Justice for Colin Stagg

Colin Stagg shows why trial by judge, not by media, is right It is not fashionable these days for politicians to extol the judiciary, but then this column is not meant to be fashionable. Today I salute the genius of a judge. If I had anything to do with the honours system I would be advising that the next list should contain a special medal for Mr Justice Ognall, and that the citation should recognise his conspicuous gallantry under fire. In schools across the country there should be instituted an Ognall prize for all those who stand up to bullies, and here in Parliament I propose the immediate establishment of an Ognall Committee, to be chaired by myself, to vet all legislation for signs that it has been generated by some kind of irrational media hysteria. The truth is I know little of Mr Justice Ognall's private life. I don't know whether he is normally a brave or assertive chap, or whether he finds it difficult to get a cab in London on a Saturday night. In fact, I am not even sure of his first name, or whether he is known to his wife and friends as "Oggie". I exalt him today because all other qualities are irrelevant next to the audacity and common sense he showed, 12 years ago, in throwing out the case against Colin Stagg, who was accused of murdering poor Rachel Nickell on Wimbledon Common. To understand the bravery of this judge's action, you have to cast your mind back to that murder, in 1992, and the mania that engulfed the media. It was a horrifying crime, and one that cried to heaven for vengeance. A beautiful young blonde woman, of exemplary character, much loved by all who knew her, had been stabbed 49 times when out on the common one morning with her two-year-old son; and when she was discovered, the little boy was standing by her and pitiably repeating the words "Wake up, mummy". The awfulness of the killing provoked the press to paroxysms of outrage. So deafening were the calls for retribution that the police were driven quite out of their wits. There being no forensic evidence, they were forced to look for likely suspects, and in Colin Stagg they found a man who ideally suited the tabloid agenda. He was runtish and rat-like, and yet also into body-building. He lived on his own. He was given to wearing dodgy-looking singlets and he was a devotee of the ancient pagan religion called Wicca. He had a picture of the Cerne Abbas giant inscribed on a black-painted wall in his flat. Someone said that they had seen him, or a man very like him, on the common on the morning of the murder - and that was enough. So desperate were the Met to inculpate this loser that they organised a honeytrap of surreal absurdity, in which a young blonde policewoman took the alias of "Lizzie James" and tried to engage Stagg's interest. She met him, made much of him, and then started to write him letters in which she encouraged him to share a secret desire to kill young blonde women. She informed him that she had once killed a child and a baby in a black magic ritual. Was that the kind of thing, wondered "Lizzie James", that turned Stagg on? The bewildered Stagg tried to cooperate as best he could with this beautiful woman and her appalling fantasies. It may have added to his creative difficulties that he was then still a virgin. After "Lizzie" had sent him a particularly torrid and gory account of killing blonde women, Stagg attempted rather lamely to reply in kind. "I hope that was to your satisfaction, Lizzie," he wrote at the end of one painful composition. "I've written the story on the lines of what I feel you are into." It is unbelievable that the police could have decided to rely on this as "evidence", let alone think it enough to bring a prosecution. We can only understand what happened if we remember that day in, day out, the tabloid press was providing a barrage of covering fire, with pictures of Stagg looking goofy and deranged, pictures of his sweaty-looking singlet and his malodorous flat; and so all the time the police knew that if they failed to land this man, if they let him off the hook, then the wrath of the press would be turned on them. They went ahead. They took the honeytrap nonsense to court, and of course Mr Justice Ognall dismissed the whole operation as "deceptive conduct of the worst kind", and threw the case out, a move which did indeed leave the papers furious. They blamed the police. They blamed the Crown Prosecution Service. They blamed the undercover honeytrap operative "Lizzie", and caused her such distress that she was later to sue the police force and win damages of £135,000. They blamed the police psychologist who had worked out, on the basis of "profiling", that Stagg must be the man. And for years afterwards, slyly or openly, they blamed Stagg himself, and continued to hint at his guilt. A paper paid him £43,000 to take a lie detector test, which he passed, and yet whenever the case was mentioned they would in the same breath remind their readers of Stagg, the creep who had got off on an evidential technicality. Now Stagg has been shown, by the latest DNA technology, to have been completely innocent. Another man certainly did it. Whom shall the media blame? The tabloids should realise that they are very largely at fault for the disaster. They decided not so much that Stagg had done it, but that this was what their readers wanted to hear, and they hammered away at it so vociferously that the criminal justice system was driven almost to insanity. The Stagg case is a perfect example of why we should not allow ourselves to be ruled by tabloid editors. The Daily Mail's MMR panic has brought us an increase in measles, and the general panic over paedophiles has all but driven men from primary school classrooms. It needs brave politicians to resist this kind of nonsense, and brave judges to tell the media when they are wrong.

61 thoughts on “Justice for Colin Stagg”

  1. How quickly can we transfer him to LA for the Phil Specktor case?

    It is worth taking the time to note that the judge dismissed the evidence not because of the (perfectly legal) way in which it was obtained, but rather because it was crappy evidence.

  2. Thats right, back to basics; evidence. If only our police managers were more concerned with instilling a good attitude to evidence and how to deal with evidence; respect for evidence. What do they do? Close of the roads so that ‘hook’ guy can preach religious hatred!

