Scepticisle disagrees with my comments on the case of the (appallingly tasteless, Hitler-trivialising) Sun anti-Scargill front page from the miners’ strike which was blocked by the print unions.
My take was that either content should be illegal to publish, or people who want to publish (and are willing to set up presses to publish on – this isn’t a “Griffin on the BBC” point) should be allowed to publish. Even though this particular literary work was of no merit at all, it doesn’t justify overriding that principle to give a small-C-conservative-small-S-socialist cartel, with a massive interest in preserving union power, the power of veto over all nationally published voices. Which really was the case before the print unions were broken.
But that isn’t actually what I’m going to talk about here.
Obsolete also uses The Sun’s equally vile Hillsborough coverage as an example of something the unions might have prevented. In the context of writing about tabloid vileness, there really ought to be a Godwin-equivalent for Hillsborough and the Sun… but even so, the end-point on that one is surely:
1) the Sun is considered appalling and vile
2) the Sun’s accusations about pissing on and robbing the dead are discredited in the eyes of absolutely everyone
3) any suggestion that the Liverpool crowd’s behaviour might, even unwittingly and non-maliciously, have contributed to the tragedy that unfurled is pretty much off the radar of acceptable commentary.
…I’d say that was Liverpool 1, Sun 0?
However, a few years beforehand, when a slightly less fatal, equally badly managed by the cops, both-sides’-fans-equally-at-fault episode took place that also involved Liverpool, the net result was an official decree that Liverpool fans were evil (domestically and internationally), English fans were evil (internationally), and that football fans in general were evil (domestically). Literally unbelievably to anyone under about 30, all English clubs spent five whole years banned from European football.
And yet, even though Liverpool basically wasn’t scapegoated for Hillsborough, and yet massively was scapegoated for Heysel; even though the English football community basically wasn’t scapegoated for Hillsborough and massively was scapegoated for Heysel, it’s the former rather than the latter which is brought up as an example of Liverpool being misrepresented by the authorities and press.
Which is silly.
At Heysel and at Hillsborough, the primary cause of the deaths was the incompetence and complacency of the officials and police supposedly responsible for guaranteeing safety. At Heysel and Hillsborough, the behaviour of the crowds (Juventus and Liverpool fans alike at Heysel, Liverpool fans alone at Hillsborough) was a contributory factor that the authorities should’ve foreseen.
The difference is, the UK authorities (both football and public safety) have some degree of professionalism and non-corruption in retrospect [*], hence investigated Hillsborough properly. Whereas UEFA and the Belgian authorities stuck to the, pretty much criminally complacent, line that “Only the English fans were responsible. Of that there is no doubt“.
Yes, obviously I’m aware that the difference between the two events from a Liverpool perspective is that in one, the people who died were from Liverpool and in the other they were from Italy. The conclusion to draw from that is an interesting one: the stereotype of Scousers of being chippy whingers is actually rubbish.
If they were, then Heysel would be the event that was brought up [**], because it was the one that Liverpool was blamed for and which was properly lied about whilst the guilty went free. So it’s just not the gross injustice that saw Liverpool being blamed and punished for others’ failings that causes upset – it is, actually, grief at the fact that 96 of their people died, horribly and preventably.
And so while the Scum lives up to its name, as does Kelvin MacKenzie, I’m really quite sceptical that “THE TRUTH” headline has quite the impact it’s alleged, any more than staged videos of Palestinians dancing in the street had a significant effect on New Yorkers’ response to September 11.
The important and terrible thing had already happened; the rest was irrelevant.
[*] at least when it comes to investigation, compensation and recommendations for future action; I’m aware that punishment of officials who fail is disappointingly far down the line. However, the South Yorkshire police got a hell of a lot closer to the inside of a courtroom than anyone responsible [***] for Heysel.
[**] it’s interesting that “it was the Scousers’ fault, nothing to see here” seems to have satisfied the families in the Heysel case, despite being transparently false. I suppose “it was partly the authorities’ fault, partly the Scousers’ fault, and partly their own bloody fault” isn’t as satisfying as “the English bastards murdered them” to a grieving relation.
[***] looking lairy, red-and-white and a bit scary on CCTV doesn’t count as “responsible”, even if some kangaroo court does give you 18 months probation on jumped-up ‘manslaughter’ charges.
2 thoughts on “The wrong 1980s Liverpool injustice”
Hi John, just a brief line to to say well done combatting the racist over at Lib Con on all of the immigration threads.
I have to admit, that is a rather compelling point I didn't consider in briefly putting that post together: did "THE TRUTH" actually have the opposite effect in being such an absurd and cruel smear that it helped to ensure that the Liverpool and football fans in general didn't get the blame? I think it perhaps did, but I'm not sure that's any consolation to the families of the 96 and the others who were there and experienced the crush at first-hand. You can make much the same argument that Hillsbrough itself paved the way for the mega success of English football in the 90s and right to today, with all-seater stadiums, improved family friendly atmosphere, even Murdoch's money (although I'd probably still argue that's been to the ultimate detriment of the game), which is at least something of a legacy.
As for the unions, militant as they were, it was rare that they stepped in and put their foot down over something specific like the Scargill front page; the best thing that can be said to have came out of the crushing of the print workers is err, the Independent, and increased pagination, now being cut back thanks to the internet. Still not sure that it was for the better.