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.
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.
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).
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.
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)