  3. never forget that hamza’s religious hatred is him using his right to freedom of speech whilst the prosecution of the man for telling his followers to kill was right, up till that point he was exercising his rights. just because you don’t like what he has to say does not mean he has no right to say it. but on the case of mr stagg, i was young at the time of the trial (8 to be exact) but i do remember some of it, but you don’t need to remember that, a few years ago is all you need to remember, soham and ian huntley, guilty as sin granted but as soon as the police questioned him he was guilty in the papers. i say this for the people, the media must be banned from making biased reports full stop, except in editorials, “report the news, don’t give me your views” (like the ryhme scheme?).

  4. I don’t want to merely jump on Boris’ bandwagon here but I would like to mention Barry George.

    He was convicted of the murder of Jill Dando when the police were under, if anything, even stronger media pressure & had obviously run the gamut of usual suspects.

    The only real evidence against him was that the police had found a particle of dust, probably from a gun, after they had been tramping guns around his flat. The eyewitness evidence, which contradicted the eyewitness’ previous statement merely showed that the witness was aware how useful such an identification would be. The police only got down to even looking at him after nearly a year & did so purely on the basis that he had a very old attempted rape conviction which shows their desperation. Barry’s alibi was solid but this possibly worked against him since the jury, not knowing of his conviction, didn’t understand why he had previously felt it necessary to check with the witnesses that they remembered him.

    My guess, for what it is worth (not much) is that it was arranged by some major gangster, essentially on a dare, because he had some link to somebody tergeted by Crimewatch. This is not a solution that will comfort the public in the way that putting Barry away did.

  5. It was a horrifying crime, and one that cried to heaven for vengeance. (Boris)

    Is it vengeance that we are seeking? Does justice consist merely in vengeance? If we are to adopt ‘an eye for an eye’ as our standard of justice, will we not all end up blind?

  6. In many countries the identity of any accused or suspect remains limited to their initials until they have been found guilty in a court of law.
    Simple really!

  7. Of course, in this country you don’t even need to be in a court of law to be found guilty. To quote from the BBC:

    “Control orders allow a range of different restrictions to be placed on suspects where there is not enough evidence to put them on trial.” … “Control orders can impose restrictions including electronic tagging, 18-hour curfews, bans on using mobile phones and the internet, and limits on who they can meet and allow into their homes.”

  8. Sinnik: Can you name these “many countries” that identify a defendant by initials only?

    Fine in theory but what about all the other J.S.’s to whom the public finger of suspicion may be pointed during a trial, not to mention after a trial where J.S. is acquitted and his true identity never revealed?

  9. I see the Mahatma once again being quoted as near to verbatim as makes no difference, and nothing new other than that.

    Media reporting on any matter purporting to be of public interest is all well and good,but statements , qoted as facts ,particularly in some sections of the more cheque book driven press, become so distorted that huge sections of the news reading public are becoming tainted with the cloying taste, of shall we say, primitive wild west lynchmob mania .

    There must be some legal method of allowing salient facts of a case to be freely reported, whilst simultaneously totally excluding those extra inflammatory and often prurient remarks , which sail so close to the wind, as almost to cause capsize, or at least damage to a fair trial of the alleged perpetrator of the crime .

  10. Jack T

    I think that only applies to folk whom the authorities have good reaon to suspect of being a significant threat to the people of this country. They have not been found guilty of anything yet. Whether you think this is a good idea or not is another matter. Clearly there are dangers of just being wrong or even deliberate abuse. Overuse can rot the fabric it is meant to preserve. Against that are the dangers of people who there is good but not conclusive enough information for our legal system, going on to bring about some large outrage. I tend towards worrying more about the latter. I guess a becoming a human rights lawyer may not be a smart careeer move.

    Happy weekend one and all!

  11. I think idlex is right about vengeance. That is the Lord’s department whether or not you believe in him/her. The sentimentalisation of justice is as dangerous a slippery slope as others. I really don’t think it is a good idea for victims or their families to be become part of the judicial process excpet obviously as witnesses. Clearly they should be treated as sensitively as possible, and sometimes this doesn’t happen.

    The criminal justice system’s role is to ensure that those who follow the law are kept as free as possible from those who don’t either by the deterrence effect or the removal effect of prison. Clearly any useful work that can be done in rehabilitation is welcome but not at the expense of useful deterrence and removal.

    Hell, bang goes my Chair in Criminology! Not many options open now!

  12. I reckon we should start treating petty criminals like kids; send them to weekend prisons and make them do long division etc. And tell them – GROW UP!

    Serious criminals should be kept in proper prisons, if we can educate, discipline and rehabilitate them then let them out.

    Vermin should be kept in secure prisons for the safety of the general public.

  13. huge sections of the news reading public are becoming tainted with the cloying taste, of shall we say, primitive wild west lynchmob mania . (Mac)

    So true.

    I know that all news is bad news, if only because we do not want to be told that traffic is moving freely along the M4 motorway, but instead to be told when it is not (if we are concerned with the M4 at all).

    But I often find myself watching or reading items of news and asking myself: “Why are they telling me this?” The crime under discussion here was indeed horrifying, and the news coverage it received indeed filled me with horror – and with nothing else but horror. There was no way that I could help solve the crime. Nor was there any need for me to change anything in my everyday conduct. Nor was there some charity to which I could donate to alleviate the distress. So why were they telling me about this awful crime?

