Friday, November 30, 2012

Rodent Rushes To Save Tabloids' Sinking Ships

The squawks of indignation from the tabloids (& the Telegraph) over Leveson's recommendations were entirely predictable; never mind that his report paid worryingly scant attention to online publishing ( ).
Rushing to rubbish Leveson were the usual suspects, those who think that hacking the mobile phone of a dead schoolgirl is no more than an unfortunate mistake, & that "privacy is for paedos" ( ).
Scuttling out of the sewer to augment the cause of mendacity & smears is a rodent who has had ample cause to lie low in his subterranean habitat over the last few months, Kelvin MacKenzie. Not so fresh from his doorstepping by Channel 4 News' Alex Thomson ( ), the well-known liar appeared on LBC Radio in London to talk about Leveson &, yes, Hillsborough ( ).
Being MacKenzie, he doesn't do remorse or contrition. He'll do embarrassment, for sure, as was so memorably evident when Thomson accosted him. However, the word "apology" is absent from the liar's lexicon. Moreover, MacKenzie feels that, in his own warped way, he is "a victim of this", adding that he fell for the smear story from South Yorkshire Police "hook, line and sinker". Many may well feel that the nautical phrase is apposite in that a watery fate would be the right one for a creature described by Trevor Hicks as "a low-life".
Be that as it may, MacKenzie's words of bluster & self-pity (to coin a phrase) only serve to entrench the image of him as someone who would knock women & children out of the way in the rush for the lifeboats as the ship went down:
"[MacKenzie] insisted he took 23 years to apologise as he didn't have the 'vaguest idea' that 'the whole thing was a parcel of rubbish' until the Hillsborough Independent inquiry report found there was no evidence to support the allegations."
Should we believe him? I do. I also believe that the moon is made of cheese & that Rupert Murdoch is a kindly old soul who sincerely believes in The Truth.  

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Nailing The Hillsborough Lies

Recommended reading: Cath Bore's account of the "Speaking Truth To Power" event at St George's Hall just over a week ago: ).

Future Media Trends

With exquisite timing, the Leveson Report was issued just a couple of hours after the latest court appearances by Rebekah Brooks & Andy Coulson. Intriguing as it is to pore over the minutiae of the report as well as its main findings, Emily Bell displays clever counterintuition in a Guardian piece ( ).
Formerly of the Guardian & Observer, Bell, who is now based in the US, observes:
"The free press of the 21st century consists of the distributed social platforms, the WordPress blogging software and the 'dark social' matter of the hidden web, as much as it is the venerable institutions that have local accountability to whatever regulator the UK government should seek to appoint.
"In her evidence to Leveson, Claire Enders -- a well-respected media analyst -- repeated what is probably a common perception, that important journalism needs to be done by existing institutions, as the web has produced nothing which would match the scale and projection of legacy organisations. From a distant perch in the US, where Pulitzer prizes now go to recent web entities such as Huffington Post and ProPublica, this assertion already seems out of date."
For all of today's (justified) broadcast coverage of Leveson, the trend identified by Bell is the one to track for the future. 

Gustafson's Support For Suspected Criminal

Carol Gustafson may convince herself that her continued vow of odious omerta regarding her support for Bettison's appointment as Merseyside Police Chief Constable in 1998 will ensure that the issue goes away. It won't. Her arrogant refusal to account for her actions has already cast a stain on Bootle Labour Party.
Bettison's tainted character has been rightly scrutinised & exposed over the Hillsborough cover-up. However, the Yorkshire Evening Post today runs a story which raises further questions about the man's history ( ).

Monday, November 19, 2012


Watching an all-too rare home victory from a distance of three-and-a-half thousand miles was a welcome pleasure during my time in Manhattan. That the win was watched in the Liverpool Supporters Bar, located in the East Village ( ), made it all the better.
Credit, too, to the owners, staff & regulars for helping out with the relief effort in the local neighborhood after Hurricane Sandy (the East Village was flooded) as well as raising funds for the Hillsborough Justice Campaign.

