Rupert Murdoch: lessons in apology

Does he have no competent advisors or does he simply refuse to listen to them? Is Murdock really powerful, or is he the powerless slave of his own arrogance? It seems to me that Murdoch has had difficulty apologising. Perhaps he is uncertain what an authentic apology is.

On the subject of apologies, this is another example of how Christianity has shaped our national character. The public are judging these apologies, whether they are authentic or not, by using the measure that comes from the Christian foundations within our national character.

The two sources that have provided me with an understanding of this subject of apology are the bible and my father. The bible for what it teaches, and my father for how I observed him avoiding apologies.

In the bible we learn how to approach God in authentic repentance. By confessing our sin to him, admitting our guilt, we are then able to ask for his forgiveness which is freely forgiven. We are then taught about forgiving others as we have been forgiven ourselves.

As I grew up I noted how my father avoided apologising and the linguistic twists and turns he used to do so. I remember after he would have behaved outrageously and and inflicted great hurt, my father in some of those situations would have felt the pressure of the moment to apologise. His words would go something like, “I am sorry if you are hurt.” He would not admit he had caused the hurt or apologise for what he had done. On another occasion he might say, “I apologise if you have found this upsetting.” Once again an avoidance of admitting any responsibility for his actions. It would be like me walking up to someone in the street and punching them in the face, then saying, “I am sorry if you are feeling pain.” This is far removed from saying, “I am sorry I did that, I should not have done that, please forgive me for my action”.

So, to the Murdoch apologies:

On 15/7/2011, under the large headline “We are sorry,” the first apology was the following:

The News of the World was in the business of holding others to account. It failed when it came to itself.
We are sorry for the serious wrongdoing that occurred. We are deeply sorry for the hurt suffered by the individuals affected.
We regret not acting faster to sort things out. I realise that simply apologising is not enough.
Our business was founded on the idea that a free and open press should be a positive force in society. We need to live up to this.
In the coming days, as we take further concrete steps to resolve these issues and make amends for the damage they have caused, you will hear more from us.
Sincerely, Rupert Murdoch

This first apology included the phrase, “We are deeply sorry for the hurt suffered by the individuals affected.” Note it does not say sorry for the hurt they have caused, but hurt others have suffered. See my ‘punching man in street’ illustrations. The was was not apologising for hurt and injury caused and taking responsibility for it, but for hurt other people felt. See the use of the word ‘regret’. One can regret being caught out without being remorseful about it. Apology involves remorse for the wrong done. Judging the authenticity of remorse expressed was a key element in sentencing when I served as a Justice of the Peace.

On 17/7/2011 a second advert was placed with another apology-like statement. The News International advert, which features in several newspapers, is headed: “Putting right what’s gone wrong”

Note the title ‘Putting right what’s gone wrong.’ Instead of putting right ‘what we did wrong’ or ‘what we got wrong’. His apology seems to pull back from a total apology and total identification with the wrong done. It seems to be a claim that he and his company are not truly connected to the wrong.

The second apology opens with: “We are appalled by the allegations that some individuals at the News of the World failed to uphold the values of decency and the rule of law.” Note they do not say, “We have failed,” or “This company has failed.” They are carefully disconnecting themselves from the sin and portraying themselves as either appalled observers or as victims of the behaviour of others.

The advert went on to say: “For a business that prides itself on holding the powerful to account, we failed when it came to one of our papers. Apologising for our mistakes and fixing them are only the first steps.” This is much closer to being an authentic apology. Not quite there, but much closer.

How rich is Murdoch?
All of this has got me wondering how rich Murdoch really is.

He is surely a billionaire yet he seems to be a pauper in regard to emotional intelligence. There are no pockets in a shroud. Murdock will take none of his money beyond the grave. It is our character that we will take with us into our resurrection. What I can take with me is the fruit of God’s Spirit that lives in me.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” – Galatians 5:22-23.

Rupert Murdoch second apology – full text:
We are appalled by the allegations that some individuals at-the News of the World failed to uphold the values of decency and the rule of law.
This led to the closure of the newspaper. Our obligation to put this right does not end here.

Full co-operation with the Police
There are no excuses and be no place to hide. ‘We will not tolerate wrongdoing and will act on any evidence that comes to light. That is why we voluntarily gave information to the Metropolitan Police Service in January that led to opening Operation Weeting, one of the largest ongoing Police inquiries. There have already been a number of arrests and we will continue to co-operate fully and actively with the MPS wherever their investigations lead.

Compensation for those affected
We have unreservedly apologised to people who have been affected and have already settled a number of civil cases. We have also set up a Compensation scheme adjudicated by former High Court judge Sir Charles Gray to offer fair settlement to those affected.-

Committed to change
Our Management & Standards Committee was created to address past problems and prevent them from happening again. This independent Committee is being directed by News Corporation, overseen by internal and external directors including two former US Assistant Attorneys General.
We have also asked Olswang, a respected law firm, to examine past failings and recommend new systems and practices to ensure we meet the highest standards. This will be done in an open and transparent way. We have welcomed crosspatch calls for a broad public inquiry into press and police practices and have offered our full co-operation.
For a business that prides itself on holding the powerful to account, we failed when it came to one of our papers. Apologising for our mistakes and fixing them are only the first steps. It may take some time for us to rebuild trust and confidence, but we are determined to live up to the expectations of our readers, colleagues and partners.
We will not stop until these matters are resolved.
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