Christina Patterson: Loyalty is a noble thing – and sometimes horribly misplaced

The Saturday Column
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Was there a moment when he felt sick?

Was there a moment when an 80-year-old Australian, whose ever-expanding empire was yesterday due to get the nod to expand even more, felt so sick that he actually paused? Was it, perhaps, the moment he heard that a dead girl's phone messages had been listened to by someone who wanted to turn them into money? Was it the moment he heard that some of those messages had been wiped off, and had made the girl's parents think their dead daughter wasn't dead?

Or was it the moment he heard about the messages for the parents of two little girls who had just been murdered? Or the moment he heard about the messages for people whose husband, or wife, or son, or daughter, or boyfriend, or lover, had just been blown up? Was it, perhaps, when he heard about the young men fighting a war, and how their parents had had the knock on the door that told them they would never see their son again, and then heard that the most private messages of their life may not have been private?

Is it possible that there wasn't a moment when Rupert Murdoch felt sick? When he thought that actually there were more important things in life than making money, and that some of those things had to do with people who might find it hard to smile again? Is it possible that there wasn't a moment when he thought that whoever was in charge of the people who did things like this, even if he liked her, even if he loved her, even if he spoke to her every day, and even if he thought she was good at what she did, which made him lots of money, had to go?

And was there a moment when she felt sick? Was there a moment when a 62-year-old French journalist, whose inherited fortune allowed her to find $6m for her husband's bail, and $4,400 a month for a very nice flat on Broadway, and $243,000 for security, felt so sick that she actually paused? Was it, perhaps, the moment a lawyer, standing on a pavement, claimed to the world's press that her husband had pushed a chambermaid so forcefully that she had torn a ligament, and that he had grabbed her vagina so hard that the nurses who saw the bruising were shocked?

Or was it the moment she read an interview with a young French writer who claimed that she had gone to interview her husband, and that her husband had then grabbed her hand and then her arm and then, although she had asked him to leave her alone, pulled her against him, and then, when she fell, with him, to the ground, undid her bra, and opened her jeans. Was it the moment the writer claimed that what her husband had done had ruined her life for the past eight years, and that she had finally spoken out because she wanted to be able to look herself in the eye?

Is it possible that there wasn't a moment when Anne Sinclair felt sick? When she heard that her husband had maybe persuaded, maybe forced, a woman he met two minutes before, who was there to clean his room, to stick his penis in her mouth, and who then spat his semen on the floor? Is it possible that there wasn't a moment when she thought that it really was beginning to look as if her husband, who was handsome, and powerful, and yes, a grand seducteur in a fine tradition of grand seducteurs, sometimes went too far? And that although she loved him, and never expected fidelity from him, enough was enough?

If there was, we haven't seen it. If Rupert Murdoch ever felt that his loyalty to Rebekah Brooks had been tested a little bit too much, and that it really wasn't very convincing to say from the beginning that there was just one "rogue reporter" when so many people thought there wasn't, and that perhaps she should have asked her staff where they were getting the scoops that kept the paper's sales the highest for an English language paper in the world, and that it probably wasn't a good idea to mislead parliament, or to explain that you were on holiday when some of the sort of things you said didn't happen happened, he didn't show it. Instead, he kept the chief executive of what once was his core company in her job, and sacrificed the jobs of scores of journalists who never did anything wrong.

And if Anne Sinclair ever thought that it wasn't very appealing, or dignified, or respectful to her, of her husband to have a brief sexual encounter with a chambermaid who seems to have been left covered in bruises, or to have turned what was meant to be an interview into something the interviewer said was so traumatic that it still haunts her eight years on, we haven't seen it. Instead, she has said that she is "rather proud" of her husband's wide-ranging sexual appetites, and eats truffles with him in New York restaurants, and walks hand in hand with him, and smiles, and laughs.

Loyalty, said Robert Baden-Powell, "is a feature in a boy's character that inspires boundless hope". I think what he meant, and maybe he also would have included a girl's character if he thought girls had such a thing as a character, was that loyalty is jolly nice. I think he meant that it was a good, and attractive, and sometimes even noble, thing for a human being to stick by another human being when the going gets tough. And that it was a good thing for a human being to stick by another human being when the other human being has made a mistake. I think he might have said that we all make mistakes, and that we'd all like someone to stand by us when we do.

We do all make mistakes, and it is nice to stand by another human being because we like them, or even love them, when the going gets tough. But the man who invented "Scout's honour" might also have said that there are times when it's stretched. He might have said that the thing about Scout's honour is that there has to be some honour. He might have said that the thing about mistakes is that you have to admit you made them. And that you have to not blame other people for the mistakes you've made.

I think he might even have said that there comes a time when loyalty begins to look less like "boundless hope" and more like blind, foolish, and sometimes disgraceful, faith.

I wonder why it's all gone so quiet

Julian Assange has been rather quiet. If he's been busy with the female population of Norfolk, we haven't heard about it, though it's possible he found the female population of Norfolk a bit lacking in what he calls on his dating profile "innate perceptiveness" and "spunk".

But whatever the state of his love life, Assange's non-romantic relationships don't seem to be going all that well. First, there was Daniel Domscheit-Berg, the German spokesman for WikiLeaks (who is, apparently, a real person) who resigned from WikiLeaks in September. Then there was Nick Davies, the brilliant Guardian journalist whose brilliant journalism about Assange Assange decided he didn't like. Then there was his lawyer, Mark Stephens, who was suddenly swapped for Gareth Pierce. And now there's his publisher, Canongate.

Since December, Assange has been working with the novelist Andrew O'Hagan to produce a memoir. The book deal got him £850,000. Assange talked. O'Hagan wrote. The world waited.

But the world can carry on waiting, because Assange has changed his mind. The book he said would "become one of the unifying documents of our generation" now looks very likely not to appear.

Never mind. It's his 40th birthday bash tonight, and guests, or at least people who are invited, include Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Slightly less glamorous female guests shouldn't be downcast. Although Assange has said he prefers women from countries that have "sustained political turmoil", after this week, we Brits should be in with a chance.

The soldier who was finally glad to be gay

In a week which hasn't offered too many heroes, here's one. His name is Andrew Wilfahrt, or rather it was, before he was blown to pieces in Afghanistan. He was the first openly gay American soldier to be killed since Barack Obama repealed the ban on openly gay men and women serving in the military.

Wilfahrt joined the army aged 29. Wanting to appear more masculine, he deepened his voice, built up his body and stuck a photo of himself on his locker with a woman "curled up against his chest". When he plucked up the courage to tell his colleagues he was gay, he discovered that "everyone knew", and "nobody cared". He had decided, he told his parents, to join the army so that someone with a family wouldn't have to.

Wilfahrt's parents are now fighting to stop their state bringing in a law defining marriage as something only possible between a woman and a man. They're doing this in memory of their son. "Even though we are acclimatised to his absence," said his father this week, "it will still tear our hearts out."