    I have long since come to the conclusion that we are told these stories simply to horrify us, and to fill us with the kind of impotent rage and despair that will induce in us a lynch mob mentality. And I am even inclined to believe that we are deliberately fed these grim stories – a murder here, a rape there -, day in, day out, simply so as to keep us in a state of impotent and explosive anger and despondency which would otherwise quietly subside, and perhaps even allow us to soberly consider other more pressing matters.

    I would like to know if there is an random axe murderer stalking my little patch of this earth, because I would lock my doors more securely, keep a shotgun by my bed, and be on the lookout for blood-soaked strangers shambling along the streets. But otherwise, I would simply prefer not to know.

  14. Jack R

    I’m afraid I have to disagree.

    Finding people guilty or not should be the responsibility of the courts, and the only people who should be allowed to decide are those who are independent, i.e. our peers or perhaps a number of members of a wholly independent judiciary in some cases.

    If we think that people are getting away with crimes that they shouldn’t, parliament can introduce laws to allow more evidence to be admitted into court, or to make more things illegal, on our behalf. If we think that innocent people are being punished then we can create tighter controls on admissible evidence, or else legalise certain things.

    Of course this is an idealisation of our current political system, but surely we should be trying to get back to the ideal where possible rather than away from it?

    The one thing we cannot do is say that the home office should have the right to find us guilty.

    This is just a basic safeguard no matter who is in power and how much we trust them, to avoid horrific precedents and injustices.

    Think about what we’re saying, if we say that “there is not enough evidence to find them guilty”. We are actually saying that eleven people, looking at all the evidence involved, would say that he was not guilty, or at the very least that they couldn’t be sure he was guilty. And if the eleven people are taken at random from the population, then it essentially says that the population find them not guilty. So why are we punishing them or restricting their freedoms, if as a nation we don’t believe they have done anything wrong?

  15. Gosh, you fellas have some nice ideas about improving our judicial system.

    Sorry to say, it boils down to this: Do we run the system like the old Soviet Republic or like a modern democracy where justice is done and seen to be done?

    Yes, it is not perfect, but can anyone suggest any improvements that would not cause more problems than they solve?

    Idlex, I agree with you as always and would like to live in your shed.

  16. Mac, welcome back. The place hasn’t been the same without everyone’s favorite conservative.

    That said, wrong-O!

    The mob has always been the mob, just as most crime has been perpetrated by young men. We don’t outlaw the mob, because it is us, and we don’t outlaw young men because we don’t have Australia anymore to send them to.

    AND

    As the immortal Hunter S. Thompson pointed out, objective, non-inflammatory journalism allowed Richard Nixon to be elected over McGovern by the largest landslide in history. Subjective, emotional journalism allowed him to be forced to resign and justice was served. Bloodless journalism can be very easily twisted, and I simply don’t trust it. If someone has a bias (and we ALL do) I prefer if I know what it is.

    I like Boris. I love reading him. God knows, I’d never vote for him but he’s my favorite kind of journalist, putting himself in the story and letting us all know what it’s like to be human in the middle of whatever the topic is. The world is better off for such people, and I would like to go on record as supporting that kind of journalism.

    And not just because I’m an opinionated bitch, myself.

  17. Dear raincoaster!
    Well known as it is that the oceans are full of predatory organisms, whiling away their otherwise unfilled time, merely awaiting the signal to move in on the halt and the maimed to destroy and eviscerate them , as is natures habit, it is one of Mankind’s nastier habits to stir up the more nastily spectacular feeding frenzies, shown so spectacularly ,in numerous nature programmes on TV. This equates, I aver , quite well with press reportage on particularly ” juicy items of so called news.

    This type of magnification or diminution of the real facts, insofar as any are indeed known, is in effect what the yellow press , in particular, does so appallingly well, ( or badly), depending on the viewpoint of the individual. Each individual has an ordinary individual’s absorption quotient widely divergent from the next one, but too much unnecessary detail will invariably warp, what might normally have been a straightforward intake of “useful” information ; doing no-one and nothing any favours.( if this is getting less than clear , I claim fatigue, since I am forcing my laughingly referred to brain do things is is no longer in the habit of doing)

    Hate is such an amazingly tiny seed, that, even if planted, without sustenance, it possibly would not grow, and every type of terrain is not its natural habitat. I must disagree with you , however reluctantly , that every individual is not a natural nursery for mob rule.

  18. idlex, you say these news stories are there to horrify us, but I don’t think so. You know what I think? The stories are there to titillate.
    Everyone knows The Sun is a right old piece of tat, and everyone makes jokes about it, and that the Daily Mail is even more risible, yet how comes they have The Highest Circulation Of Any English Daily Newspapers? Someone out there must be buying them. Look in The Sun, at the stories of rape and murder and the fear mongering, juxtaposed next to Barely Legal Kelly, 18 from Essex with her rack out and adverts for sex phone lines in the back. It’s all deisgned to get people all riled up!!! The Daily Mail – why does does a moral bastion go into superfluous detail about some sex scandal that is of no sort of consequence to anyone, or partake in all sorts of ‘naughty naughty!’ finger-waving moralising? To get all those housewives, (it has a higher proportion of female readers than any other British national daily http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daily_Mail), who spend all day at home a little hot and bothered every once in a while!
    They know what makes people tick.

