When Dorothy pulled back the curtain she revealed a frail old man putting on a very convincing act. When Rupert Murdoch sat in front of the select committee yesterday, we saw a frail old man also putting on a very convincing act. “This is the most humble day of my life”, he spluttered, and we sort of believed him. His apparent dodderyness and the long pauses which followed each question gave the impression that his synapses were having trouble finding a working brain cell: he even nodded off momentarily. As the inquisition progressed, he began to attract sympathy not opprobrium…and then splat! The delivery of the Gillette foam pie completed the metamorphosis. Rupert Murdoch had been transformed from demon into victim. The day was his.
Rupert Murdoch is a showman, and a very clever one at that. Be in no doubt that the manner of his appearance will have been painstakingly rehearsed and choreographed. Potential questions dissected and every response considered. He will have been absolutely clear about the outcome he wanted to achieve, and what he needed to do to achieve it. As we witnessed yesterday, it all went to plan: to this consummate performer, it was a walk in the park. He came, he saw and he conquered, job done. And the foam pie incident? It was a gift from heaven. It was so perfect it could almost have been part of the act – but it couldn’t possibly have been…or could it?
Today the spotlight has shifted. All the talk is of Wendi’s right hook, bent policemen and a wounded prime minister in denial. Murdoch now has time to get his house in order. For him the cloud has passed.
But what of our beloved politicians, once cowed and frit to utter a word against Murdoch’s evil empire, and now bellowing their self-righteous indignation to the rafters? Few of them realise it, but their humiliation is complete. Thanks to ‘events’ their betrayal of the electorate has been laid bare. It’s now a matter of record and clear for all to see. Having courted Murdoch and his newspapers and allowed his influence and interests to debase our democracy, will they now respect the institutions of state and govern through Parliament and not through the media, or are they hopelessly and forever hooked? We’ll have to wait and see.