By Martin Thomas
James Murdoch claims he didn't know about widespread phone-hacking and other dirty tricks by Murdoch journalists. Investigators have uncovered an email to him spelling out the full picture which he not only received but replied to.
Murdoch's defence is that he didn't read that email, beyond the first few words. Like many other people with many other emails, web pages, or text messages, he didn't read it. He jamesmurdoched it.
He went through the motions with a degree of attention that can be estimated from known faster rate at which people "read" web pages, compared to reading print: about 16%.
Murdoch may be lying. The interesting thing is that he can make a plausible defence of saying that he jamesmurdoched the message rather than reading it, and that there is no outcry about why he is paid so much as a manager when he only jamesmurdochs important messages, rather than reading them.
It is taken for granted that "important" people don't read. They jamesmurdoch. They absorb whatever 16% best fits their momentary wants and needs.
The same, sadly, happens with those who are "unimportant" in the world's eyes, but the most important people in the longer view: the activists of the labour movement and the left.
Just in the last few days I've had correspondence with:
- A comrade who had agreed, and confirmed repeatedly, that she would lead a session at an AWL school. Now she says that she hadn't understood which school she would be doing the session at. The information was in the subject line and the first line of text of emails to which she replied. Only, she jamesmurdoched the messages rather than reading them.
- A comrade whom I'd texted about changing a meeting time. She got the text. Only, she jamesmurdoched it. She took in that it was about the meeting, but not that it asked about changing the time. I found out only too late, by voice-phoning to confirm.
- A comrade whom I'd sent several emails and printed circulars about a school this weekend. He had jamesmurdoched the printed circular as well as the emails.
- A comrade who had noticed a news item in the Morning Star and asked that we cover it in Solidarity - when it had been covered more, and more fully, in Solidarity that in the neo-Stalinist rag.
All these are conscientious, active, intelligent comradees. The evidence is that "reading" habits developed with emails and web pages are now spilling over onto the printed word.
A plea to readers. Switch off your computer over the Christmas and New Year, or switch it on only for short periods. Read some books. Read them, don't jamesmurdoch them. Train your brain back into reading, not jamesmurdoching.
In your reading, include Nicholas Carr's book, The Shallows.