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07.19.11

Exonerated through Boredom?

In the short run, Rupert Murdoch may have helped himself with his testimony. But as Michael Tomasky argues, he may have made things more difficult down the road.

The specifics were a little opaque to me. I followed the testimony on the Guardian staff’s Twitter feed, which was a great way to watch because the staff obviously knows all the facts and could spot the little contradictions. I refer you to it for the details. I can best judge it as theater. On that front, the Murdochs and Rebekah Brooks did some of what they needed to do in the hearing. They were boring, which was far and away job No 1. Evil people aren’t supposed to be boring, so your average person will conclude that people this dull can’t really be evil. They appeared to be sincere and contrite, although of course “appear” is the key word there. Rupert’s opening aperçu, when he cut off James to call this “the most humble” day of his life, was surprising, but was it really contrition? One can be humbled and still be mighty pissed off about it.

But this hearing was never meant to be invested with the drama of, say, John Dean’s Watergate testimony. This hearing was held, first, so that the Tories could look like they were doing something and, second, to get the principals on the record saying certain things that might be used against them in the future as new revelations are brought forth. As they surely will be. Rupert’s performance today may permit him to hold onto his chairmanship of the companies for a while. But how many people really believe that he, as he said, is “the best person to clean this up”? That will become even less believable as the news stories continue to break, as they surely will, over the coming days, weeks, and months.