Friday, July 22, 2011

go johnnie go

A pie in the face works best when the target is well known as somebody who is pompous, arrogant and thinks they're above the rest of us, someone with too much power, someone who will be riled that any lowling dared to challenge them.

As such, Peter Mandelson was an ideal target. Jeremy Clarkson was less so because, whilst he's a rampantly egotistical fuckweasel of the highest order, he was bound to take it in good spirits.

Frankly, I cannot think of a better target than Rupert Murdoch, target of a pie attack by Johnnie Marbles (who explains it himself here).

The venomous bile he's spewed into our lives, the racism, sexism and homophobia he has promoted and entrenched, the countless thousands of lives he has permanently ruined to get one day's titillating story, the governments he's hijacked, enfeebled and bent to his will. Really, who would weep for him ever, let alone being unhurt by foam?

And yet they pretend to. The Daily Mirror fumed that the outrageous news of yet more City banker bonuses were buried because Murdoch's pieing got the front page, and this is somehow Marbles' fault. As if Murdoch's appearance at the Select Committees wasn't going to be the front page anyway.

Had Marbles not lobbed his custard (so to speak), should we blame Tom Wilson for hiding the banker bonuses by having Murdoch come into parliament that day? Or is this a paper desperately trying to find outrage somewhere but knowing that, really, you can't stick up for Murdoch because we all hate the fucker and he needs less of a pie in the face and something more like a trial for crimes against humanity?

It's not just the usual press gripers though. On Facebook, Billy Bragg posted

We finally get an opportunity to see Rupert Murdoch for what he really is - a frail 80 year old who is out of touch with the day to day running of his empire - on what must be the worse day in News Corps history. Then Jonny Marbles steps up with his pie prank and gives the The Sun, The Times, Sky News and Fox News the chance make Murdoch look like the victim. Thanks a lot, you idiot.

So Fox News were poised to report it properly were they? They hadn't already drafted their portrait of Murdoch as the victim of aggressive axe-grinding politicians?

Tailoring our action to what won't make Fox News and the Sun dislike us is not going to get us far. Doubly so when the target is the Sun's owner. For floundering unthought-throughness, Bragg exceeds even the Mirror.

Direct action is rarely popular with the media. They tend to call it anti-democratic when it is actually almost always about plugging gaps in democracy, reining in or smacking up against power that is far in excess of what is fair and just. Murdoch bestrides the earth designing our tax regimes and picking our leaders. He came into the select committee, once again made the politicians dance for him, then flew away in a private jet.

Jonnie Marbles is the first one to stick something back at him, to give Murdoch's victims a laugh at their tormentor's expense, for who knows how long. But at the end of the day it made no real difference either way. Contrary to what Billy Bragg and co allege, the world is not awash with a spontaneous wave of tender love for Rupert Fucking Murdoch. Neither did it derail the questioning - it's not as if without the pie Murdoch might've spilled the beans on the corrupt police and politicians on his secret payroll.

It did not profoundly shake Murdoch's power. But then neither will any number of attacks be they desserts or select committees. And that was part of the point. It did, for just for one moment, make the self-appointed king into a clown.


Anonymous said...

I just can't stand posh boy poseur wannabe revolutionaries -and there's alot of it about at the moment.

He didn't even do the pie-ing well, he said something very lame and managed to get twatted by Murdoch's wife.

Rich white boy comedians have always been shite anyhows. Be what you are double-barrelled surname boy, and be happy with it.

Billy Bragg said...

I'm not against the pieing of the powerful, I just believe you have to choose your moment.

Suppose Marbles actions had stopped the hearing altogether and the whole session had to be abandoned? If that had happened, Tom Watson would not have been able to ask James Murdoch the smoking gun question about whether or not he had seen the 'For Neville' email before he signed the cheque for £700k.

Murdoch's denial has caused two former employees to come forward and say Murdoch is lying and if he is lying, then he will have to go to jail for perverting the course of justice by attempting to buy off a witness.

Your friend's gesture politics nearly cost us the opportunity to overturn everything that the Murdochs have said since day one of this scandal.

You may prefer to 'make the self appointed king look like a clown for just one moment', but I believe in holding the powerful to account. And it's Tom Watson who is currently doing that, not Jonnie Marbles.

merrick said...

Anonyperson, I didn't realise people were only allowed to have radical politics if their parents were notably poor and not white. Thankyou for correcting my error.

