

Indeed, overall the lay-viewer was left with the distinct impression that Becky and James only ever learned about anything from other newspapers, and never remember any discussions at meetings. Here again is more than enough evidence (especially for an American shareholder) to suggest that these people aren’t fit to run a major media empire. Of course, Tom Watson’s more parochial political agenda was to highlight how incredibly stupid and reckless Camerlot was to have ever considered these people as UK media market-leaders in the first place. I don’t share his politics, but I admire Watson’s bottle and no-nonsense cross-examination style immensely.

Increasingly, I am besieged by often patronising and rude comment threads suggesting that I know not what I do by rejoicing in the humiliation of the Murdochs and the collapse of Newscorp. Frankly, the idea that getting rid of a nest of hobgoblins must inevitably result in media domination by the Left is risible reasoning, and in itself also evidence of an unpleasant political agenda. The audience for the Independent and the Guardian represents a tiny niche within British society. I find the Guardianistas in particular – like Harriet Harman and the Unite trade union – a threat to our liberties. But that nexus could never, ever reach a fraction of the malign global influence achieved by Murdoch’s Newscorp. To my detractors, I would point out that while Ed Miliband’s personal rating has gone up, that of his Party hasn’t. Johann Hari has been unmasked as a blatant propagandist: what we need is more of this – not half baked Young Rightists whingeing about the loss of conservative news media.

My goal and driving obsession is to clear out globalist multinationals, trans-nation investment banks, and the fluffy-but-crooked Westminster Establishment from our lives here in the UK .  But this has to be handled in a gradualist, persevering way that avoids a dictatorship of either Left or Right in the attempt to do it. For the nth time, I assert that both tendencies are irrelevant to Britain’s economic future, and chances of a socio-cultural recovery. And for the last time at this blog, I repeat that the only labels that fit me are radical, mutualist, and utilitarian. Trying to pigeon-hole The Slog as something else might suit the narrow outlook of the closed mind. But it isn’t going to stop me continuing to demonstrate  – at every opportunity, whoever comes under the arc-light of examination – how my beliefs translate into practical action.

29 thoughts on “HACKGATE & THE MPs: the troika deflects the blame, but dooms Newscorp.

  1. Tom Watson does not impress me. I am livid about the Operation Ore and Operation Rectangle cover up, in which RTS are involved. Tom Watsons association with Peter Bazalgette RTS President fills me with alarm. I want to know who selected the select committees. MI5 were involved in that and MI5 were hacking our computers. I had them openly boasting about how easy mine was to hack. I dont take anything the TV people do at face value any more, they have told far too many lies. The TV people are on a mission to destroy Rupert Murdock, and they are trying to manipulate publicv opinion. I am a tiny little voice here and know I will get shouted down but at least have a look at what RTS have done and Tom Watsoins friendship with Bazalgette before you start laying laurel wreathes on his head, please!

  2. I dont care about Rupert Murdock, his newspaper did nothing for us secret family ncourt victims when we begged thgem to help us, but I wont let the TV people manipulate my mind, they can put stuff on the TV, show select committees and whatever, but I will ask my own questions about stuff, and what I want to know is who selected that select committee? What was the process?

  3. Sir,
    whatever my politics may be, I remain a reader of well informed, well written and well thought out comment such as you provide. Thankyou.

  4. Sometimes, when reading some of the comments left on your postings, I wonder if I’ve stumbled upon a YouTube comments’ section. But then I realize there are no ramblings as to why fags are bad and God is brilliant. Sorry you have to put up with reactionary fools incapable of reading the blog as a whole, and only picking up on the odd posting they don’t like. Keep up the good work. It’s refreshing to read a blog that looks at all sides of an argument.

  5. The Newscorp share price was up 5 percent on the Family’s denial of knowing what has been going on for years(pull the other one), so the market is anticipating a reduction in the Murdoch discount,even though Terry Smith’s accurate dissection of business performance was met by a hail of ‘caveat emptor’,you know what you are buying.Assuming Bruce Page,the Aussie journo, is right,money is the only thing that drives the Digger,over time he will realise that voting control is less important than an increased shareholding for the voters as they are compensated for an enfranchisement.,which would add about 80 percent to the value of the voters( well that pays for the new additions to the Family).Since James is not interested in papers, that side could be spun off into a separate company, leaving the rump free to bid for BSkyB and James to be held accountable to a majority of outside shareholders.In 5 years time the Family are going to be 3 times as rich, but gone,kaput,off the stage.

