Jonnie Marbles’ sentence was fair for a counterproductive crime

(c) alanconnor

Tom Bailey

Jonnie Marbles was sentenced on the 2nd of August to three weeks in prison and compelled to pay £265 for his pie foam attack on Rupert Murdoch. I entirely agree with Marbles’ view that ‘it’s not difficult to find reasons to dislike Rupert Murdoch’. Murdoch’s journalism is objectionable to many of the British public and perhaps anyone who views Left Central (do watch this funny old Fry and Laurie sketch). I can also understand the frustration felt by commentators in regard to highlighted examples that suggest that the justice system is inconsistent in its treatment of other apparently criminal acts. However, the attack remains puerile and counterproductive. It was assault and, in the words of Chris Bryant MP, ‘no way to treat any witness, let alone someone over the age of 80.’

Protest should consider its likely impact and have clear aims. So far as I can see, there was no decent justification for Marbles’s actions. Please do comment below if you disagree. Reasons for protest highlighted by this website all seem to be irrelevant to his action. One major rationale for protest is to highlight an issue, evidently not a consideration here; the select committee hearing was to receive major press attention despite the perpetual issues of the euro and a then looming potential US default. The result of the attack was not to increase the prominence of the story but to divert attention within it. It meant that the clip of the attack was looped incessantly on news websites and TV stations ahead of other footage demonstrating the woeful ignorance/compliance in crime of those heading News Corp. Marbles also tarnished UkUncut by his attack – he was a founding member. They receive sufficient criticism from the press without being attached to someone who hits 80 year olds.

Marbles defended his action as a ‘surreal act aimed at exposing a surreal process’ but the simple fact is that its principal effect was to detract attention from the grilling of that ageing media mogul by Tom Watson MP. Marbles wrote that the majority of the hearing was ‘a toothless panel confronting men too slippery to be caught between their gums’ but also recognized the efforts of Watson. Watson revealed Murdoch to be consistently unaware of systemic failures at the News of the World. Murdoch’s responses to questions demonstrated this ignorance despite his responsibilities as the head of News Corp. That should have been the sole focus of the media reports. Instead, the incident provided a spate of nonstories about Wendi Murdoch.

The attack also changed how Murdoch appeared. In Marbles’ own justification in The Guardian of his actions, he recognized how Murdoch is both ‘one of the most insidious and toxic forces in global politics today’ and ‘just an old man’. Hitting Murdoch only emphasized his frailty ahead of the aspect that should have been scrutinized. It also detracted attention from the strong anti-Murdoch case and the issues emerging from the session. For instance, Rupert Murdoch complained that competitors created ‘hysteria’ which prevented his takeover of BSkyB. It was outrageous that Murdoch could blame this and not recognise that the British press, public and politicians were appalled by the entire phone hacking scandal, with alleged victims ranging from Milly Dowler to terrorism victims. The assessment of whether Murdoch and News Corp were ‘fit and proper’ persons to control their stake in the British media was another element overshadowed by the attack. This assessment is legally ambiguous and scrutiny from the select committee was important to this judgement; hitting an octogenarian with a foam pie was not important to anything. Jonnie Marbles’ protest was selfish, pointless and detracted attention from the testimony of the Murdochs.

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