Diary: Arizona slaughter shames Palin and her media allies

And so ended Sarah Palin's presidential ambitions, in Arizona, not with a whimper but with a series of bangs. Whether or not shooter Jared Loughner proves to be a Tea Partier, Palin's tweeted "Do not retreat. Reload!" rallying cry now takes its place as the shortest suicide note in history.

While Palin sincerely prays for Gabrielle Giffords, one of those Democrats featured in the crosshairs of Palin's infamous telescopic lens, stand by for damage limitation from her employer, Rupert Murdoch, to whom questions about News of the World ethics will suddenly seem very small beer.

Loughner's Facebook references to the need for a gold standard to safeguard the US economy were clearly lifted from Fox's Glenn Beck, while among the mid-term candidates recently proselytised by Fox was Sharron Angle, who hinted at the need for "second amendment remedies" (firearms) against those evil, Marxist Democrats.

For decades, Murdoch titles have insisted that fictional plots malignly influence audiences, as currently with The Sun and News of the World stoking this EastEnders cot-death controversy. What a doublethink challenge for the empire to dismiss the notion that the story line developed by Palin, Beck and the gang had any effect on Jared Loughner's mind.

* Speaking of EastEnders, actress Samantha Womack appears in the NoW expressing "disgust" at the BBC for making her steal a baby in an imaginary world. Womack will depart Walford when her contract expires in the spring. There is no firm word on her next role (see also below). But it's long odds against Medea.

* As if the Murdoch press inflating a controversy to bash the Beeb wasn't refreshing enough, how splendid to see Mark Thompson showing courage under fire. Where a craven director-general might have touched on the need to distinguish fact from fiction, possibly mentioning the plethora of baby-swap stories in Shakespeare and opera, Thommo told the Daily Mail that he will respond to complaints (as he has done by curtailing that plot line).

BBC expenses may be a contentious issue, but if that man isn't reimbursed for double knee-replacement surgery, after spending more time on them than a novice monk, it will be the scandal of the age.

* From London's glittering Theatreland comes a lively buzz about a new comic play (title unknown) by Sarah Helm, wife of Mr Tony Blair's chief of staff, Jonathan Powell. It concerns their Downing Street days, and apparently it's hilarious. I would recommend Sam Womack for the lead. However, recalling how in 1999 the Helm-Powells checked in their two-month-old daughter with a Groucho Club cloakroom attendant, collecting the infant on finishing dinner a couple of hours later, perhaps not. Reopening old wounds and all that.

* Meanwhile, two of Jonathan's old colleagues forge exciting telly careers. John Prescott's insurance commercial does him credit, though less so than the director. "Cut! Now John, just relax and we'll go again. And remember, it's not muckycarpet.com. Ready? Right then, moneymarket.com TV ad, take 3,179, action ... Cut!"

* Worrying signs of tension in a top media marriage after Alice Thomson tells Times readers how the loss of holiday luggage taught her the joys of liberation from material goods.

"We all have too much stuff in our lives," she observes in a barely coded attack on husband Edward Heathcoat Amory, best known for his masterly textual deconstruction of "Imagine" in 2002. "Next, Lennon disposes of property with: 'Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can'," wrote Ed in the Daily Mail. "This is, of course, the old discredited communist dream.... Sadly, when it was tried... [it] gave us Mao Tse-tung, Stalin and Pol Pot." Touch wood this philosophical schism doesn't lead anyone to feel just like starting over.

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