Billy, you're not too skint these days so and you're white too, so I'm not sure you're allowed to have an opinion on this. But I'll give you the benefit of the doubt this once...

I think we're basically on the same side here. I too believe in holding the powerful to account. But I don't think we can seriously suggest there was any chance of Marbles' actions preventing that. As pioneer entarteur Noel Godin pointed out, security guards know the difference between a nutter with a cake and a nutter with a gun.

I think Watson's ding an excellent job too, more important and worthwhile than Marbles. I just don't see them being in conflict.

I can't see a real reason to dislike the pieing, and I'm frankly baffled by the straw-clutching rationalisations put forth. The idea that anything that stopped City bonuses being the lead story is to blame, or that Marbles' parental background precludes him from the right to express radical politics, are even more risible than your implication that Fox News might have have otherwise reported the questioning properly.

I hope you're right that Murdoch Jr sees the inside of a cell for a long time, and it's great that Watson and friends are pursuing this and we should push for it all the way. I just don't think it's credible to claim Marbles diminished the chances of that in any way.

Billy Bragg said...

I have no evidence, but I feel sure that, out of simple courtesy, the Chair would have asked Rupert Murdoch if he was ok to continue after the incident. Had he said no - which would have been understandable given the circumstances - then Tom Watson would not have had the opportunity to ask James Murdoch if he had seen the evidence and received an answer that may yet incriminate him. That's where the conflict between Marbles and Watson lies.

Marbles should have pied Murdoch as he left the hearing, once Watson and the rest of the committee had done their important work. As it is, I think he acted irresponsibly.

Jim Bliss said...

Misdirected (and sometimes self-consciously manufactured) outrage is a speciality of The Right. But as this event has demonstrated, they certainly don't have a monopoly on it, and The Left is more than capable of a bit of misplaced outrage.

Personally I'm a fan of the custard pie tactic for all the reasons mentioned in Merrick's post. Crucially, power conveys upon those who possess it a kind of mystique. And this mystique then further reinforces the power. It's a particularly vicious circle. Dispelling that mystique - that unwarranted illusion of dignity - even for a moment, with a well-placed custard pie is a public service. And I for one salute Mr. Marbles for the act.

Regarding the bizarre claim that the pie could have provided the Murdochs with an escape route from the committee, I have two points to make.

Firstly, if it had allowed them to escape questioning then I think the conclusion to be drawn would not be that Marbles was worthy of contempt, but that parliament was.

Here we have a media baron whose unbridled and undemocratic influence over the political establishment in the UK is renowned and who, for the first time, was in a vulnerable position. A position where parliament could actually hold him to account... perhaps even loosen his unsettling grip on British democracy. Had they allowed a paper plate and some shaving foam to derail them, it would have been a clear demonstration that they weren't serious in their endeavour in the first place. In which case, that pie would have revealed far more about the relationship between News International and the British Establishment than a thousand hours of questioning was likely to.

Billy Bragg is concerned that "Tom Watson would not have had the opportunity to ask James Murdoch if he had seen the evidence and received an answer that may yet incriminate him."

My second point, therefore, is to propose an alternative theory for Billy (I'm a big fan by the way... hate to gush, but your last gig at Vicar Street in Dublin was one of the best I've been to in years; a packed house singing "There is Power in a Union" is guaranteed to bring out the goosebumps). Anyway; let me suggest that the pie incident actually rattled both Rupert and James Murdoch. That their composure took a bit of a knock and James was - as a direct consequence - off-guard for Tom Watson's question. That actually, the "smoking gun question" would have been nothing of the sort without the intervention of that pie.

No. There's no evidence for that of course. However, there is more evidence for that theory, than there is for the theory that the custard pie would have prevented Watson's question (given that the latter didn't actually happen).

So instead of excoriating Marbles for something that didn't happen, might it not be better to ask why you chose to become annoyed by an hypothetical possibility that never came to pass, rather than taking satisfaction in the momentary collapse of the Murdoch mystique?

Then Jonny Marbles steps up with his pie prank and gives the The Sun, The Times, Sky News and Fox News the chance make Murdoch look like the victim.

I must admit I'm also a tad concerned that Billy Bragg of all people appears to be suggesting that activists should allow the possibility of negative spin from the right wing media to dictate their actions. Pretty much rules out any challenge to the established order so far as I can see. I guess we'll have no more songs like the wonderful "Never buy The Sun". After all, I can see how the Murdoch press might spin that as a left-wing attempt to stifle the freedom of the press. And we wouldn't want that.