When A Story Doesn't Fit The Media's Narrative

One striking thing about the US media is its chronic aversion to open criticism of Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians. There are honourable exceptions, to be fair. The Huffington Post departs from the collective narrative. Supposedly "liberal" papers such as the New York Times, however, are deeply reluctant to condemn Israeli acts of war, such as the latest vile outrages in Gaza. Taking their cue from an Obama administration which pulls its punches over Israel ( ), the networks & printed media have read from the same hymn sheet.
It was therefore striking to see a large & vocal demonstration against Israel's actions today here in New York. Situated at 7th & W42nd, near Times Square, the crowd was addressed by a labor activist & an organiser of Occupy Oakland as well as Palestinian & Muslim American figures. A small counter demonstration was held just a block away by a motley collection of individuals waving Israeli flags. Two of their number attempted to rush the main demo, taunting the crowd whilst waving the Israeli emblem. The NYPD, out in force, wasted no time in arresting them.
Thus far, there has been no mention of this story in the mainstream US media, despite the presence of at least one TV camera crew. One wonders if this collective omerta would apply if it had been a small band of Palestinian figures attempting to rush a large pro-Israel rally.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Manhattan Moment

Arrived in New York last night for a short vacation. Tired & exhausted after a queue of Biblical proportions at JFK Customs & Immigration (largely due to the Thanksgiving holiday), I checked into my hotel & then found a pizza place off  Broadway. The Beatles' version of "Money" was playing on the radio as I walked in.
The guy behind the counter smiled & said to me, "Great band, huh?"
His eyes widened when I told him that I was from their home town. What his response lacked in eloquence it made up for in enthusiasm.
"No shit, man!"

Friday, November 09, 2012

Fox Flummoxed

Recommended viewing: Jon Stewart's skewering of Fox News' meltdown on US Election Night: .

Oldham Echo Voices A City's "Burning Question"

Obama's re-election this week has, of course, been the dominant story. The failure of Romney & his rabid allies of Fox News & the Tea Party to unseat him has been met with an almost audible sigh of relief around the globe. Now that the election's over, the Oldham Echo has a suggestion for the Commander-in-Chief: visit Liverpool ( ).
Neil MacDonald's puerile piece begins memorably:
"US President Barack Obama was re-elected through the night, but despite the many challenges facing him in the next four years, the burning question on everyone's lips is when will he visit Liverpool?"
Yes, indeed, when will he pay such an important trip here? It's a question that has been leading all the news bulletins on CNN, the BBC, ABC, NBC, CBS & even Fox News (the network's anchors referring to "Marxist Merseyside"). Moreover, it's such a "burning question on everyone's lips" that possible & planned trips to South East Asia, the Middle East & Russia may have to be rescheduled to accommodate Obama's visit to Liverpool. The White House is expected to make an announcement in the next few days, I understand.
The Echo draws up five reasons why Obama (or POTUS, as it refers to him, nicking a piece of jargon from The West Wing) should pay the city a visit: 1. "One of America's founding fathers was born in Liverpool." Fair enough, I suppose, but sufficient reason to make a visit? 2. The International Slavery Museum. By all means, draw attention to the way in which the Slave Trade enriched the city's merchants, but is that a unique selling point? 3. The Fabs. Ah yes, it wouldn't be a proper Echo piece without a gratuitous reference to John, Paul, George & erm, whatisname from Thomas the Tank Engine, would it? 4. The Port of Liverpool. Mildly interesting to Americans, perhaps, but a compelling reason for Obama to visit? 5. "Loads more reasons". Yes, MacDonald really did write that. To be fair, he does mention a few more connections, however tenuous, between the city & the US. The mental image, however, is of a hack desperately grasping at the slightest link for the purposes of his piece.
It's an image that remains in the mind when MacDonald concludes:
"Do you know any more links between Liverpool and America, or reasons why President Obama should visit the city? Let us know in the comments below."
Hear that sound? It's the sound of wooden fragments which formed the base of the barrel being scraped frenziedly.
We've been here before, of course. Not long after Obama's 2008 victory the Echo was asking the same question ( ) & repeated it a month later ( ) when both the city council & Oldham Hall Street had high hopes of an "imminent" visit.
It would be interesting for Obama to contrast his own economic stimulus package with the savage cuts that Joe "Tea & Sympathy" Anderson is making on behalf of the ConDem government, I suppose. Perhaps that thought has crossed Mayor Joe's mind, too.
Anyway, we hope the invitation's been issued. We wait with baited breath.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Satire's Sharp Blade Becomes Blunt

