Domhnall O'Cinneide explains how shoddy journalism, political bias and deliberate misinformation get dressed up as indisputable 'fact' in the columns of the British press and can take on a life of their own
IN MAY 1916 The English Review carried an article entitled 'The Secret History of the Sinn Fein'.
As there was no mention in the article or in the issue of the Dublin rising of 24th April I assume that the magazine went to print before that date.
According to the article, Sinn Feiners took an oath to wade through the blood of Protestants. In 1969, the British army issued a booklet to troops deployed which repeated the assertion.
According to the Sunday Times 'Insight' team, Sinn Fein never has had an oath of any kind. The 'oath' was a forgery bearing exactly the same relation to reality as the spurious Protocols Of the Elders of Zion, and that its constant dwelling on blood has much in common with that anti-Jewish forgery. (The Sunday Times 'Insight' report was republished in book form by Penguin Books in 1972.)
In 1981 the Times of London, reporting on the funeral of Bobby Sands, alleged that the IRA had killed 2,200 Protestants since 1969. The inescapable implication was that republicans were the only ones to inflict, and Protestants the only ones to suffer, death in the conflict.
For the following nine months the Times defended that assertion against my complaint to the Press Council, and when, at length that Council upheld my complaint, the Times editor got the accolade 'Editor of the Year' from his fellow British editors. It is ironic, that, he, Harold Evans had helped make his name with the 'Insight' team. A few months later, one morning in a co-ordinated media attack on Ken Livingstone, three London newspapers repeated the untruth. Nine long months later the Press Council censured the Daily Express and the Daily Star, following a complaint from a Mr Conlan in Birmingham.
The Daily Mail escaped censure, although I had lodged a complaint with the Press Council. Though its untruth had been in bold print and underlined in a two-page spread, the correction was buried in about half an inch of newsprint.
The Daily Mail had published the untruth over the name of Northern Ireland secretary Humphrey Atkins.
The Press Council had a reputation for toothlessness and was renamed the Press Complaints Commission. Humphrey Atkins was renamed also, on receipt of a peerage, and took a seat on the Commission.
The untruth had been spread by various politicians of a unionist tendency, and was later repeated by at least one former Irish cabinet minister.
When Albert Reynolds, as taoiseach, was pressing president Clinton for an American visa for Irish passport holder Gerry Adams in 1994, a variant of the untruth was told to White House Staff.
Ex-'Insight'' reporter and ex-Timeseditor, Simon Jenkins claimed that since 1969 republicans had murdered 3,000 Britons. Whereas previously all Catholics killed had become posthumous Protestants, all Irish killed had become posthumous Britons. (Doesn't say much for the productivity of the crown forces and their collusionists over 30 years, does it?)
Jenkins boasted of his White House briefing a few years ago in the columns of the Times.
Harold Evans and Simon Jenkins were knighted for their services to the United Kingdom on the same day, an event which prompted a congratulatory editorial in the Guardian.
Those with an appetite for irony might consult the Penguin Book of Twentieth Century Speeches. They should find a speech by Sir Harold Evans given in London's Guildhall in 1974. In it he uttered a line, either his own, or a quotation - "Truth is good for men". It would appear that sometimes the truth is considered too good for readers of the Times.
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Copyright © 2009 Domhnall O’Cinneide