  19. Idlex, I agree with you as always and would like to live in your shed. (PaulD)

    You will be welcome to join me there, as I’m thinking of moving in there myself after reading the following in Wednesday’s Express:

      SMOKING BANNED OUTSIDE OFFICES

      MPs also plan to stub it out at bus stops

      A ban on smoking outside offices and in bus shelters could be on the way.

      It will be a major extension of proposals to stop people lighting up in enclosed public and work spaces.

      And it would bring to an end the now common sight of workers huddling at the entrances of non-smoking office buildings to have a cigarette.

      Ministers are to consult on expanding the law to cover areas where there is a “close grouping of people”….

    So, not content to ban smoking inside, these fanatics now want to ban it outside as well. A ban on smoking in one’s own home is sure to follow.

    I can see the day coming when I will only be able to furtively smoke, hidden in my garden shed, peering nervously out of the window on the look-out for the roaming sniffer vans, in fear of yet another 5-year sentence to a tobacco re-education camp.

  20. Dan, you might have a point if it was only the tabloid press that were at it. The truth of the matter is that every newspaper does it, and television news as well.

    Today’s Independent has a short article on page 22, which includes this:

      Daniel Pollen, 20, was first dazed by a blow that shattered his jaw, and then knifed in the heart by Michael Lynch during 20 seconds of “utterly pointless” violence.

    The BBC (at least I think it was the BBC) late last night even aired part of the CCTV video which had captured this attack, and brought a life sentence upon the killer. I had the misfortune to see it, and wished I hadn’t, because it stuck in mind for hours afterwards, and I still remember it today.

    There is, I suggest, nothing in the least ‘titillating’ about such depictions of extreme violence, except perhaps to sadists. I could see no reason why the BBC decided that the entire British people should be made to witness at close hand such an appalling attack – except so as to simply appal and dismay and depress them. The only result that I could foresee of such reporting is the gradual brutalisation of the reading and viewing public, as they became slowly poisoned by a drip-drip of repeated doses of extreme violence.

  21. idlex, you speak as though the public are always waiting to spoon feed with information. No one needs to know anything, violent or otherwise. The fact is people want to know. Like Boris said in his article, the newspapers give people want they want to hear, I would imagine that this is the reason why papers with stories about scandal and celebrity sell more than those with stories about a day in the life of a hummingbird. The public seek it out.
    The BBC I can’t give comment on because people are forced to pay for it whether they like what they offer or not. Commercial papers and stations however respond to what will pull in the ratings and sales, and violence and sex is a part of this.
    Why would the media want to brutalise and horrify people, who decided this agenda and what is their motive? I’m not horrified by much, but watching those Iraq videos (Nick Berg etc.) was probably the closest I came. It isn’t a nice feeling, people avoid feeling that way, if this was what the media was peddling they would be out of business by now. I find it hard to believe there is some media cabal somewhere, setting their sites on creating a brutal society. The only agenda the media has is $$$.

  22. No one needs to know anything, violent or otherwise. The fact is people want to know. Like Boris said in his article, the newspapers give people want they want to hear, I would imagine that this is the reason why papers with stories about scandal and celebrity sell more than those with stories about a day in the life of a hummingbird. The public seek it out. (Dan)

    While I agree in some respects, I must disagree in others.

    In the first place, I think we do have need of factual information about the world around us, if we are to make good decisions about how we act within it. That is, I don’t think that news is another form of entertainment. We need good information like we need clean water. And my objection is to news which is polluted by the addition of unnecessary information.

    Nor can it be true that newspapers give people what they want to hear. Newspapers give people what their editors and proprietors want them to hear.

    I’ve personally come to see this very clearly in recent years, because the internet provides a continuous source of all kinds of news from all over the world, before newspapers have gone to press, and it has been instructive to compare the news I have found online with what appears in my paper the next day – what is included or omitted, what given prominence or played down.

    Why would the media want to brutalise and horrify people, who decided this agenda and what is their motive?

    Controlling news is a way of controlling how people behave, which is why almost everyone in power wants to influence and control news reporting in one way or other.

    As for the routine insertion of casual horror into news, I personally suspect that this is done to induce a feeling of helplessness and passivity among viewers and readers, and thereby minimize the likelihood of their active intervention. Being presented with facts about which one can do absolutely nothing is like being fed some narcotic drug. It is convenient to keep the general population in a state of passivity, because it allows political authority room for unimpeded action.

    And by comparing such news to a narcotic drug, it is possible to explain why people keep going back for more, day after day. They need their fix. Just like heroin addicts.

  23. Incidentally, also buried on page 22 of today’s Independent was a piece of real news:

      Cameron backs Blair over Iraq invasion

      David Cameron gave his backing to Tony Blair over the invasion of Iraq during an interview with Jonathan Ross last night. The Tory leader said: “It was a very difficult decision. I still think it was right… What you’re elected for is your judgement, and then defending it. You’ve got to do what you think is right even if it’s unpopular.”

    Personally I will never believe it was right of Blair and his minions at Number 10 to “sex up” (in the words of the late David Kelly) the intelligence we had on Iraq to stampede the British people and parliament into that miserable war.

