I was always told innocent until proven guilty.
It seems no one told the editors and journalists of (unfortunately) the nations favourite tabloids this moral message in their childhoods. In an age of fear mongering and Twitter leaks, it’s becoming more and more apparent that news no longer means news. Instead, it means story, what’s juicy? what’s going to bring in readers?
Does it have to be truthful?
Morally yes, in reality far from.
Obviously, each news source plays up to a demographic, they understand what their readers want and know the way to give it to them. Saucy. For example, if you read The Daily Mail, you’re probably 45+ and don’t trust anyone with a name sounding even remotely foreign. If you read The Guardian, you like to see yourself as a liberal, creative type who loves the idea of independent shops but still does their weekly shop in M&S. Finally, if you read The Sun, you’re a piece of shit who’ll believe anything just because someone in an office somewhere decided to write it down.
If I write down that Jay-Z isn’t actually that good, that doesn’t make it true, it’s my opinion. It’s often lost that opinions aren’t news, they’re entertainment.
So why on what has been an otherwise unremarkable Thursday am I suddenly taking a page out of Donald Trump’s book and calling “fake news” on the mainstream press?
Well, it’s due to a documentary I watched last night. One of “Crimes That Shook Britain” types. This documentary, in particular, was about the murder of a young mother by the name of Rachel Nickell. She had been going for a walk with her son, who was coming up to 3 years old, when she was attacked, sexually assaulted and stabbed multiple times on the morning of the 15th July 1992. The attack took place on Wimbledon Common, a quite popular walking spot on the outskirts of the capital, yet no one saw the murder in progress and witness statements should have been seen to have been incredibly weak.
The Metropolitan Police Force roped in the services of a criminal psychologist, Paul Britton, to create a character profile of the killer. Britton said the man would be late 20s to early 30s, have strange interests and be quite the loner. With a thrown together e-fit (electronic facial identification technique) of a potential suspect, the police went to work in their investigation. Unfortunately for one man named Colin Stagg, all these clues led to him.
He was into witchcraft and the occult, he was considered by many of his neighbours to be a bit reserved and “strange” and looked a little bit like the e-fit picture. He also was unemployed (as if that would have made a difference) and lived in the Roehampton estate, under a mile from the common, where he would usually walk his dog. Open and shut case right? Well Stagg was arrested multiple times and kept in custody, interrogated and subject to a honey trap operation in which an undercover police officer tried to make him confess by suggesting the possibility of a sexual relationship if he was, in fact, the guy that had killed Rachel.
This has gone down as one of the biggest failures of investigations ever conducted by the police. Stagg was completely innocent, however, his name was only cleared over a decade of abuse from the police, the public and most importantly the press.
Throughout the investigation, the press plastered their front pages with pictures of Stagg, with the title of “Wimbledon Weirdo” straight out saying he was guilty of the crime before he had even been put on trial. This was obviously done to enrage a nation. If people are angry about something they want reaffirming in their anger. This did nothing more than to build up a mob mentality in the public. Staggs home was attacked, he himself was abused constantly as people just took the paper’s word for it. They called for the pitchforks and completely ruined an innocent man’s life.
Just check out this cover of The Sun when Stagg was found innocent of the crime: BIG LETTERS saying “NO GIRL IS SAFE” next to a big picture of Stagg’s face, not the most flattering picture either. “Murderer will strike again”. Then in dramatically smaller writing “Prime suspect cleared” and “Not guilty”…Now, All I’m saying is that if I only glanced a quick look at the toilet paper known as The Sun, the first thing I’d see is a picture of a man with the words “NO GIRL IS SAFE”. It’s clear to see the paper’s intention, it’s clear to see this was a character assassination. It’s sickening.
I used this as an example as it’s fresh in my mind, however, it’s so clearly used in so many other ways. Of course, living in Liverpool, You can’t forget the absolutely disgusting ‘reporting’ The Sun did on the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, accusing Liverpool’s fans of pissing on the police and looting from the dead and injured. Just an attack on the people of the city as a whole. If the case against The Sun wasn’t so important and high profile then I’m sure there would be many more people who would have taken this as gospel truth.
It honestly just feels like these papers are never held fully accountable for their actions. Liverpool has taken its own action against The Sun newspaper with the total eclipse of The Sun campaign blocking the paper from being sold in the city. You know what’s great to see? The city isn’t guided by fear mongering tyrants at the top. Just look at the results of the recent few elections and you can see that all the Brexit lies and Labour bashing from The Sun has had little effect and people are making up their own minds.
Time after time papers like The Daily Mail and The Sun get called out for their lack of reporting morals yet they still dominate the sales numbers in the UK. There have to be bigger punishments for printing lies as the effects of such are clear to see.
Propaganda isn’t news, it’s extreme opinions.