An “activist” just tried to pie Rupert Murdoch and The New York Times Blog put it very simply:
Unless the activist who charged at Mr. Murdoch wanted to help distract attention from his testimony — and that of Rebekah Brooks, who is now giving evidence to the Commons select committee — he seems to have failed spectacularly. The attack sent journalists scrambling to get still images and video and will no doubt get more attention from the public than anything that was said today.
As Ben Quinn of The Guardian reports, a British activist named Jonnie Marbles has claimed responsibility for the attack on Rupert Murdoch, writing on Twitter: “It is a far better thing that I do now than I have ever done before #splat.”
Does Rupert Murdoch deserve to be humiliated? Yes. He’s horrible. Is hitting him in the face with a pie going to do that more so than what he’s doing himself? I’m not sure.
Was this needed? Did it help? So far reaction seems to be: no. Murdoch was doing a great job digging his own grave.
Having lived in San Francisco in the late 1990’s this did remind me of the “Biotic Baking Brigade” a group of “pie throwing anarchists.” They made a movie. Here’s an excerpt:
Maybe it was my youth, but it was always a thrill to hear about the BBBs latest strike. Although there’s moments in the video that make me shudder (is it possible to explain détournment and not sound like a pretentious grad student?) the BBB clearly had a sense of humor. They also seemed to put the cause above themselves as individuals. It wasn’t so important that you knew who the individuals were – they acted as if they were many, and encouraged anyone to take up the tactic. They explained their frustration and their reasons for using this tactic made some sense within that logic.
Most importantly, the BBBs targets weren’t already portrayed as demons in the media. San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and Bill Gates were receiving news coverage that was mostly favorable. And an executive of a lumber company destroying the redwoods was basically not on the media’s radar. Pie-ing that executive in the face at a small press conference opens up a chance to get another perspective in the news while making it a much bigger story. I might be in a bubble, but I don’t think either is the case with Murdoch.
Jonnie Marbles posting on twitter in time with his pie-ing of Murdoch is very deliberate. On twitter, he describes himself as “activist, comedian, father figure and all-round nonsense.” Activist/comedian I have no problem with, but those together with father-figure? For me, that kinda reads as “attention-starved.” I’m sure pie-ing Murdoch must have felt awesome. And I’m sure Jonnie Marbles is quite proud. But it’s not about Marbles.
This idea overlaps with a phrase Stephen Duncombe and I coined: Political Expressionism. A Political Expressionist’s work is not political in the sense that it affects power. It’s an expression of a personal feeling about politics (i.e. “F**k Bush!” or “I am so mad about the news!” in one form or another). It feels good personally and it might resonate with a few others, but it’s about expressing a feeling of frustration or anger. As long as expression is what the work is about, its focus and the goal is not to affect power. And if you’re creating a media spectacle shouldn’t that be the real goal?
Coming back to the point made in The Times: pie-ing Murdoch was a distraction. As good as it probably felt, and as much you or I would have loved to do it, it was not effective. This hearing didn’t need more attention. Murdoch didn’t need to be taken down a notch, he’s already sunk himself to the bottom.
What do you think?
UPDATE: Jonnie Marbles writes a column in the Guardian where he tells me what I already know about Murdoch and admits he, to some extent, humanized the wicked old man.