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It’s unfair to say Hillsborough police were incompetent – it takes great organisation to tell such shocking lies


It’s unfair to say Hillsborough police were incompetent – it takes great organisation to tell such shocking lies


Representatives of Liverpool and Everton football clubs lay red roses beside 96 candles in memory of the victims Getty

One touching side to the aftermath of the Hillsborough verdict, is how few people responsible for the tragedy, the lies or the cover-up appear to show the slightest signs of remorse, which is heartening because there’s no point in adding to the suffering is there?

This is excellent news as it should save on counselling. For example, Paul Middup, who as chair of South Yorkshire Police Federation blamed the disaster on a “rampaging mob”, has refused to make a further statement.

So if he had to see a therapist, they’d say, “Now Paul, you were at a traumatic event weren’t you? And the force you speak for was partly to blame, but you invented a rampaging mob to deflect that blame. Do you ever experience feelings of, perhaps, slight guilt in any way?” And he’d say “no not really”, and the session would be over, saving on costs all round.

In any case, it’s a shame to stifle people’s creativity. Instead of boring us with dull tedious facts, it’s more exciting if the police and press feel able to invent rampaging mobs after a tragedy. It’s a pity they weren’t allowed to let their imagination flow, blaming the crush on a stampede of Scouse buffalos up the Leppings Lane, or aliens shaped like giant stick insects who zapped the fans in revenge for a galactic war between Liverpool and the Argons.

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Another police spokesman claimed that training had been stepped up since the mistakes in 1989. That must be right, because it’s a highly skilled art, learning how not to invent a galaxy of stories blaming victims for their own deaths. Few of us can master it without attending a special course in the evenings.

It also suggests our society is now controlled by new age liberals, as the police falsified at least 116 statements, which we’ve known about since the last inquiry, and no one’s yet been punished for it. Because it’s wrong to see these police officers as liars, they’re suffering from Compulsive Statement Alteration Syndrome, and we shouldn’t be negative by saying they make stuff up but recognise they’re  “differently realitied” – which is why many of them have been promoted, to raise their self-esteem.

It now appears the police may have put some families of those who were killed under surveillance. You can understand this, because one of the biggest threats to the public is grieving families after a tragedy. It might be best if this became compulsory: whenever someone dies, all their family is locked up for a year or two, to ensure the public is kept safe.

The evidence suggests it’s unfair to say the police were incompetent, as they were extremely well organised. It takes planning to falsify 116 statements. To invent and co-ordinate a story about broken-down gates and drunk ticketless fans, when thousands saw that wasn’t true, takes care and precision, so let’s not criticise them unduly.

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But they were conditioned to seeing working class crowds as hooligans. So, Chief Inspector Duckenfeld, in charge of police procedure, said all his attention was on “misbehaviour”, and he wasn’t familiar with the ground. And when police saw chaos they assumed it was a riot. Even afterwards, they ordered blood to be taken from the dead to test for alcohol, and police photographers took pictures of discarded beer cans to prove drunkenness. Maybe they were just being thorough, and thought: “Just because someone’s been crushed to death doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be arrested for being drunk and disorderly”.

To spread this story they needed the press, and The Sun’s headline was delightfully helpful. Editor Kelvin MacKenzie now says he wasn’t to blame for his front page ‘The Truth’, about drunk fans stealing from the dead, as he was only reporting what he was told (correctly adding that “it would have been far more accurate had I written the headline ‘The Lies’, rather than ‘The Truth’).

And it’s always been a golden rule of journalism, to print stories without apparently wondering whether they may have been told to you by someone desperate to get themselves off the hook for causing a disaster, under a headline: ‘THE TRUTH’.

If only The Sun had been around when the Titanic sank. The captain could have got himself out of trouble by telling them a rampaging mob of Liverpool fans threw icebergs into the Atlantic. If Colonel Gaddafi had any sense, he’d have told MacKenzie he was just about to order free and fair elections when Liverpool fans without tickets broke down his door, and now he can’t do anything as he’s waiting in for the council to come and fix it.

This week The Sun made up for its over-excitement at the time, by making no mention on its front page of the verdict. But to be fair, if The Sun had to mention it on the front page every time they’d printed a wrong story, there’d be no room left for them to concoct new stories, and then where would our free press be? And if they apologised for every time they’ve written unfair bile, it wouldn’t fit in the paper, they’d have to publish a 78 issue easy-to-collect week-by-week A-to Z compendium of grovelling retractions (order week 1, get week 2 free!).

Andy Burnham’s tribute to Hillsborough victims

Between the police and the press, a magical world was created, in which everything was beautifully upside-down like in an old children’s story. The people whose job was to protect the law acted unlawfully and defended unlawfulness for 27 years, while the people assumed to be unlawful thugs had to fight for the law to be upheld by the law protectors, while the people whose job was to expose the truth accepted at face value what turned out to be extraordinary lies.

There should be more stories like this, in which plumbers come to your house when your plumbing’s fine and smash holes in your radiators with a chisel, before blaming the people who spent all night mopping the carpet, saying they were stealing the mop. Or dustmen coming round once a fortnight and noisily tipping rubbish in your kitchen, and then say, “Look at the mess you’ve made, you’re drunk”. What a wonderful, magical world we would all enjoy.

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