    Indeed, simply for Cameron to say what he said last night this calls Cameron’s own judgement into question.

    And I’m not going to vote for anyone like that.

  24. “There being no forensic evidence, they were forced to look for likely suspects, and in Colin Stagg they found a man who ideally suited the tabloid agenda. He was runtish and rat-like, and yet also into body-building. He lived on his own. He was given to wearing dodgy-looking singlets and he was a devotee of the ancient pagan religion called Wicca. He had a picture of the Cerne Abbas giant inscribed on a black-painted wall in his flat.”

    The factor with Boris has overlooked is that Stagg was a white working class male, the only group in society you can despise with impunity.

    If Stagg had been black, or gay, or an old school mate of Boris can you imagine the outcry? Some senior police offical would have gotten his balls removed with a rusty razor.

    The behaviour of the police in this matter was absolutely disgraceful, utterly shameful, and should rightly have cost someone their job.

    There was no evidence against this man, and we must be thankful a man like Mr Justice Ognall was there to put an end to that piece of nonsense. In other countries Mr Stagg would be dead and the real murdere roaming free.

  25. Wonderful Boris. Why the media (and many of its readers/viewers) are so desperate to decide guilt on the basis of things nothing to do with the crime is beyond me. Perhaps more worrying is the idea that the courtroom could potentially soon allow victim’s relatives to come to court and account how awful/tragic the ordeal has been. What single thing this brings to the actual discovery of guilt/innocence is beyond me.

    We should applaud judges like Mr Ognall for their dedication to the action of discovery innonce/guilt and not allowing external, unrelated, factors to influence the decision

  26. I’m sorry idlex, but this all sounds like something from the realms of conspiracy theory, totalitarian fiction or that Bond movie in which Terri Hatcher starred. Controlling news to control human behaviour – what does that even mean? We have a free press, anyone can have a go at the media game, anyone can make a blog and be a citizen journalist, we can get news from anywhere in the world at any time, so who is doing the controlling? I myself don’t find myself being brutalised by the news, perhaps some people do, but everyone has different limits.
    Some people manage to get by without any news at all, how are they controlled? I still maintain that the one thing anyone can be really sure of is that they’re chasing the money, and every once in a while they whip up a frenzy to bolster sales. That the news has some sort of clandestine agenda to pacify the populous like soma, I just find it all very rhetorical and hard to swallow, but that’s just my opinion.

    Anyway, as for good old Mr Justice Ognall, not that I wanna detract from his glowing praise but, has it become so commonplace and accepted that judges are going to bend to the will of newspapers and public outcry that when one actually does his job as it’s supposed to be done he becomes a hero?

  27. Paul said: Wonderful Boris. Why the media (and many of its readers/viewers) are so desperate to decide guilt on the basis of things nothing to do with the crime is beyond me.

    How many people went into work the next day and had this sort of conversation;

    “He’s obviously guilty as sin”
    “Oh yeah”
    “Anyone who wears that many singlets has got to be any evil man”
    “Hmhmm”

    It’s just idle speculation by everyday people, and the press is just an extension of this. People are happy to buy into something that seems to massage their ungrounded opinions and enforce rumours. Of course people don’t like being proved wrong so when it turns out this wasn’t the case they turn around and blame the press for controlling their mind.
    Why are people lashing out at the media, when it’s the fault of police/judges/government? It’s their job to see to it cases like this are resolved without interference, and a barrier between fleeting public opinion and hard fact is kept in place, no matter how unpopular it would make them, that’s what they signed up for. The media isn’t going to change. If they can’t do it they should step down and not deflect the heat from themselves.

  28. this all sounds like something from the realms of conspiracy theory, totalitarian fiction or that Bond movie in which Terri Hatcher starred… We have a free press (Dan)

    I wish I shared your all’s-well cheerful complacency, but I do not. It is not that I subscribe to any outlandish conspiracy theory in supposing that our various news media have other agendas beyond the purveyance of unvarnished factual news. I know, and I think you also know (or ought to know), that they all wish to shape public opinion in one direction or other. If Tony Blair went sucking up to Rupert Murdoch to get Labour elected, it was because he was all too aware of the power of Murdoch’s newspapers to shape public opinion for him or against him.

    But I agree that the nature of the game is changing, and that we can now get our news from anywhere in the world. But this is a very recent development. The internet has broken the prior newspaper and television monopoly on news and opinion formation. It has also allowed you and me to engage in a dispute that would have been impossible 10 years ago. Indeed, I think that Boris started this blog of his because, as a journalist, he suddenly realized one day that it was the way things were going. In this respect, he is way out ahead of every other MP in Parliament.

    I continue to buy a newspaper every day, and to watch the evening television news, but I increasingly wonder why, given the increasing sense I have of being subjected to different flavours of propaganda from every direction (something you don’t seem to notice). I suspect that it is because it remains easier to buy a newspaper or turn on the box than it is to go surfing the web for the real news.

    I opined, a few days ago, that I would prefer to edit my own newspaper. And quite possibly I will soon be able to do exactly that. As its editor, I would spike every rape and murder story, and every celebrity scandal, and every piece of royal tittle-tattle. But above all, I would delight in completely excising the words ‘Tony’ and ‘Blair’ from all its copy.

