Notes From the Margins…

In the evening when The Sun goes down

  • February 16, 2012
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I have to say that I can’t really get too exercised about the supposed threat to press freedom posed by the arrests of senior Sun journalists, on the basis of information given to the police by News International’s crisis management team.   In fact I can’t help finding it quite pleasing to watch these bastards treat each other with the same ruthless and cynical contempt with which they have treated so many people for so many years.

The whole thing feels like a somewhat contrived but dramatically satisfying ending to a thriller or tv series, in which a corrupt gangland dynasty or political conspiracy is finally unravelled and its members get their collective comeuppance even as they turn on each other in a desperate attempt to save themselves.

In this case however,  there are some details that a writer or scriptwriter might choose to leave out because they would seem, in fictional terms, just too far-fetched and dramatically improbable.   Take Trevor Kavanagh’s bleating about the ‘witch hunt’ against his colleagues:

It is important that we do not jump to conclusions.  Nobody has been charged with any offence, still less tried or convicted.  Yet all are now on open-ended police bail, their lives disrupted and their careers on hold and potentially ruined.

Well don’t tell me that isn’t enough to move even the hardest of hearts?   This from a newspaper whose entire history has been based on inventions and fabrications, regardless of their consequences for those they were directed against.    Wasn’t that  The Sun which ‘jumped to conclusions’ about Liverpool fans urinating on the dead and picking their pockets at the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, which invented stories about Elton John having sex with rent boys in 1987,  and which published a story in 1984 in which an American psychiatrist declared Tony Benn to be ‘insane’ during a Chesterfield byelection?

You bet it was.     And when it comes to ‘lives disrupted’ some of you might remember The Sun‘s treatment of ‘Bonkers Bruno’ during the boxer Frank Bruno’s nervous breakdown in 2003?  Or  The Sun photographers who broke into  a psychiatric hospital to ask the dying actor Jeremy Brett, who had been admitted to hospital with manic depression whether he was ‘dying of AIDS’ in 1995.

He wasn’t, but whatever.   For as the editor at the time Kelvin MacKenzie later memorably remarked:

Look, I am not here to be helpful. I am here to help myself, right, so I have no regrets to how I treated some people

A philosophy to which many Sun journalists would undoubtedly subscribe.   MacKenzie may have been a spectacularly vicious and amoral thug,  but he presided over a newspaper that has rarely,  if ever,  allowed ethics, moral scruples or even the most elementary notions of human decency to get in the way of circulation figures or its headlong rush to the lowest common denominator.

We are, after all, talking about a newspaper which once celebrated the torpedoing of the Belgrano with the headline ‘Gotcha’, which once showed a Page 3 girl caressing a missile that would be used to ‘kill Argies’,  which once dismissed suggestions that heterosexuals could transmit HIV as ‘homosexual propaganda’, and which described Australian Aborigines as ‘  Brutal and Treacherous’.

As for The Sun  asking the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) to help them launch a case against News International, don’t make me laugh.    I remember numerous weekends during the Wapping strike of 1984-5 in which members of the NUJ and the SOGAT printers’ union and their families were clobbered by police, precisely in order to ensure that these unions would be kept out of News International’s barbed wire compound.

All this was done without    a word of protest from the journalists who are now seeking the NUJ’s protection.  And now these guys want the union to take action on their behalf?   And the arrests of their colleagues are supposed to be some kind of cause celebre because they may have paid out tens of thousands of pounds in bribes to public officials?   Oh please.

And then there is the attempt by senior Sun journalists  to mount a legal challenge to News International  using the Human Rights Act.  This from a newspaper that has never in its entire career shown any concern with the human rights of anyone, and which has attacked the European Convention on Human Rights on various occasions.

So no tears for you and your colleagues, Mr Kavanagh, because those who live by the sleaze deserve to be engulfed by it.   And if The Sun goes down with all hands on deck, I will just say ‘Gotcha’ and sing (with apologies to George Harrison)

Sun, Sun, Sun there it goes/ And I say it’s alright/duh duh duh duh duh, duh duh duh duh



1 Comment

  1. Peter

    26th Mar 2012 - 9:29 pm

    Brilliant post! I couldn’t agree more with every word.

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About Me

I’m a writer, campaigner and journalist.  My latest book is The Savage Frontier: The Pyrenees in History and the Imagination (New Press/Hurst, 2018).  The Infernal Machine is where I write on politics, history, cinema and other things that interest me.

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