Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Truth v.Lies. From Hillsborough to Wapping

 LIVERPOOL mourns. But not for Thatcher. Banner at Saturday's match. 

THOUSANDS of people gathered at Liverpool football club's Anfield ground today to mark the 24th anniversary of the day of horror when over 1,000 went to a football match at Hillsborough, in Sheffield, and 96 did not come back.

Among those remembering the victims of the man-made disaster at Hillsborough were parents whose teenage children were killed. To their grief at the loss was added the anguish of seeing Liverpool fans vilified by the media, and specifically Rupert Murdoch's newspaper The Sun,whose front-page carried lies fed by the police, blaming the crush in the stadium pen on drunken fans, and accusing them of hampering rescue efforts and robbing the dead.

It has taken years of hard campaigning for the truth to be admitted, that it was the South Yorkshire police who forced people back into the crush, and held up ambulances from reaching the injured.Sadly, some who lost loved ones at Hillsborough have not lived to see the truth acknowledged.

Margaret Aspinall, chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, told the 7,000-strong crowd at Anfield that there could be no delay in the IPCC  investigation into police conduct at the 1989 game.
The inquiry followed the Hillsborough Independent Panel's report in September, which revealed the extent of the establishment cover-up and attempt to blame Liverpool fans for the tragedy. It is believed it could take two years to complete. Aspinall, who lost her 18-year-old son James, said: "The truth has finally been revealed and now justice must follow… We [the families] are all getting older and some have been diagnosed with incurable illness. Delays are not acceptable under any circumstances."


At Saturday's game with Reading, whose chair had hastily switched from calling a silence for Thatcher to saying it was for the Hillsborough victims, Liverpool fans held banners not only remembering the 96, but making clear their emnity for Thatcher. People have not found it hard to see the connections between Thatcher's gratitude to the police for their action against the miners, her support for cover-up, and her assistance to Rupert Murdoch in crushing the print unions at Wapping.

Phil Scraton, proessor of Criminology at Queens University, Belfast, and primary author of the hillsborough panel's report, says:
'Instructively, the Report carries a photograph of Margaret Thatcher and Douglas Hurd at Hillsborough in animated conversation – an unrecorded briefing – with senior officers and club officials. Sir Bernard Ingham has since noted they “learnt on the day” that a “tanked-up mob” had stormed the terrace. While Mrs Thatcher’s public face displayed empathy, behind the scenes her earlier condemnation of the “enemy within” was revitalised – a “spectrum” aligning football “hooligans” with “militant” trades unionists and “terrorists within our borders”.

'Disclosed documents show how South Yorkshire Police officers, supported by their Chief Constable, Peter Wright, successfully extended a damage limitation exercise to orchestrated manipulation. Fabricating a story of drunk, ticketless, abusive fans arriving late, forcing entry and causing the fatal crush on the terraces, they sought to shift blame from the actions or inactions of senior officers.'

24-years-on. The Voices of the Victims will be Heard

Dr.John Drury, a social psychologist at Sussex University, considers the problem was that police approached the event beforehand as one of "crowd control", ignored what was actually happening, such as fans trying to help each other, and then tried to cover for themselves with lies - and kept doing so.

A professor of psychology critically examines the attitude of the police.

 But though it was the police and a Tory MP who provided the disinformation, it was the media, and especially Murdoch's Sun, who worked up the smear, and proclaimed the accusations to be "The Truth".

'The man personally responsible for mocking up the notorious “The Truth” front page was Kelvin MacKenzie. MacKenzie apologised for printing the allegations that LFC fans picked the pockets of dead fans, urinated on police trying to help stricken fans and abused the corpse of a young girl – but he then retracted his apology. He has since been unrepentant on the matter.
Here’s what The Sun’s newsroom made of the front page, recounted by Peter Chippendale and Chris Horrie in their book Stick it Up Your Punter!: The Uncut Story of the “Sun” Newspaper.

