LIKE many people, I really enjoyed Channel Four News chief correspondent Alex Thomson’s doorstepping of Kelvin MacKenzie.
It made for great TV. Who could fail to be amused by the sight of a man once among the most powerful in Fleet Street reduced to cowering in his own home? That he should be so perturbed by the tactics he established as the modus operandi of the tabloids was particularly apposite.
By the time MacKenzie scarpered in his car (likely destinations: layby, golf club, BBC studio) I was ready for the rest of the report, detailing the latest revelations turned up by journalists scouring the hundreds of thousands of primary source material released by the independent panel last week.
Instead we cut back to Jon Snow in the studio and the programme moved on.
This, then, was essentially pantomime. The TV equivalent of the stocks, inviting us all to gather round as Thomson lobbed rotten fruit.
In one way, fair enough. Who could be more deserving of a greengage in the eye? But in another, it represented a worrying development in the way the unfolding scandal is being covered.
There’s a sense that decision-makers across the media are beginning to get slightly itchy feet. They’re sort of aware that this should stay in the news, but starting to feel like readers and viewers might be switching off.
It’s a common theme in journalism – the search for a new line. After all, it is called news. So the biggest police cover-up in modern history has been exposed – but what’s the new line?
In a minor way this was at the root of the MacKenzie issue in the first place. The clue is in the timing. By April 19 editors up and down the land were becoming restless. 94 (at that time – Lee Nicol was to die on the day of publication) people were dead, but that was already, in the minds of the likes of MacKenzie, old news. To keep the story going, the editors needed a new line.
This desire for a fresh angle without the journalistic commitment to do the work on the ground played into the hands of Sheffield news agency White’s and, ultimately, their sources – senior police officers and MP Irvine Patnick.
So vested interests concocted a story, White’s sold it in and everyone had their new line. MacKenzie, of course, went further in his vindictiveness than the rest but the story’s very existence was the result of the process of journalism, and the extent to which the consumers of news are patronised and looked down upon by many of its producers.
Fundamentally, they don’t think we’re clever enough or interested enough to take it all in. Although this time their intentions are generally benign, they still ultimately think we’ll grow tired of the real story and look for the comfort of our bread and circuses again.
Who better to be their clown than MacKenzie?
He’s been the smirking face of Hillsborough denial for so long he’s at times seemed to enjoy it, revelling in his ‘outrageous’ reputation without a moment’s understanding of the pain he caused. On some level he will be pleased to imagine he’s still the story.
MacKenzie’s recognisable, thanks to the BBC’s bizarre obsession with hiring him as a proxy for a ‘man on the street’ who hasn’t existed for a generation, if he ever existed at all. He makes for good copy; good entertainment.
Many less well-known faces have reason to be grateful for his work as their frontman. Some are dead, while others remain in positions of power and influence. All have been insulated from scrutiny to some extent by the existence of such a convenient Guy Fawkes.
You’d call him a useful idiot, were he not clearly possessed of a low cunning which has allowed him to stay in with the right people at the right time and keep himself in casual shirts and decorative twigs for his Surrey porch.
It’s a concern that a renewed focus on the ultimately pathetic figure of MacKenzie, along with recent attempts to shift the focus on to a simple Liverpool fans v Manchester United fans narrative, will deflect attention from those who should be held accountable for this human tragedy and national scandal.
If we’re going to be doorstepping people, let’s start with those with knighthoods and take it from there.
There are a couple of very important points in there mate – excellent stuff.
The resolution on our part has to be to help sustain that long-term momentum given that we know the beast and how it works. Lord knows there’s enough raw material!
Excellent points raised. Although KM should be rightly vilified in the press he only prolonged the myths and lies by giving them centre stage. Emphasis should be firmly focused in those who orchestrated the lies and cover up, Middup, Wright, Patnick, Bettison, et al.
A couple of questions here.
Why do you think we cannot lampoon MacKenzie AND prosecute those diorectly responsible for the manslaughter of 96 people?
Likewise the vile chants of Utd fans. Can we only have one item on the agenda? Who says? Justice OR chants? How about justice AND dealing with vile chants?
The media coverage is not driving the legal agenda here anyway; the wheels of justice are turning now and being pushed by lawyers, families and others. Media attention on specific indivduals and their actions could in fact prejudice any trials, so may not be especially helpful at this stage.
