The local edition of the Ham&High arrives with that shrieking white-on-black of a headline.
This is accompanied by one of those “artist’s impressions”, conveniently reducing the guilty to head-thrusting neanderthalers. A double-spread inside, and an editorial.
More cynical journalists believed [Haringey] council was inhibiting proper reporting of an awful tragedy for which it bore some responsibility — but the council did have a duty of care to Peter’s brothers and sisters and in view of the predictable media frenzy, the granting of the reporting restrictions was the right thing at the time.
That amounts to the closest the Ham&High feels it can approach a credible mea culpa.
The reality is that the reporting restrictions were imposed because other related cases were still coming to trial (the Ham&High discreetly hides this, disguised as a different point, down in the fourth paragraph of that editorial). Even so, the paper thrashes about, wondering if restrictions are ever “the right thing”. It also has questions about those parallel trials:
A judge went as far as ruling that because [the accused] had been named on the internet they could be tried on these charges under false names — demonstrating how far our legal system will go to ensure fair trials.
Which seems innocuous, until one reaches the punch-line:
Given the heinous nature of their wrongdoing, it is a step too far, even for the most liberal of thinkers, to argue that their identities should be concealed from the public forever.
As for Haringey stifling debate, the editorial ignores how “a free and open society” is more tightly restricted in a council chamber than the parliamentary privilege extended to a mouthy LibDem MP .
Heads on pikes
In essence, the tabloids needed lynch-victims swinging from their mast-heads. Denied the trio now formally named, any one else would do.
So, the self-appointed successors of Matthew Hopkins (whose essential techniques have never changed) then hit on decent elected Councillors, with no direct or indirect “responsibilty” for the happenings. Even so, they had to be hounded from office, hooted at in the streets, their families persecuted. Such, indeed, are
the tried and trusted methods through which the media will handle such a dilemma.
Does one have to be “the most liberal of thinkers” to see dissembling therein?
Our gel dun well
Then there was some mucky party-politicking and associated ego-massage. The Ham&High has rarely been reticent in climbing into bed with any half-photogenic demi-semi-celeb. So the local LibDem MP burnished her self-image.
It was run as an election issue, with amazingly limited success, by the LibDems and lesser-breeds-ever-further-without-the-law in the Seven Sisters by-election. To their credit, even the local Tories were disgusted by such crude brutality. Having served its purpose, the matter was left quietly to die. Or so the LibDems hope.
The Ham&High is entitled to be partisan; but, as with the Playboy gatefolds, a couple of staples in the fold is no apology for a sleazy tabloid mind-set.