  29. But then how will you know what he’s up to?

    The point of having relatives of crime victims testify is not to throw resolve questions of guilt or innocence but rather to create in the jury a fuller understanding of the nature of the crime itself. This is not without value; too often it’s been said that we are desensitized to violence and as long as the violence remains hypothetical and distant we may remain so desensitized. I think we’ve probably all been in situations of violence, and a powerful description of the experience can shock the most jaded into a better understanding of the events.

    For much the same reason I support the sensationalist press. But god knows, I don’t read it every day. Nor do I have to.

  30. Mac! good to see you back honeybun, oh let’s face it, it’s WONDERFUL to see you back on the blog!

    Dan, I only buy the Mail on Sunday, Mac can tell you why, I’m saving up for therapy.

    When I catch up on comments I might even add my own on Bozzers article but until then, Happy weekend y’all x

  31. Dan (quoting Idlex) said: Controlling news to control human behaviour – what does that even mean?

    You only need look at the explosion of the celebrity culture over the last 10 years to know what it means. Big Brother, Hello/OK magazines, Extreme Celebrity Detox (yes there is such a programme!) and the constant drip-feed of nobodies and wannabees in the media… millions of people are hooked on the whole ghastly system to the point where it dominates their attitude, speech, dress, and thinking. Some commentators believe it has even replaced religion.

    The media at once fuels and feeds on celebrity worship. The game is to find someone to raise to icon status, fawn over them for a while, discover a weakness in them, and destroy them. Then on to the next victim. To an extent Boris himself is one, although unlike your average dimwitted celeb he’s smart enough to handle it.

    To the many suggestible people out there with otherwise empty lives it provides excitement they wouldn’t get from the discovery of a new sub-atomic particle.

    Celebrity culture is, by definition, a media invention. It has led to a major cultural shift (one I personally despise). That is probably what Idlex means by the news controlling human behaviour. And it’s only one example. It is “news” born and nurtured by the media, a replacement for “proper” news and living under the label of Infotainment.

    By the way Idlex, you’ve just blown your case for objective reporting if your newspaper has a policy of not mentioning Tony Blair!

  32. One day I’ll get really ambitious and write my update to Marx’s theory. Religion is the opium of the people. Stick in the Nietzschean concept that whatever we worship becomes the new god and there ya go, all updated for the 21st century.

    All bow before Madonna.

  33. I’d go along with the theory that football is a religion – you don’t support my team? arggh kill the heretic! But I’m not sure I’d go along with the idea that whatever we enjoy or are fascinated with is automatically an onbject of worship. Celebrity culture is manufactured now sure, but it was manufactured in the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s etc, just not to the same extent because people didn’t have the same media presence in their homes.

    Bytheway – who commented on reading hour after dinner? Gonna try that with my two!

    Sorry, I digress. I think this media business (don’t you just love the way Boris says ‘meeedia’) is a double edged sword. What I mean is that I agree with Boris’s point on this thread, that trial by media, or mob, is wrong. Wholly wrong. But confidence has drained from the establishment in this country, from the criminal justice system in particular because of the stupidly liberal outcomes of some criminal cases. These few cases seem to have undermined confidence to such a degree that the public probably has as much, if not more, confidence in the Daily Mail. Add to that the confusion in law with a whole raft of new legislation, from this government and Europe, so much that even lawyers and judges can’t keep up and basically you’ve got a mess. In considering this mess sometimes, it’s true, the press actually do the public a service in highlighting injustice and systemic failure in our judicial system, and in government departments. In that respect they perform a valuable public service. With some injustices to little people by the big system, if not the media the who?? In this instance it is right to argue that the media got it wrong, but surely it is the editors responsibility to be responsible! How are editors held to account? We could ask Piers Morgan I suppose.

    Can I just add one more word??

    Jam

  34. ‘Sorry to say, it boils down to this: Do we run the system like the old Soviet Republic or like a modern democracy where justice is done and seen to be done?’ (PaulD).

    Being a county-boy where we have no financial centre, but industries like forestry, building reseviours, agriculture, and spending time working in London, where there are all these interesting people to talk to about their jobs and cultures (not that Southerners do talk to strangers, it’s like pulling teeth really) I think this is exactly the point that PaulD made.

    Do we want to become a socialist country where everyone is afraid what they can and can’t say because of a huge army of people pushing their left wing opinions on people, or have a free and democractic multi-cultural society where people bother to give each other the time of day and learn from each other and respect each other?

  35. Steven L, or a right wing fascist country where everyone is afraid what they can and can’t say because of an army punishing expressions of opinion?

    Socialism is not, by nature or practice, brutally repressive. Stalin is dead, and he was no more a leftie than Tony Blair or Adolf Hitler. Dictatorships are colourblind and neither right, nor left.

    Socialism is also not relativism. Harvard doesn’t graduate a lot of socialists, but it’s deeply relativist at the moment.

  36. raincoaster – just been looking up Anne Coulter (I think her name was) and her new book: Godless;The Church of Liberalism. Apart from the fact that she seems to be the right kinda gal for Peter Hitchens (match made in heaven there?) and I haven’t read all her Wiki entry yet (PC crashed AGAIN!) she seems on some Christian crusade to fight the grip of left Darwin-worshipping liberalism that grips America.

