The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive and unrealistic- John F. Kennedy.
For all the lies told in the immediate aftermath of Hillsborough, none have caused so much lasting hurt and damage as the myth that the various branches of officialdom have offered up as ‘œTruth’. Lies are individual. They have an identifiable source. Thus they can be confronted and corrected, one at a time, like inaccurate calculations in a child’s copybook. The myth, however, is a far more insidious foe.
The myth is persistent, because it has officialdoms stamp of approval. Inquests are held yet nobody in particular is found guilty. There is an apportionment of blame, but people are allowed to draw their own conclusions. The myth is persuasive because, unlike the lies which are told by readily identifiable liars, the myth has manifold sources, forthright and furtive, all at the same time. Unrealistic, because it’s just that. When we find one dead body, it is realistic to look for a murderer, a killer, and witnesses. It is not realistic to find 94 dead bodies, record their deaths live on TV, question everyone, and return some vaguely defined verdict of ‘œunlawful killing’. Killed by whom? Unanswered, these questions become invitations for supposition and conjecture. They allow people like Brian Clough to answer that question by saying ‘œTheir own killed them’. There is a myth that the inquest provided full closure when in fact it has not.
But there is a more offensive phenomenon at work here. With English clubs already banned from European competition, Hillsborough constituted one shock too many to the decrepit superstructure of English football. On February 20th 1992, the English Premier League was formed. Gross negligence and outdated practices had fomented the Hillsborough tragedy which in turn brought the Taylor Report, prompting a massive reform of footballing practices across England. If Hillsborough had brought a revolution, then that revolution would have to be televised.
‘œMy Favourite Editor’
“Football, of all sports, is number one. Look at what we have done in Britain with our Premier League soccer… Sport will remain very important and we will be investing in and acquiring long-term rights.”- Rupert Murdoch, 1996
If football was ‘œnumber one’ to Murdoch in 1996, footballs fans had not attracted the same sympathy from one of his chief lieutenants in 1989. Kelvin McKenzie’s ‘œtruth’ about ‘œanimals’, ‘œbrave cops’ and ‘œdrunken hooligans’ was nothing of the sort, and the abandon with which he made his comments demonstrated the mindset at the time. Football was, like boxing before it, an easy target for the right-minded sentiments of the mainstream. In the 60’s, one blamed Mods. In the 70’s, it was Punk. By the 80’s, it was football. Margaret Thatcher, already convinced that ‘œSociety’ did not exist, regarded football fans as ‘œThe Enemy Within’. Anthony Burgess, writing in the Telegraph in the immediate aftermath of Hillsborough, spoke of ‘œprimitive beasts’ and bemoaned to great acclaim that ‘œour culture has come to this’¦..watching 22 men kick a piece of leather about on Saturday afternoon’.
Yet by 1996, leather was still being kicked, and with greater enthusiasm than ever. The same game and the same fans were now being openly embraced by the same mainstream. It’s a tough distinction to make: – Did football become fashionable by becoming safe, or did it just become fashionable? No journalist today would dream of referring to football fans in general, much less the dead of Hillsborough, as ‘œprimitive beasts’. Instead, today’s journo takes the precaution of releasing his opinion by way of unsigned editorial, a la ‘œThe Spectator’, which in 2004 accused Liverpudlians of ‘œwallowing in a vicarious victimhood’. Clearly, some sentiments have not changed- but there is no desire to express this sentiment openly. Is the newspaper business more humane than it was 20 years ago? Are the Kelvin McKenzie’s of today restrained by the fragile thread of political correctness? Or is it because no journalist today would dare express sentiment which could be interpreted as contrary to the hotbed of glamour that is Premier League football? It is, after all, the same game, being watched by more or less the same people. Did the Sun newspaper apologise in 2004 because they were really sorry, or did they apologise because it made good business sense?
The answer is simple economics. Between 1989 and 1993, football fans had gone from being Thatcher’s ‘œEnemy Within’ to key consumers in one of England’s richest industries. The industry is rich because it changed. It changed because Hillsborough forced it to. Thus, Gordon Brown is only too eager to commiserate with us today, despite his current entanglement in a smear campaign of his own. The Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police is only too happy to talk about the matter. Unlike his predecessors, he has no inquests to attend. Nobody wants to criminalise the football-fan anymore, unless he lives in Rome. More people watch football than watch the Queen. Hillsborough’s commemoration is now a glamour event. The very same fans that in the pens at Hillsborough ‘œfound their own level, like water in a bath’ are today enticed and entertained by the TV Networks and politicians alike.
Television networks, which don’t have a good thing to say about Liverpool FC the rest of the time, are busy telling us about ‘œSteven Gerrard’s cousin’. Yet 20 years ago, John Paul Gilhooley was just another unknown victim. He was a victim because policemen did not do their jobs. But he was unknown because his famous cousin was unheard of. They only mention Gilhooley because of Gerrard, just as they only mention Hillsborough because they feel it would be a missed opportunity not to. Hordes of TV lovelies clamour to remind us of the events- utterly oblivious to the fact that the ‘œfavourite editor’ of their boss was responsible for the worst of the allegations made against the victims, their families and their fellow supporters.
Put bluntly, Hillsborough’s commemoration has nothing to do with these people. They have no locus standi. They didn’t want Hillsborough in 1989. Today, they can’t have it. I feel I speak for all Liverpool supporters when I suggest that the S*n and Sky and Setanta and the rest of the media continue quietly along their way and leave the truly concerned parties to commemorate in peace. This is not an event. This is not a fashion or a trend. It took Kelvin McKenzie 4 days to form his lies and foist them on an unsuspecting public but it took the S*n newspaper all of 15 years to offer any sort of ‘apology’. Five years on again, they want to cash in, just as they did 20 years ago. Please.
As Jamie Carragher might say’¦.’I’m nor acceptin’ that’. And I’m not.
Submitted by Traolach Kaye