Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
July 20, 2011

Murdoch Testimony: Early Alzheimers?

In studying the video, my political side would like to believe Murdoch’s performance on Tuesday was all hubris topped off by an “old man act” in the name of willful denial. Too often, however, it seemed (and I’m wearing my shrink glasses on this one) that Rupert’s difficulty understanding questions or recalling facts was less because he was non-co-operative, or pretending to be out-of-the loop as a strategy to protect himself and News Corp’s outlaw culture than it had to do with the fact that the eighty-year-old Murdoch is slipping, but still holds too much power and pride to admit it. Call it a case of The Emperor’s New Clothes.

Why do I think this? Because all too often, his short answers; long pauses; problems coming up with words; problems with recall (in one case, confusing a key date by a decade); and his stumbling, then stating something more vaguely (sort of like the way someone with early Alzheimer’s falls back on generalities and stock, generic answers) often occurred in an instance where a crisp, specific and more informative answer would easily have neutralize the question.

Also, I don’t believe the lawyer/handlers behind Murdoch would have looked so anxious every time he was confronted or asked for detail if they weren’t familiar and concerned with his cognitive state.

Murdoch Parliament Huh 2

Murdoch Parliament Huh 1

Particularly disquieting, along those lines, was Murdoch’s completely awkward interruption, and interjection of his own apology, after James seugued into his testimony, but even more telling was how his team reacted with wariness and concern immediately followed by dismay.

Murdoch Parliament Awkward Interruption

Murdoch Parliament Post Awkward Interruption

If it was really an act, these guys would be sitting there — as common in hearing rooms — with poker faces, looking like blank slates (as best as Mr. Green Tie could manage under the circumstances, at least as the nervous son James was holding court).

Murdoch Parliament Blank Stare

As well, it would also explain why Wendi Murdoch was sitting so close and watching Murdoch so closely going so far as to gently nudge him to stop when he starting rapping or tap-tap-tapping on the table and into the microphone.

Murdoch Parliament Stop Thumping 1

Murdoch Parliament Stop Thumping 2

As much as there are serious moral, legal and personality issues to consider with Rupert Murdoch, what we also see in the pictures — which is not uncommon in a family-owned business with an aging but otherwise steely and obstinate lifetime leader who is more-than-ambivalent about succession — are competency issues.

(Screen shots and Video via BBC)

  • King Quaker

    The racist MF should keel over and die.

  • bks

    Is this going to be a Madoff-type fall-on-the-sword performance?  Send the old dude to jail and the rest of his hideous empire continues unabated?

        –bks
     

  • http://twitter.com/HubrisSonic HubrisSonic

    Really interesting analysis Michael and has great weight coming from you

    • http://www.bagnewsnotes.com Michael Shaw

      Nice to see you back. Fun to also get a little clinical.

  • http://twitter.com/HubrisSonic HubrisSonic

    Really interesting analysis Michael and has great weight coming from you

  • BooksAlive

    Agree with HS and your commentary. I listened on satellite radio and heard the tapping but didn’t see Wendi nudge him. Rupert’s responses were hard to follow and often sounded mumbled, but then, so were some of the questions posed by the MPs.

  • Bystander

    Great catch, Michael.  Given the ugly nature of the way Murdoch and News Corp have conducted business, as evidenced by the hacking scandal, watchers are primed to view his testimony as intentionally obfuscatory.  It would take a viewer with a greater degree of sympathy and insight than me to consider alternative explanations.  I wouldn’t have expected anything less of you, but that doesn’t mean your acumen can’t still startle me.  Appreciate this humanizing view.  Doesn’t change my feelings for the ugliness that Murdoch has wreaked, but it does remind me that there is always more to be seen than what’s evident on the surface.

  • Anonymous

    How staged was that?

  • Anonymous

    Remember mobster Vincent Gigante, called sometimes “The Oddfather,” who used to fake senile dementia by walking around in pajamas, slippers, and dressing gown?

  • Skip Walker

    Mr Green Tie is Joel Klein, the former DOJ Microsoft antitrust lawyer and most recently superintendent of the NYC school system under Michael Bloomberg.  Klein is now technically employed by a News Corp subsidiary called Wireless Generation but he clearly isn’t pitching for-profit education products that was his original assignment by Murdoch.

  • tinwoman

    He’s acting.  he interrupted James because he doesn’t repect him and has dominated him his whole life.  Sure Rupie is probably not what he was 40 years ago but any “”doddering senile old man” perceptions are playing right into the hands of his legal strategy.  Remember, he doesn’t remember anything….if he gave clear logical answers how believeable would that be? He’s playing up, using his age as a blind.

  • tinwoman

    He’s acting.  he interrupted James because he doesn’t repect him and has dominated him his whole life.  Sure Rupie is probably not what he was 40 years ago but any “”doddering senile old man” perceptions are playing right into the hands of his legal strategy.  Remember, he doesn’t remember anything….if he gave clear logical answers how believeable would that be? He’s playing up, using his age as a blind.

Refresh Archives

Random Notes