    Oh, and she doesn’t think women should have the vote apparently – they don’t understand where money comes from, only how to spend it.

    She’s just the kind of person a top journalist would admire (Boris?) leggy blonde with the words ‘Daughter of’ at the top of her CV. SHE obviously knows where money comes from and has always known, she’s a very bright girl – money comes from her allowance. If only the very stupid women who work in Tesco could understand that!

  37. Guy, I’m talking about culture, people not making the effort to understand each others cultures.

    i.e. I have met loads of people involved in forestry and conservation because my culture is being a country-side person.

    I come to the city and people are always trying to tell me what is green, forestry and conservation are green, citys are polluted crowded places.

    The great thing in the city is that there are so many different people to talk to and learn from. But no-one likes just talking to strangers like in my countryside culture.

    Food for thought?

  38. Hey jaq, if you love Ann ‘[Canada] are lucky we allow them to exist on the same continent’ Coulter. Then here are some recommendations;

    Pat ‘the widespread practice of homosexuality will bring about the destruction of your nation, it will bring about terrorist bombs, it’ll bring about earthquakes, tornadoes and possibly a meteor’ Robertson.

    Shirley ‘There are no innocent people. Thank God for 9/11, thank God for dead soldiers…the wrath of God is pouring out on their heads’ Phelps Roper

    John ‘liberals don’t want black people to think about abortion.’ Gibson

    Bill ‘See, If I’m president, I got probably another fifty to sixty thousand with orders to shoot on sight anybody violating curfews. Shoot ’em on sight. That’s me, President O’Reilly: Curfew in Ramadi seven o’clock at night. You’re on the street? You’re dead. I shoot you right between the eyes. Just like Saddam ran it.’ O’Reilly

    Being a conservative in America sure is something else, isn’t it?!

  39. Dan, I think the Amercians are a lot better than us at nation building – i.e. lets put up a flag and build an economy that makes us safe and gives people a good quality of life. Having said that I think they should be more secular, because they need votes to get in and manage the economy how they think it should be done and they have to say what people want. American voters want to hear their president talk about God.

  40. And Dan, Bill O’Reilly is a talk show host and writer, its his job to stir up opinion.

    I like his show, it’s hillarious, I think look at these daft yanks and their daft ‘news’ channel. But I don’t hate them, I respect their culture.

  41. jaq

    Come to our Tesco instead. All the ladies working there seem to be intelligent, with a sense of humour and don’t seem to regard the customer as enemy. Mostly they feel a duty to help said customer.

    Also, in these dark PC days, it does seem to be an example of different ethnicities getting on. I recall at the satrt of the world cup a sort of reverse Benny Hill in which a blonde white lady assistant pursued a Pakistani male colleague round the store to put a Tesco England hat on him, to the great amusement of customers and staff, including the pursued. It won’t save the world but it gives you hope!

  42. raincoster

    Socialism is not, by nature or practice, brutally repressive.

    All attempts at nationalised or strongly directed economies, such as Stalin’s or Hitler’s, have resulted in brutality. The problems we suffer from the PC mindset under a socialism that owes more to Rouseeau than Marx are by no means as awful but are facilitated by a parallel process of wishful thinking gone sour.

    I agree about the left and right. Witness the Stop the War Coalition which combines those calling for the dictatorship of the proletariat with those advocating the dictatorship of the mullahs. For some reason they wouldn’t let the BNP join. Perhaps the dictatorship of the ethnicity hasn’t been fully considered.

    Left, right – wings are for the birds.

    Birds, schmirds

  43. (Quote).American voters want to hear their president talk about God. (/Quote)

    Have they never read Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’? That is the frightening and all too plausible dystopia that could result from a president who spends too much time talking about God and too little time thinking about what he is doing.

  44. Jack – Oh God I wish I’d wrote that! Honey you are not paid enough, wherever you are.

    Dan – WOW, aren’t people fun?! Presumably these people get paid shedloads of money to come out with such things? No, don’t tell me, I’m gonna have loadsa fun looking this lot up.. But on 2nd thoughts Ann Coulter would probably eat pH for breakfast – hmm, delicious thought!

    Steven_L – bless, I just think you’re lovely.

    Chris Morriss – They’ve already got a president who talks about God – God told him to invade Iraq apparently, and our PM had a chat with the Big Guy who apparently told Bliar to support Bush. And years ago they used to commit peole to insane asylums for adultery??!! You are so right, personally I think both of them should be sectioned immediately.
    Bytheway Chris, been looking at info on a childrens book today (thoughts anyone?) ‘The Road of Bones’ by Anne Fine published by Doubleday, ISBN 9780385610360, “The Road of Bones is set in a totalitarian state, and explores children’s experiences of censorship and repression” – it also contains ‘scenes’ of canibalism apparently, they had the author on ‘Womans Hour’ this morning (not that I listen to much R4 now, it’s gone down the pan a bit). Bit grim for a childrens book I thought. Then I considered the whole issue of censorship. I mean, nowadays it seems to be the accepted view that it’s never too early for education, education, education and with some issues I think it is. I firmly believe it strips children of their childhood, especially sex education too young and drugs education seems to dwell on the assumption it’s going to happen anyway, instead of recognising that young people can exercise a choice. That incident about the celibacy rings caught my attention. I mean, if they were muslim then it’s fine, but because they are Christian, it’s not. I just don’t think there should be one rule for one culture and another for another. Also, I don’t think issues can really be dealt with in isolation, as the government and tabloid seem keen to do. As if one policy or attitude has no consequences.

