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Consumers rule in Murdoch's evil empire

  • 22 July 2011

If ever we needed proof of the public's complicity in the News of the World debacle, it came on Wednesday when Wendi Deng defended her husband, Rupert Murdoch, against a foam attack.

It was just the thing to distract an easily-bored public from the rigours of a Parliamentary inquiry: the beautiful, much younger wife sitting stoically by her husband, pouring him a glass of water, stroking his back, and then inflicting a fierce blow upon the interloper who tries to land a plate of foam in his face.

This incident should have been nothing more than a brief disruption to an otherwise sombre hearing in which the contrite Murdochs defended themselves before a parliamentary committee. Instead, it became the lead story, electrifying the Twitterverse, blog sites and online newspaper forums even before Deng had returned to her seat.

'This should put an end to the trophy wife talk' Tweeted @tommynak. 'Hear me roar! Mess with my husband? Oh no you don't!' said the Wendi Deng: Kickass Facebook page, one of many tribute sites that cropped up within hours of the incident. 'Murdoch's wife is an Internet sensation' declared the Hindustan Times online.

Even as Murdoch tried vainly to restore his media empire's credibility in the eyes of a sanctimonious parliament and public, condemning the culture of phone hacking at his now-defunct NOTW, here was the public setting the agenda for tonight's news bulletins, declaring its priorities so that editors of the popular media were in no doubt as to which angle they would follow.

Never before has the public had more say in what material it consumes, more influence over which stories it would like to read, or a greater choice of outlets from which to source its news. Thanks to the digital revolution, there is now a well-established interface between journalists and their readers, politicians and their constituents, celebrities and their admirers.

Despite this, the public was quick to claim ignorance and roundly condemn the theft of private information by NOTW: the intellectual elite implied that it had been acquired for the consumption of 'low class' readers, despite the fact that 39 per cent of the newspaper's readership fell into the middle-class demographic.

And the 2.7 million people who were known to have bought a copy of the newspaper each week, consolidating its status as Britain's top-selling Sunday newspaper, were conspicuous by their absence, unwilling to acknowledge that their appetite for lurid gossip and scandalous stories