    • Yes, that strikes me as being a very sound analysis.
      The Murdochs are in it for the money, like most business people (sorry, the word “business” rather superfluous there) and they probably wonder why they are having to put up with the pompous dishonest nonenties that are our MPs being unpleasant to them. They will surely put themselves in a position where they don’t have to.
      It is entirely unsurprising that Rupert Murdoch can claim he didn’t know what was happening-Blair and Campbell claimed the same about Iraq. It is the Nuremburg defence- I didn’t know but I’ve sacked the guy who did. The result will be same as ever-the bad guys will get away with it-the ordinary people will lose (again).
      This game is now finished and only the media believe it is of interest, because it is effectively about their favourite subject-themselves.

    • Very plausable IMO.

      I disagree with JW on the Murdoch’s performance. It was good enough to convince enough of the great unwashed and hence the stock price reaction. I fear they will still find a way of getting ahold of BSyB after Kissinger;s ‘decent interval’.

  6. Must admit that your summation is one that I on the whole agree with ! James pulling his ear whilst answering (I believe is a classic bodylanguage expression which shows an untruth being told). I also noticed the shifty eye movements, and all in all it was unconvincing display of (as you say) “it was other minions to blame”. Did I say minions – I meant ‘little people who I dump on’ !

    I was surprised that when Rupert mentioned ‘people I am not going to name’ was not picked up as ‘not helpful to the enquiry, and therefore pressing on his knowledge of the situation (I would guess it was probably James and Rebecca – the only people he has shown any inclination to support in any way).

    I must admit that I would like a more balanced view opposing the left in the media – but the Murdoch clan is not the sort of operation I want to see offering it ! For all the ‘exposures’ which, yes, have brought out some awful scandals into the public domain, they have degraded the standard of acceptable behaviour and actively encouraged the deterioration of morality in this country which is unforgiveable !

    A news outlet based on fact and dissection of spin and misdirection as well as one of fair and trustworthy investigation would possibly return me to a paying customer of the printed press – though I make no promises on this account !

  7. Kiwi,
    My real name is Barbara Richards and I am a survivor of the Staffordshire Pindown child abuse and the cover up.
    I don’t suppose you have even bothered to look at what the Royal Television Society have done regarding the Operation Ore and Operation Rectangle police child abuse investigations.

    I am not a “conspiracy theorist” I am a real live human being who has gone through hell on earth and had to fight like hell to survive.

    • My comment was in no way directed at you, and I apologize if I have upset you Barbara. I have been reading this blog for some time and have become frustrated that the comments have, on occasion, been hijacked by lowest-denominator contributors. Sometimes contributors to the comments’ section shed light on things that I and others are unaware of – as your postings regarding the RTS and Operations Ore and Rectangle have done. As a result I am now in a position to educate myself on these matters and develop an informed opinion. I truly hope you and the others affected by this cover up are able to obtain the justice you deserve.

  8. John,
    A kneejerk reaction from you perhaps. Sometimes best to draft, sleep on it + then reflect over breakfast. Just hope you are not writing from pre-conceived notions.
    Frankly have put BSkyb shares on my watch list; Newscorp? Watch this space

    As erver

    Richard

  9. A masterly performance by Rupert. Dignified, courteous,elderly gentleman with not-too-bright son has custard pie thrown at him and is ably defended by beautiful and devoted wife.

    What’s not to like?

    • Well John I must have watched a different committee to you. For me the things that stand out are:
      Wendi Deng obviously cares for Murdoch a lot and clearly isn’t the gold-digger you’ve intimated in the past. The calming touch when he got excited and that superb right hook on his attacker. Great clumk on the sound track when she connected.
      Rupert was obviously trying to protect his son so whatever else you think it is a close family
      It is also true that no matter how much micromanagement you apply the head of such a big group cannot know what is going on even at a senior level. I ran a company with 3000 employees worldwide & I was misled a few times. That’s why the army operates in small groups under an officer
      There might not have been too many new answers but it was still a strong performance by the Murdochs
      The attack should shame the police; more incompetence. Attacking an 80 year old man already in a stressful situation risks a cardiac episode. I wouldn’t want it done to my father.
      The politicians were pretty pathetic. The conservatives were just looking for someone to blame. Labour just wanted to edge things closer to Cameron. Not a hint of the hithertoo unholy relationship between the media and politicians.
      Wade did pretty well considering she’s under the cosh from the Met so unable to say all she would like. She did however get a couple of points across which you have ignored. First that all newspapers employ private investigators and who knows what they got up to in the past. Second that the other newspapers are making fast & free with allegations, no proof, just allegations whilst they have this great opportunity.
      Overall I’d say the politicians didn’t do to wee but then I guess we only see what we want to see

  10. A very balanced view of what occurred today. I think Paul Farrelly asked the best questions and didn’t give up until he got an answer.I do wonder though what happening over at the DT. Seems like a Murdoch love in, especially Toby Young who seems to be kissing Murdoch’s ass for a job at The Times.