I am not losing sight of the real fight here; while at the same time immensely enjoying seeing MacKenzie get a deliciously ironic hounding.
It’s all good. Isn’t it?
An excellent piece, but I would like to make one point in defence of the newspaper coverage regarding what the United fans chanted at OT on Saturday.
This is a classic situation of where the media cannot win – trust me when I say that had the papers not reported that they would have been accused, by Liverpool fans in particular, of a United-bias, of refusing to criticise their fans out of favour for the club.
The simple fact is that what happened at OT was news-worthy in light of the report by the Hillsborough Independent Panel and the support most other clubs have shown since. Also, I would suggest that the wider, more important issues surrounding Hillsborough continue to be covered, most notably by the likes of Ian Herbert and David Conn.
Regarding the Kelvin MacKenzie door-stop, have to agree it was a little OTT, but still great to see that toad squirm.
I think you underestimate the role this lowlife played in the establishment cover up. This was the editor of the biggest selling paper in the country who was more than happy to publish the lies that were being spread by the British establishment and present them as truth. He played a massive part in convincing the British public that Hillsborough was caused by Liverpool fans thus enabling the cover up to take place. Amazed he wasn’t knighted.
Made my day though when I saw this – “Alex, please!”
Good article and something I have been pondering for a few days now, especially as the following days, the papers seems to be more interested in a Royal being photgraphed getting her baps out. This needs to be kept as a current issue. As a side note on McKenzie.. He said to Alex Thomson that he would be talking about it “next week”… Any ideas which medium this is likely to be in? That tosser will probably sign up to do an exclusive interview with a sympathic journo/broadcaster as a further means of spreading his shit around…
Mc Kenzie is a blustering buffooon. Thatchers mouthpiece who printed what he was told to print.It’s Duckinfield et al who engineered the cover up who need doorstepping
As Trevor Hicks described him, MacKenzie is a “clever lowlife”. How else would he be able to kid television higher-ups into having him on as a ‘Man of the People’ moraliser on whatever the issues of the day are? Maybe the BBC are just that stupid. I wonder whether Question Time are going to have good ol’ Kelvin back on just to hammer him for an hour like they did Nick Griffin a few years back?
‘If we’re going to be doorstepping people, let’s start with those with knighthoods and take it from there.’
Great line and spot on; MacKenzie’s the panto villain but he can’t be made the scapegoat for the rest of them to hide behind. Cleverer lowlifes would benefit too much from MacKenzie being the sole name on the end of a media kicking.
‘Knight of the Realm’ Patnick (who was somehow “shocked” at his own lies and poison which he directly helped spread) for one. Bettison another. And that’s another problem; no one in a job payed for by the taxpayer and yet not democratically voted on should be earning more than the Prime Minister. And yet the money Bettison and his ilk have earned going from one big post to another is eye-watering. Ditto council leaders. Those that were never held accountable for their own actions (or inactions) over Hillsborough look like they will be brought to justice; but the incestuous, corrupt system which spawned them will remain as it was.
KM is supposed to be airing his version of events in The Spectator magazine.
Here’s the email address of the beebs complaint department;
Sent one off and got an automated reply which refers directly to the plank himself, so obviously i’m not alone in doing this:
Dear Mr Riley
Thanks for contacting us.
We understand you’re unhappy with Kelvin MacKenzie contributing to BBC programmes following the disclosure of the Hillsborough reports.
The BBC, like all other media organisations, uses a range of guests and contributors. Appearances are decided on a case by case basis.
We would like to assure you however that we’ve registered your comments on our audience log. This is the internal report of audience feedback we compile daily for all programme makers, commissioning executives, and senior management within the BBC. The audience logs are important documents that can help shape decisions about future programming and content and ensure that your points, and all other comments we receive, are made available to staff across the BBC.
Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.
I see KM is now seeking an apology from WYP for the information they provided to him for his “The Truth” story ! Firstly I find it disgusting that he seeks any apology from anyone and he’s now more or less classing himself as a “victim”. He has the nerve to say he couldn’t go to a friends party in Liverpool recently as he feared for his safety ! the 96 never got that chance you spineless git. #JFT96 #dontbuythes*n