Committee members react after a protestor, left checked shirt , named on Twitter as Jonnie Marbles, tries to throw a paper plate covered in shaving foam over Rupert Murdoch as he gave evidence to a House of Commons Committee in London, Tuesday July 19, 2011, on the News of the World phone hacking scandal.(AP Photo/pa) UNITED KINGDOM OUT: NO SALES: NO ARCHIVE: (AP)

The pie shot heard 'round the Twitterverse

The social network went ballistic when someone tried to shove shaving cream in Rupert Murdoch's face

Peter Finocchiaro
July 19, 2011 9:20PM (UTC)

"What just happened?!" That's what you would have heard if you were in Salon's New York office this afternoon, right around the time a British comedian called Jonnie Marbles threw a pie at Rupert Murdoch's face during a parliamentary hearing. Because the chamber's live-feed cut-out mere moments later, it was impossible to tell what exactly had happened. So, looking for concrete answers, we headed to Twitter. And everyone else did too.

What we found were a barrage of tweets, both informative and conjectural, serious and sardonic. We've culled a selection of the best, from a variety of media commenters, to give you an idea of what it's really like when a major media shocker causes Twitter to explode.


Breaking News!

  • Tweeting just moments after the incident, the New York Time's David Carr (@carr2n) wrote: "Someone just apparently tried to attack Mr. Murdoch and was taken down."
  • Anthony De Rosa (@AntDeRosa), social media editor at Reuters, soon thereafter reported that: "Murdoch was punched in the face by as of yet unidentified man at hearing"
  • Before long, the pie-attack angle was uncovered, and the Washington Post (@washingtonpost) added a little extra flavor to their inaugural tweet on the matter: "A man shouted 'greedy!' as he swung a plate full of foam at Murdoch. #NOTW"
  • And BuzzFeed (@BuzzFeed) summed it all up (albeit with some shaky facts): "Murdoch takes a pie to the face. His wife goes ballistic. PARLIAMENTARY HEARINGS ARE AWESOME! Video coming momentarily." (Fact check: The pie never made its way to Murdoch's face; parliamentary hearings aren't so much "awesome" as they are "absurd.")

Wendi Deng's Left Hook

  • David Enrich (@davidenrich), a Wall Street Journal reporter in London, was early in reporting that Murdoch's wife, Wendi Deng, struck the assailant during the scuffle: "Chaos in #Murdoch hearing. Wendy appeared to take a swing at someone who was attacking Rupert"
  • The news set off a torrent of tweets that reveled in Deng's forceful defense of her husband -- like, for example, this one from Roger Ebert (@ebertchicago): "Wendi took him down -- not the cops. You go, girl!"
  • Author and Vanity Fair writer Emma Gilbey Keller (@emmagkeller) used the moment to affirm her devotion to her own husband, outgoing Times executive editor Bill Keller: "@nytkeller If someone chucked a pie at you I would totally jump on top of them too." Love!
  • Cassandra Vinograd (@CassVinograd), an AP reporter in London, said what many were thinking: "Umm... I think we all want Wendi on our team now. That was insane. #GoWendi"
  • Jenna Wortham (@jennydeluxe), a tech reporter from the New York Times, transcribed this quote from the Times' personal technology editor, Sam Grobart: "'Wendi Deng just became Wendi DAAAAAAAAAAANG.' - @samgrobart #letthememesbegin

Jonnie Who?

  • Much was made of the assailant's identity. He was soon identified as Jonathan May-Bowles (@JonnieMarbles), who tweeted shortly before he lunged into history:"It is a far better thing that I do now than I have ever done before #splat"
  • A Twitter user going by the handle @pageantmalarkey claimed that May-Bowles was her ex-boyfriend, and, yeah, that was him with the pie: "Um. Yes. Yes that was my ex-boyfriend who just custard pied Rupert Murdoch."
  • BuzzFeed (@BuzzFeed) helpfully submitted: "Murdoch attacker @JonnieMarbles is a TERRIBLE comedian [VIDEO]"

Will this generate sympathy for Murdoch?

  • That was the question many were asking in the immediate aftermath. Gawker's Max Read (@LarryBraverman) answered in the affirmative: "what kind of moron thinks the best way to 'get' rupert murdoch is to distract from the hearing and turn him into a victim? i mean jesus."
  • Slate's Jack Shafer (@jackshafer) deadpanned: "Did I not say rupert murdoch was playing rope-a-dope?
  • CNN host Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) agreed with the assessment, noting how the MPs leading the hearing apologized to Murdoch afterwards: "'You're shown immense guts, Mr Murdoch.' Hysterical. This has all gone horribly wrong for the anti-Murdoch brigade. #Murdoch"
  • Still, upon returning to the chamber, there was a noticeable lack of spring in Murdoch's step, as noted by the New Republic's Alex Klein (@alexnklein): "Rupert looks absolutely deflated, staring at his hands."

Holy Cow! 

  • Most of all though, everyone just seemed dumb-struck by the whole episode. Time columnist James Poniewozik (@poniewozik), for example, worried that the incident would detract from serious news reportage of an important and major media scandal: "Srsly tho, pie attack just bumped up Murdoch story in tonight's news lineup, bumped down seriousness of said coverage."
  • Noting the insanity, Alec Baldwin (@AlecBaldwin) couldn't help but make a John Hinckley Jr. joke: "The pie thrower's diaries show that he was obsessed with Jodie Foster. Wendy Deng just happened to find them in the loo while washing up."
  • Our own Alex Pareene (@pareene) likewise quipped: "Improv Everywhere's "shave a mogul" prank goes horribly awry..."
  • The Times' J. David Goodman (@jdavidgoodman) noted: "'Humble pie' now trending in the UK. This will be the wood on all the tabloids tomorrow"
  • But it was David Carr (@Carr2n) who summed the moment up best:"The weirdest media story in history just got a lot weirder."

We won't argue with that.

Peter Finocchiaro

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