Murdoch On The Ropes

by Adam Popescu

Rupert Murdoch and son James–at times visibly shaken by Parliament questioning, at others, stoic, lamenting, and hard to believe. Body language told the story, and a slouching, slumped elder Murdoch repeatedly banged his hand against the wood table for emphasis.

The Murdochs claimed (many, many times) to be unaware of multiple serious allegations against the News of the World and NewsCorp / News International company. Labour MP Tom Watson did a great job hitting the Murdochs with solid questions the men could in large part not answer. Murdoch Sr. often paused for long periods before commenting. Like a high-stakes card player unaccustomed to losing, he held his hand close.

“If I knew then what we know now…I have no knowledge of that…” from both Murdochs.

“Your father is responsible for corporate governance and serious wrongdoing has been brought about in the company,” Watson countered when son James tried to intervene on behalf of his father.

And then this happened…the proverbial spark that erupted this tense room into a mini-combustion.

That this living legend of the media business has been reduced from untouchable giant to a visibly, old and potentially weak man speaks volumes of how deep this scandal cuts, and how much we the public did not know about the men holding the reigns. This is journalism’s Enron moment.

In his testimony today, the elder Murdoch repeated time after time how much he DID NOT know. The way he told it made one wonder if this was true, which it didn’t seem like it could (or should be), what exactly did old man Murdoch do with his time?

If he really doesn’t know what’s going on at his own company, then Rupert Murdoch has no business at the helm of the NewsCorp ship. If he did know, he’s lying and digging his own grave should other-evidence arise (email, or employee testimony). And in this day and age, with the troves of data abound online, much more information could come to light.

Today’s faux-pie faux-pas reminded me of an enraged Iraqi journalist, who a few years ago threw a shoe at President George W. Bush at the end of a speech. The man was arrested, like today, but the moment was remembered as a tangible moment of dissidence against a Teflon titan.

Even though Jonnie Marbles didn’t quite connect this morning, it’s a black day for journalism.

–Adam Popescu