This entry was posted on
Monday, January 21st, 2013 at
8:39 am and is filed
under Old Media, Tories! Tories! Tories!.
Hi everyone. I am sorry about the extended absences before and after Christmas.
I’d like to begin today with a belated review of this very important book by Bob & Sue Firth:
I Made My Excuses and Stayed (buy here) – In rural Dorset Bob and Sue Firth were running a successful Bed and Breakfast establishment with a twist. It was a naturist establishment. The couple were also professional masseurs offering therapeutic massage to non-residents as well as guests. All was going smoothly until they accepted a booking from a man calling himself ‘Neville’. Naively, the couple were taken in by this character who, using subterfuge, bribed them into making love in his presence. Unfortunately, ‘Neville’ turned out to be an undercover reporter, Neville Thurlbeck, for the News of the World! Believing he was about to uncover a juicy story, but finding that no such story existed, he set about fabricating a two page spread from his own imagination for the Sunday tabloid. But what ‘Neville’ didn’t realise was that the couple, suspicious of his intentions, had captured his escapades on a hidden video camera. The extraordinary story documents Bob and Sue’s rollercoaster of emotions and their adventures against overwhelming odds to set the record straight.
If I have a criticism of the book, it is that frequently we are asked to depart from the core narrative so we might get to know more about Bob & Sue. This is to be expected; they have just been through a brutally dehumanising process that few of us would be able to cope with at all, and I get the sense that this is one of their coping mechanisms (i.e. in that they would like the reader to recognise that they are not the monsters they have made out to be, even though this should be immediately obvious to any reasonable person).
That said, the book contains so much of value to anyone with any interest in the current debate about media standards that I say without hesitation it is required reading (for Leveson junkies especially so).
First, the book lays bare the lie that one can simply take civil action to correct matters if they are monstered by a certain tabloid newspaper or any other publisher of a similar size/standard. When they seek to resist the introduction of anything approaching accountability, unscrupulous publishers will claim that celebrities, politicians and even the great unwashed can simply sue if the newspaper ‘gets things wrong’, but this is so far from the truth it is laughable. Bob & Sue Firth had Neville Thurlbeck bang to rights, and yet still his newspaper sided with him and managed to successfully avoid any repercussions themselves.
Further, the book repeatedly documents/reveals the mechanics of a core technique used by tabloid ‘journalists’ that has since been adopted and evolved by an increasing number of imitators.
Here’s the passage that I found most enlightening, especially given my own experiences. It relates the moment when the Firths get in contact with another victim of tabloid fabrication, so I got to enjoy my revelation while reading about Sue and Bob experiencing a similar revelation for themselves:
“Well, what did she say?
“Well, it’s amazing… the similarities to the way we were set up… the ‘inaudible’ tapes supplied to the police. Thurlbeck pushing for a police investigation. The grain of truth to the story and the fabrication of the bulk of the story…”
I am here to tell you that, typically, police will play along with this game even to the extent that they will refuse to investigate evidence that has been falsified specifically for their benefit (i.e. where you or I might expect to see some concern about a potential conspiracy to pervert the course of justice). They either remain happily in bed with specific titles/publishers/individuals or are so concerned about a perceived ability to interfere with operational capacity that they will allow false/falsified statements made on behalf of police to stand uncorrected/unaddressed, as they see it as the lesser of two evils.
(I was even informed by one senior police officer – I won’t say which force – who said that they would not be pursuing certain parties for wasting police time, because those parties had not wasted enough police time for it to be worth their time to pursue it. Nice.)
It is this technique of lying on behalf of police that causes me the most concern, not least because I have been attacked with this exact same technique on multiple occasions since 2006, and in an uninterrupted/overlapping sequence since 2009, pretty much from the moment when they convinced a man to smear me as a convicted child rapist (over 100 times), then watched him get away with it.
I am repeatedly assured by police that it is not a criminal/prosecutable act, but no police force that I have asked (so far) will go on the record about that.
Perhaps they are concerned about what might happen if too many people knew that they could tell an outright lie of behalf of a police officer, a police department or a police force without fear of legal consequence… but we are already at a point where this is causing considerable and growing harm to the public and corruption of their authority.
Allow me to show you how/why…
Witness in this example how NOTW used the arrest of a disturbed woman to pretend that it verified a crucial claim they made about an event that never took place (background: this was during their disgraceful handling of the Milly Dowler kidnap and murder). Deceits like this become commonplace once a publisher/editor learns that they can lie on behalf of police without fear of consequence (i.e. in much the same way as when learn they can lie to the PCC without fear of consequence).
Worse, tabloids have for years sought to manipulate police into investigating, arresting or prosecuting ideological opponents, and most have discovered over time that they can say pretty much anything they like about their target once they are prosecuted; this trigger nearly always brings the PCC onside, and the target is more often than not occupied with the matter of prosecution and in no position to take on the weight of an added civil action against a newspaper, even if they have the means.
Others in the world of tabloid standards have discovered that you don’t even need to have anyone prosecuted; you can simply lie outright about police investigations and actions that never took place, and (depending on who you are, I suspect) police won’t say or do a damn thing about it.
Here’s a classic technique: the ‘journalist’ calls the police and alleges their target is guilty of a crime. An investigation will usually begin – even though the target is not yet a suspect and probably never will be – but from this point on, all the ‘journalist’ has to do to elongate the period of time which they can safely claim their target is under investigation by police is dodge a few phone calls and/or pretend to be away.
The latter half of this technique appears to have become less common over time as participating parties have discovered that you can also lie about the outcome of an investigation with little fear of consequence.
In my experience it is this technique that has been observed and adopted most frequently by outsiders who seek the favour/influence of these tabloids and other fringe elements (including has-beens and wannabes). Most often it is fronted by an anonymous account, but some people have invested so deeply in it as to do it in their own name (not that this stops them from engaging in further/worse acts anonymously).
There’s a kind of logic to this that’s apparent once you consider the type of person who is doing it; an accusation on behalf of police carries its own authority and credibility, and the people who rely on them to attack their political enemies invariably lack both.
Of course, one of the reasons these lies carry so much authority and credibility is that most people assume that you can’t make claims like this on behalf of police without consequence… but you can.
I have determined that an attempt to investigate and correct this state of affairs is the best use of my time in terms of political campaigning; it has been used to undermine anything of consequence I may have attempted before (I have as a result been accused of everything from hacking computers to stalking women to raping children).
All other content on Bloggerheads will be the fun/educational material that has been held over while I wasted time placing faith in the criminal justice system as it stands.
The way I see it, the worst that can happen is that even if police/others resist change, the public will be informed of the problem to the extent that accusations like this will carry less weight, leading to an improved situation for all present/future victims of this behaviour.
Something has to change; some of the most corrupt people in our society are appropriating and undermining the authority of police in an attempt to damage political/ideological targets, and many of them go to such an extent that they seek to use such lies to stir up mobs and trigger vigilante behaviour. Lies of this type have even been used to influence the Prime Minister.
On the basis of claims made specially on behalf of three police forces, I have been subjected to multiple threats of violence, and many, many recent threats to visit my home or workplace (and if police ever said anything to any of these people about that, antagonists quickly adapted by offering to share my itinerary with “victims” who asked for it).
Speaking for myself, I am concerned enough about recent claims that I run a child sex ring from my home to do something about this, even in the face of extraordinary harassment.
Not all of us have the resources/connections of Lord McAlpine, but I see the most constructive path to be a campaign for awareness, then (potentially) a change in the law. If I fail at the latter, I will at least have achieved the former to some extent.