Saturday, 16 July 2011


The text is:

The News of the World was in the business of holding others to account. It failed when it came to itself.

We are sorry for the serious wrongdoing that occurred.

We are deeply sorry for the hurt suffered by the individuals affected.

We regret not acting faster to sort things out.

I realise that simply apologising is not enough.

Our business was founded on the idea that a free and open press should be a positive force in society. We need to live up to this.

In the coming days, as we take further concrete steps to resolve these issues and make amends for the damage they have caused, you will hear more from us.


Rupert Murdoch

Interesting phrasing, as many others will have noted (you can't help but note it in a message as short and yet in such large type as this): the passive of 'wrongdoing that has occurred'; and the use of 'we' throughout but for the one sentence, 'I realize that simply apologising is not enough.' In other words, someone has committed a crime (not me), and I realise that apologising for that crime (whoever committed it, not me) is not enough. Heads (quick, find some more) must roll.

The collapse has been sudden and spectacular. Just a few days ago, when most of that which is now known was already known, there was defiance from News International, but yesterday Rebekah Brooks resigned, and now this. It suggests there is much worse waiting in the wings and that new pressure has been applied, possibly by the USA, a pressure that threatens the whole empire.

Of course News International would not have done this unless Murdoch thought they could sell more papers, as indeed they would have, had they found anything to print.

The distinction between private and public has long been blurred. From reality show, through misery memoir, through Jeremy Kyledom, voluntary or involuntary exposure or self-exposure has been daily fare. Warhol was right. What we want is fifteen minutes of spectacular exposure. The TV camera shoved into the face of someone whose tears have just started running. It is amplified, short-term drama. It is the troughs and peaks, the sharply edited highlights, not the subtleties and complexities muddling the action between them that interest us. It is the dualistic world of light and dark and good and evil, those moments when one or other is revealed and turned into a clear image that strikes home.

Nor is it a difference in temper - equivalents of the gallows, the stocks, and the ducking-stool have been public entertainment for as long as humankind has existed - but a difference in ubiquity, gloss, and self-awareness.

It's not surprising Murdoch and others should take to tapping phones. There might even have been an occasional genuine public-interest exposé waiting to be splashed across the front page. But even now there are certain borders of grief that are regarded as private. They are crossed - people cannot help but cross them sometimes, they will and do cross them - with a great deal of nervousness and guilt. It is not just grief but the very borders of self, the integrity of the self, that appears most vulnerable. Hurting the vulnerable still hurts us. The evil remains an evil in that light, at that point.

In due course though most people get over that and read on. For now there are laws against what Murdoch did and what I suspect others have done. More will carry on doing it.

Not while the empire is falling though, and not in the same way. And so read on.

1 comment:

Gwilym Williams said...

Dear Rupert Murdoch,

In my opinion the sentence beginning with the personal pronoun should have been the final sentence.


Gwilym Williams