    Well hark at me! I’ve been a grumpy bug all weekend, whittering on arguing about something or other and here I am basically sounding like the person I’ve been giving a hard time. Well thank goodness they don’t read this blog.

    Please excuse me now folks, I have a cheeky little Pinot Grigio that wants my attention (slurp, I love cooking

  45. By the way Idlex, you’ve just blown your case for objective reporting if your newspaper has a policy of not mentioning Tony Blair! (raincoaster)

    I didn’t rule out reference to the “Prime Minister”, or “Britain’s noxious, mendacious, and self-important leader”, or similar.

    And Steven_L seems to be one of those tiresome Northerners forever griping about Southerners. Why can’t we be allowed to sit quietly ignoring everybody else?

    I used to wander around the southern city of Bristol wearing a completely tasteless red tartan jacket, that attracted no comment whatsoever. But on a brief foray to Manchester, wearing the same jacket, I’d hardly sat down and ordered a coffee in a bar when the waitress came up, stared at me incredulously, and yelled, “Who do you think you are? Joseph and his amazing, technicolour dreamcoat?!”

    I had friends in Bristol who had escaped south from birthplaces like Newcastle, simply to get away from Northern conformity. They just wanted people to leave them be. And in the South of England, that’s what they do.

  46. (Off topic)- Environment Minister Ben Bradshaw has been causing a stir in this warm weather. His cycling outfit consists of a smart shirt, calf-length socks, polished work shoes and the tiniest pair of black Lycra cycling shorts that, according to one admiring observer, “leave nothing to the imagination.”

  47. oh well, after just agreeing with everything Lord Falconer has said on Channel 4 news, I’m so bored with politics I’m going to read a book.
    Even teeny tiny lycra shorts can’t tempt me – I’m an untemptable.

  48. By the way Idlex, you’ve just blown your case for objective reporting if your newspaper has a policy of not mentioning Tony Blair! (raincoaster)

    That wasn’t Raincoaster. It was me. You really ought to be more particular about who shares your shed, Idlex.

    Talking of which, I can’t help wondering if Ben Bradshaw’s Lycra cycling shorts were a wedding present from Neal. (Cut if you like, Melissa!).

  49. Well I wish I’d said it.

    Chris Moriss, Americans don’t read Canadian literature. They can hardly read at all.

    Who says lefties are PC?

    kd lang said that they taught her in Nashville, “The higher the hair, the closer to God.” A possibly related line from the wonderful Landover Baptist Church is “The more you talk about God, the less you have to listen to Him.”

  50. ‘And Steven_L seems to be one of those tiresome Northerners forever griping about Southerners. Why can’t we be allowed to sit quietly ignoring everybody else?’
    (Idlex)

    We get homesick mate.

  51. It’s a bloody disgrace that’s what it is. Some old biddy has been sent off to the cooler for three months because she didn’t pay her council tax! She said it was because there were too many druggies in the road.

    That Napoleon of crime Moriarty must be spinning in his grave. The shades of Reg and Ronnie must be shocked to life. Decent hardworking criminals can’t get into prison because of a lack of places. Many already there are being forced out early. And some bloody amateur gets fast tracked!

    This is a real slap in the face for proper career men (and now women – we’re not stickin the muds) who have devoted their lives, and often those of others, to their profession. Is that right? I ask you! Is that right?

    That is why I am asking you to donate something to the Criminal Rights Alliance (Professional) or CRAP for short. We want more prison places so that the soul destroying waiting list can be abolished. And we demand an end to the vicious policy of forcing some of the most talented in our trade being thrown out on the streets before they have been able to reap the full benefits of their life’s work.

    Send whatever you can, however large, to

    “Blagger” Ramsey
    7 Pinacolada Road
    Benidorm
    Espana

    Goodnight and God bless!

  52. Some old biddy has been sent off to the cooler for three months because she didn’t pay her council tax! (Blagger)

    Bleedin’ disgrace. But just imagine what it’ll be like when smokers start getting banged up next year by the thousand. And the funny thing, har har har, is that prisons are about the only places you can still smoke.

    The simplest thing to do would be to designate whole towns as prisons, with a strip of razor wire around them. Decent hard-working crims, like top mafia hit men, would get the best town houses, and smokers would have the pubs to all to themselves. And nobody would pay any effing council tax at all.

    At least, that’s what Axeman Charlie and Headshot Jimmy were suggesting down the Bull and Bush last night. I didn’t argue with them, because, well, you don’t.

  53. Criminal? Ooh you callin’ a criminal? I’m a businessman me, and that peerage didn’t come cheap I can tell you!

    Any day now I’m going to get into the cabinet… nothing changes does it? Just a bigger cabinet with a few more crocks in it!

  54. (Off topic)- Interviewer to Sir Paul McCartney: “Would you go down on one knee again?”

    Paul replied: “I would prefer it if you called her Heather.”

  55. ‘Yowzuh’ (Raincoaster)

    What other ‘kewl’ slang are we missing out on this side of the pond these days?

    Maybe you should put some sort of guide up on you rblog raincoaster?

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