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Tuesday, December 13, 2011 

The knave or fool conundrum continues.

Back when both Murdochs appeared before the media committee, one of the few telling interventions was when Adrian Sanders asked whether James had heard of the term "willful blindness". Having feigned indignant ignorance, Daddy stepped in and said he had and that they most certainly weren't guilty of any such thing.

Closely related to willful blindness is the concept of plausible deniability, something James Murdoch has very quickly become an expert in. Accused by both Tom Crone and Colin Myler of knowing full well that the "one rogue reporter" defense had been well and truly punctured as a result of the disclosure of the "for Neville" email, Murdoch has maintained he never came into contact with it. First he denied he had any knowledge of it all, then that he had only recently became aware of it. The latest explanation is that although he did indeed receive the email, he didn't read the vital part of it, replying within a couple of minutes only to the request for a meeting the following Tuesday. While the fact that he responded so swiftly gives credence to his claim that he didn't read the full email at the time, it seems bizarre that he wouldn't have then returned to it later, or indeed have been informed about it during the meeting if he wasn't already aware. Murdoch is still asking us to believe that he sanctioned the massive payout to Gordon Taylor without knowing exactly why it was so vital that the case be settled. He remains either a knave, or a fool with his father's money. The former is more likely.

P.S. It's good to see that for the most part the rest of the media has not made a huge song and dance over the slight unravelling of the Milly Dowler hacking story. As Nick Davies has been at pains to point out, the News of the World has never denied that they hacked her phone, nor did they object at the time to the deletion part of the story. Glenn Mulcaire even believed that he had, perhaps inadvertently, deleted the voicemails, only recently discovering that he had not. Much seems to have rested on the Dowler's understandable loss of the awareness of time after their daughter went missing, and that it was only three days after her disappearance that her voicemail box reopened.

Still unclear is whether or not the voicemails were automatically deleted, as the police seem to think is the likeliest explanation for now, or whether someone else at the News of the World was hacking her phone prior to Mulcaire being authorised to doing so. Also possible is that it could have been the police themselves, although if it was they have yet to own up. The "false hope" part of the story was important, but even without it the hacking of her phone by the Screws was a shocking intrusion into privacy and grief, and with all the other revelations that have followed, it's difficult to believe that any other conclusion than the one we've come to would have been reached.

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