Satirising the Tories has produced many a memorable moment over the last thirty-odd years. However, Nadine Dorries' decision to temporarily abandon her full-time job as an MP for a reality TV show ( ) surely trumps the best efforts of comedians & commentators. Why devise a comic burlesque when your target is beyond parody itself?
That doesn't stop the Guardian's Michael White from having a go with a mildly amusing piece which presents a future political landscape changed by Dorries' success on the show ( ). And why not, you may ask. After all, Dorries is rapidly turning into the UK's answer to Sarah Palin.
Alas, White's mockery is marred by the sort of gratuitous jibe which comes straight from The Sun school of lying & libel:
"What had clinched it for Nad and turned her into a national heroine both in Australia and back home was the snake-eating bit of the contest. You don't get fazed by a bloody python if you've grown up among Liverpool fans in Anfield. Nad had strangled hers and fried a few python steaks for the TV crew. It tasted fine with some tomato sauce and a lager."
Those who work in the Westminster bubble are almost always divorced from the reality of life for those outside it. It seems like White is a case in point.
Enjoy your G&T in the Strangers' Bar, Michael.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Beeb To Rerun Liar's Appearance

The BBC's current compulsion to exacerbate matters when given the opportunity to exonerate itself continues. It emerged this week that tonight's episode of Would I Lie To You? featuring Kelvin MacKenzie is a repeat. The programme was first transmitted in 2009. Given what has long been known about MacKenzie, & clearly reiterated via the Hillsborough Independent Panel report, you would think that the BBC will shelve that particular repeat & air another one, wouldn't you? Well, they won't.
Seven Streets highlights the state of corporate dysfunction at the corporation ( ):
" SevenStreets scribe, Johnny Meadowcroft complained -- rightly in our opinion -- that it was disrespectful and wholly inappropriate to air the programme, while proceedings were continuing, and old wounds are still raw.
" 'We understand you're unhappy Kelvin MacKenzie will be on the programme as you feel he's an inappropriate choice of guest.
" 'This is a repeat of an episode first broadcast when Kelvin MacKenzie appeared as one of the panellists. We have taken extra care to check that there are no references to Hillsborough during the programme or to the Sun's reporting or the city of Liverpool in the light of the recent Hillsborough report.
" 'We'd also like to assure you we've registered your complaint on our audience log.' "
So the BBC is happy to repeat a programme which features an individual who participated in the largest cover-up in British legal history. Moreover, the corporation seems to think that the absence of any references to Hillsborough makes MacKenzie's appearance acceptable. Additionally, it is unconcerned that MacKenzie's actions may go before the Director of Public Prosecutions at a future stage.
Let's remind ourselves of the liar's cowardice when faced with the sort of investigative TV journalism which was once the BBC's preserve ( ).
While we're on the subject of lies ( & its eager practitioners), it was grimly amusing to see Roy Greenslade round on a tweet from Rupert Murdoch a couple of weeks back in which the discredited mogul sneeringly referred to phone-hacking victims as "scumbags" ( ). Greenslade addressed Murdoch directly in the final few paragraphs of a post on his blog ( ):
"Well, humble man, I guess it takes one to know one. Good luck with the News Corp AGM when scumbag investors ask pertinent questions about your company and then vote against you and your board.
"Not that it will unseat you, of course. You have the voting shares tied up. It's great to live in a free market when it's tilted in one's favour, isn't it?
"But this kind of insult could yet rebound. We're all scumbags now. So I call on all the scumbags of the world -- celebrities, readers, movie-watchers, satellite TV payers, investors, journalists -- to unite and throw off the shackles of the great media mogul. Boycott all that he owns."
Stirring stuff, to be sure, & no one of sound mind would demur from Greenslade's sentiments. However, it's a pity that Greenslade didn't take a similarly astringent view of Murdoch's surviving UK rag the day after the publication of the report by the Hillsborough Independent Panel ( ). Isn't it?