It is somewhat ironic that Peter Hitchens, so often a man who reminds us he can see what is going on where others are unaware, used his blog yesterday in the Daily Mail to say he has now discovered he is almost the only journalist who didn’t know that Jimmy Savile was a child molester. He must be feeling quite left out among the media pack.
Hitchens goes on to ask, ‘If they all knew, why didn’t they tell you?’ before going on to declare most profoundly that:
Well, let them explain all that. What’s much, much more important is that you now know that there is a lot going on that nobody tells you.
They don’t tell you because they’re scared that very rich men can use the libel courts to ruin those who tell the truth about them.
Well there is something in that but it goes far deeper. As Richard North observes, Hitchens is only partly right:
Hitchens suggests that the omerta owes much to our punitive libel laws, and there is some truth in that. But there is a great deal more to it than that, not least the sheep-like behaviour of the media pack, and the power of the narrative.
Too often, journalists (and their editors) want to stay in the comfort zone delineated by the herd. Once a “line” has been established (the narrative), they will not depart significantly from it. There is no need for censorship or libel laws here. This is what the media does to itself.
North is bang on the money and there is plenty of evidence to support it – including, amusingly, the behaviour of Hitchens’ paymaster itself, the Daily Mail.
For example, perhaps Hitchens would care to investigate why the Daily Mail, without any explanation, deleted a story it published about David Leigh of the Guardian in relation to his own phone hacking exploits? The story was accurate, but nonetheless the Mail pulled it soon after publishing and deleted all reference to it. That’s an instance of people not being told something the media decides to keep out of the public eye. Leigh, unsurprisingly in the incestuous world of the print media, has friends at the Mail. Go figure.
Then there is the example of the Met Office being caught out lying about no longer doing seasonal weather forecasts, as uncovered by this blog. We dug up documentary evidence in the form of Minutes from the Met Office board meeting where the decision was taken, at the suggestion of Chief Executive John Hirst, to ‘rename’ and ‘manage the presentation of these longer range forecasts’. AM gave this completely free and without condition to a reporter at the Daily Mail and an editor at the Daily Express. Neither paper chose to tell the story to their readers.
Neither of these stories were libellous. There was nothing for the papers to be scared of. Unless the Guardian is now a powerful commercial interest. They just decided it wasn’t something the public should know about. They self censored for their own purposes because of narratives they prefer to follow. So if Peter Hitchens wants to play the ‘honest broker’ card, perhaps he should tell the whole truth about the reality of why there are things the media don’t tell us. It’s not all because of fear of a consequence.