'As MacKenzie’s layout was seen by more and more people a collective shudder ran through the office, [but] MacKenzie’s dominance was so total there was nobody left in the organisation who could rein him in except Murdoch.
“Everyone seemed paralysed, ‘looking like rabbits in the headlights’, as one hack described them. The error staring them in the face was too glaring. It obviously wasn’t a silly mistake; nor was it a simple oversight.
“Nobody really had any comment on it – they just took one look and went away shaking their heads in wonder at the enormity of it. It was a ‘classic smear’.”'
 Smear that caused shudder in the news room
Even the journo who wrote up the story later claimed he was shocked by the way it was presented:
"When I saw the headline, 'The Truth,' I was aghast, because that wasn't what I'd written. I'd never used the words the truth... I still believe [I wrote it] in a balanced and fair way.
"So I said to Kelvin MacKenzie, 'You can't say that'. And he said 'Why not?' and I said, 'because we don't know that it's the truth. This is a version of 'the truth'."
Aghast at headline

But then McKenzie had history.

IT was him who during the miners' strike got hold of a photograph of Arthur Scargill raising an arm and wanted to use it on the front-page with the headline “Mine Fuhrer” .Some cheek when the Sun was notorious for right-wing, anti-immigrant propaganda and Scargill was a patron of the Anti-Nazi League.  But hey! There was a strike going on and the Sun wanted Maggie to win, so anything goes.

Except this time it didn't  Print trade union members refused to publish the paper's attack on Scargill. They even suggested that the miners' leader should be given a chance to reply to such attacks. Instead the Sun appeared with a front page saying: “Members of all The Sun production chapels refused to handle the Arthur Scargill picture and major headline on our lead story.
“The Sun has decided, reluctantly, to print the paper without either.”

Neither MacKenzie nor the big boss in America could forgive this humiliation. Nor, I imagine could Thatcher. They got their chance to smash union power and establish their way of running things in the battle which broke out at Wapping in 1986. As the Sun had done the dirty work for the police, so now it was the police who galloped to the aid of Murdoch.

MacKenzie's onetime colleague Roy Greenslade says:

"Post-Wapping (from January 1986), he became more reckless and even more mercurial.
Freed from the constraint of unions, more arrogant than before in his dealings with internal management (except for Rupert Murdoch himself, of course), he became over-confident in his own judgement. I detected a master-of-the-universe feel about him. ...

By April 1989, when the Hillsborough disaster, occurred, MacKenzie was at the zenith of his powers and his paper's grotesque coverage of the police allegations was entirely due to his waywardness." 

Geenslade on Kelvin Mackenzie.

But as the Liverpool fans with their banner in our picture rightly understand, the conduct and demeanor of characters like Mackenzie was part and parcel of the arrogant government and ruling class they served. It formed part of the link between the swing of police batons at Orgreave and the clatter of hooves at Wapping.When Thatcher's fawning admirers say she "freed" Britain from the the grip of the unions, what they are really talking about is how we were driven back from exercising any restraint on our rulers or their well-paid liars.

As for "freedom", the fear that silences journalists from standing up to the boss and criticisng a word of the lies being printed is just one example of how much freedom you can enjoy when you have not got a union to back you.

Not that the Metropolitan Police were Murdoch's only allies at Wapping. He had the help also of my old trade union, the EEPTU, which recruited strikebreakers. Not all EEPTU members went along with this disgrace, and some formed the breakaway electrical and Plumbing Industries  Union, EPIU, when the EEPTU was cast out of the TUC. The EPIU is now part of Unite the union, as ironically by a different route have arrived the EEPTU's successors. Without wanting to to dwell on the past, there is a history there to be examined.

Meanwhile, let us praise the 'ordinary' Liverpool folk whose extraordinary tragedy and determined fight for the truth and justice led them to take on the powerful and corrupt forces that dominate us. Their fight is ours, and their heroism and dignity are an example to us. 

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