  11. Whilst the Rupe empire is bad bad bad, so is the BBC and I have long believed it shares responsibility for our national decline by its endless Lefty pap propaganda. It only has occasional agro with Labour because it is Soft Left whereas Labour are now mostly Hard Left or even worse.
    Socialists always fight among themselves and with everybody else.

    And if this Rupe scandal damages Cameron – as I think you’d like to see – to the point where he doesn’t win the next election, who do you think will win? A nice cuddly 19th century Left-leaning Liberal Party that I think you’d prefer? No way. This is real life politics.

    With all his naivety and foolishness, if Cameron doesn’t win the next GE, then Marxist Red Ed will. That’s the choice in British politics.

    Think: A coalition govt is the best the Tories & Cameron could muster after 13 years of Brown’s Ponzi economic mismanagement, Blair’s full frontal attacks on our liberties, wrecking everything in sight and Hattie Hatemen etc etc. They have never really been held to account for any of this in the eyes of the electorate.

    If that happens, wave goodbye to any possibility of your ideas of mutuality ever being adopted. State ownership funded by even higher taxes will be back on the agenda.

    my 2c worth.

  12. I watched most of this and perhaps I’m not very perceptive. Reading your take on it John, the Murdochs came off badly. That’s not how it appeared to me. I thought they were going to be slaughtered but they came across as reasonable people. No body blows laid and the only uncomfortable thing they had to deal with was why NI paid their reporters legal fee’s when he was pleading guilty. Every time I saw one of those politicians asking questions, I could not help thinking how corrupt they were as a group. They were complaining about NI auditing and lax supervision from executives when parliament was doing the same screwing the rest of us with expenses. I know from reading your posts quite a bit about the background to this scandal and I believe you are the best informed commentator and the best person to analyse the information, but I think it’s a little bit of wishfull thinking to think much damage was done to the Murdochs today.

  13. ….”My goal and driving obsession is to clear out globalist multinationals, trans-nation investment banks, and the fluffy-but-crooked Westminster Establishment from our lives here in the UK”….
    Highly commendable , but it will never happen. The way forward if one is really committed to this belief is a change in lifestyle. A life on wheels where one pays minimum taxes but enjoy all the human rights such as free education and healthcare. This is the likely meaning of the boy’s ”Big Society”.

  14. Dear Everyone
    Sort of guessed I’d be in a minority on this one.
    My point is simple: the key target audience for the Murdochs yesterday was the markets. Newscorp’s price went up after the hearing: watch it come down today and tomorrow as the Home Affairs report lands with a dull thud – and see subsequent post.
    Take a look across the world’s business press today: the overwhelming comment is that of replacing both the Murdochs for now. I think that’s what will happen – but there are many things yet to be uncovered in the US, so that call will become more strident.
    Liz Murdoch will get the inheritance in time: that’s why Rupe bought her company at a premium. Her track-record as a programme maker is not half bad. And she is genuinely innocent of phone hacking.
    But she needs to stop tooting – and pull that daft husband of hers into line.
    Let’s wait and see, should we?
    PS I NEVER sub-contract my byline.
    J x

  15. Pingback: PIERS MORGAN: Chat host snaps on air and demands apology from Louise Mensch | The Slog

  16. The story is going to have legs for sometime. Personally,I’ll be happy with a reduced Mudoch presence in the press, no Murdoch control of Sky and no foreign control of the broadcast media. Not that that stops proganda being beamed in by satellite and cable from overseas but something like Sky should be controlled and owed by tax paying nationals.

  17. Nice work John, I watched all of it and Jen saw some when she got in. Smithers was as you say speaking straight from the corporate bollocks bingo sheet and Mr Burns his Dad did come across as quite the distanced curmudgeon. “I employ 50,000 people mate. I know bugger all about what they get up to from day to day, Im busy with a myriad issues to resolve in my proper empire in America” or some such rubbish. Anyway we enjoyed the tele and are very much looking forward to reading the fallout and your take on it. That is of course if we are still able to afford a Tele or a computer when the banks have all fallen down and the money is used for lighting our fire! love to all !

  18. Pingback: HACKGATE DAY 191: Somebody help me please, I’m obviously unbalanced | The Slog

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