Matthew Norman: Freud bangs his old drum kit to another rhythm

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The Independent Online

Forgive the lure of the old school tie, but I must leap to the defence of my one-time playground chum Matthew Freud, the PR mastermind and Rupert Murdoch's son-in-law, whose business career began at seven when he would charge us 5p for a quick bash on the drum kit he kept at our Hampstead prep school.

Matthew is the victim of a savage counter-attack from Fox News's chief Roger Ailes, a fearsome brute even by the standards of Murdoch's imperial procurators. Ailes took umbrage when Matthew described him as a man by whom "the family" (and on no account should you hear that in a Brooklyn-Italian brogue) is "sickened and ashamed". Matthew hasn't become a figure of immense, unseen influence by shooting his mouth off about Rupert's affairs (in this case, he was apparently briefed by stepmother-in-law Wendi), as you'd imagine Ailes would understand.

Apparently not, however, and he counter-struck by insisting that Matthew (a minor irony, this, given that his great-grandpa was Sigmund Freud) "needs to see a psychiatrist". He certainly does not, but Rupert could perhaps use a little therapy as he struggles to reconcile his financial interests with the more delicate sensibilities of kith and kin.

Clearly, the muscular line on President Obama taken by Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck and Fox new girl Sarah Palin causes anguish to his liberal(ish) wife, son James, daughter Elisabeth and Matthew himself. However, with Fox's borderline neo-fascist output generating the profits to subsidise the losses being racked up elsewhere, the old boy is in no shape to soften the tone, even if his personal feelings are closer to the Fox editorial line than he might care to admit.

It cannot be easy for Davros, caught between a commercial imperative and the outrage of his loved ones. But the impression that the old boy is losing his grip strengthens by the month as the family concentrates ever more transparently on the succession, and it breaks the heart to behold.

Xcruciatingly Xecrable

Despite his calamitous misjudgment over Gordon Brown's misspelt letter to the mother of a dead serviceman, Dominic Mohan's editorship of The Sun has impressed even those who used to regard him as the industry's answer to the Crossroads motel handyman Benny Hawkins. He will never be forgiven for ostracising Gaunty to a non-existent "daily blog", needless to say. But the paper is sharper and livelier than in ages, and wins Feature of the Week for Grant Rolling's formal acknowledgment that the Halifax advert in which staff ape the hilarity of a sub-sub-sub-Chris Evans radio posse in 1995 as the most winceworthy TV commercial ever.

The bit where someone sits on the floor and puts a dustbin over his head in pursuit of claiming to be calling from a Russian space station ... suffice it to say a stint strapped to electrodes in a Brezhnev-era cell wouldn't cut it for the creative genius responsible for that.

Gove...and soon forgotten

I am disgusted by sexual innuendo masquerading as winsome collegiate waggery in another Murdoch title. Announcing his pre-election departure from The Times comment pages, Tory education spokesman Michael Gove impudently compares Libby Purves to Mrs Robinson (the original model, not the repro version in Belfast).

"This is the last column I'll be writing for a while," writes the impish Gove. "I have enjoyed my time under Libby Purves, benefiting from being so close to an experienced woman of the world, rather like Dustin Hoffman with Anne Bancroft in The Graduate."

A distasteful thought, and from Gove nothing will be more welcome than the sound of silence.

An earthquake mystery

Little in recent media memory has startled me quite like The Daily Mail's attitude to the disaster in Haiti. It's not so much that it couldn't be less interested, more that it cannot be bothered to affect any interest. On Thursday and Friday, when both The Sun and Daily Mirror splashed on the earthquake, the Mail's front page dwelt on Gary McKinnon's extradition and a test for Alzheimer's respectively, restraining any mention of the earthquake until a spread on pages eight and nine.

You'd have thought it might, at the very least, have bumped the cover puffs for Poirot DVDs to direct readers towards this tragedy. Far be it from me to hold forth about news judgment, but someone's grey cells appear to be in grave decline. Genuinely shocking.

Horror story is no thriller

As for the Mirror's quake splash on Thursday, did "100,000 Gone in 60 Seconds" strike anyone as oddly flippant? Using the title of an action film in which Nic Cage must steal 50 cars to save his brother from being bumped by a Russian crime lord in this particular context ... nah, probably me being a pompous arse again.