Matthew Norman: Online can be a bamboozling term

Reflecting on a week of unrelenting excitement even by his standards, an indelicate question poses itself about Rupert Murdoch. Is the old boy finally losing it?

In fact he raised the question himself during about as fearlessly searching an interview as you'd expect from a hack on Sky News in Australia. "Course I won't keep going and going," said Rupert. "When I start to lose it, I can assure you that my kids will be telling me about it."



Will they, forsooth? If so, I direct them to that very chat, in which their father supported the claim made by Fox News's Glenn Beck, the imbecile's imbecile, that Obama is profoundly racist (a remark the News Corp press office hurriedly withdrew on Rupert's behalf): and reiterated his promise to withdraw all titles from Google if he ever finds a way to erect that problematic pay wall. But it's a tiny moment before he mentioned the following brainwave that struck me as most illuminating.



"The problem is, you're losing money online," posited the Sky clone. "No!" came the instant rebuttal. "How do you mean? With our websites?" Hats off to the Sky clone for suppressing a reflex "Duhhh!", but for a split second Rupert was clearly bamboozled by the admittedly recherche term "online". He doesn't speak the lingo at all, and barely understands it, and just cannot contain his sense of grievance about Google "stealing our stories".



Bless him, he appears genuinely to believe he can turn back the tide of technological history. You may have thought many things of him over the decades, but until now a total Cnut wasn't one of them. He now sounds almost as old as he looks (about 104, the same age as his Simpsons alter ego Monty Burns, what with those insanely dyed, chestnut clumps of hair). Kids, the time is nigh. Filial piety is a fine quality, but the old man has become a dinosaur and the meteor is surely on its way.



Contractual obligation



How gratifying to hear senior Prime Minister, the Lord Mandelson, describe the relationship between the Murdochs and the Tories as a "contract". He's right of course, even if the precise terms and obligations won't be clear until after the election (though we've an idea that scrapping Ofcom is among them). This was an important declaration of principle from Lord M, and one he should reiterate in his forthcoming weekly news conferences. There never was a more passionate proselytiser of keeping media and government at arm's length, and his dismay at Mr Cameron striking the Faustian deal he fought so valiantly to dissuade Mr Tony Blair from doing is unmistakably genuine. Once again, you can only wonder what Mandy might have made of himself were he less riven by high-minded disdain for the accommodations between political and media classes that have done so much to make Britain such a paradigm of good governance.



Chips off the old block



Recalling colleagues who sat around creating receipts on little printing kits for restaurants that didn't technically exist, I'm naturally shy about joining in the outrage about BBC expenses. Even so, Mark Thompson's £647.50 for two nights at the Bellagio is a shocker. Even if this devoutly religious man isn't aware of how things work in Sin City, there has to be a BBC head of comps, on £225,000 per annum, who could have told him that all he had to do was sit down at the blackjack table with $10,000 in chips, and they'd have given him the room for $100 a night.



Pistols at 20 paces



The ghost of Kenneth Tynan continues to haunt Tim Walker, obscenely gifted theatre critic of The Sunday Telegraph. In a recent review of Pains Of Youth, Tim brilliantly explored the central themes by dwelling on the girth of the colleague behind him, The Financial Times's Ian Shuttleworth. Our own Paul Taylor has written to Tim's boss, accusing this effete boulevardier of, among other things, social pretension. "He is a byword for professional sloppiness, shy-making attempts to turn himself into a personality (for which, alas, he lacks the personality)," writes Paul, "and for the blithe, Woosterish impersonation that passes for social existence with him, and is in such droll counterpoint to his actual background." Ouch. Forgive the disloyalty but Paul goes too far with that charge of sloppiness. It's a good while since he last confused those minor characters Iago and Othello, and we really must move on.



Breast is best



This week, Liz Jones has mostly been writing about her dislike of breasts.



Sting's the king of pains



Thanks to Sting for his contribution to the national debate about The X Factor, which the tantric titan dismisses as "televised karaoke". The reason we all love Sting's own work, as Ricky Gervais puts it in Ghost Town, is that you can tell from the lyrics that he's educated, and he speaks with the added authority of one who wears his learning lightly. "I am sorry but none of those kids are going to get anywhere," he tells the London Evening Standard, presumably with Leona Lewis in mind, "and I say that sadly." Oh but he does. Much as with Esther Rantzen, indeed, Sting's only real failing is that he cares too much. Will he ever cease to be the king of pains.



Dimbleby gets the Humph



The speediest of recoveries to David Dimbleby, finally, from the bullock fiasco that allowed John Humphrys to make such a sparkling Question Time debut. Even the barely conscious David was aware of the threat, texting the office that he'd somehow struggle in, and warning them on no account to "ring bloody Humphrys". Although this is widely thought to have been in jest, many a true word and all that.

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