Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sorting The Wheat From The Chaff

The scores of pieces in the MSM last week to mark the Hillsborough anniversary were notable only for their over-reliance on cliches, platitudes & truisms. None dared to question what has long been established about the causes of the disaster.
A few pieces & blog posts, however, did stand out from the rest. Larry Nield posted a thoughtful article on Liverpool Confidential (http://www.liverpoolconfidential.com/index.asp?Sessionx=IpqiNwEiNwEkIwF6IHqjNwB6IA&realname=For_whom_the_bell_tolls ).
Writing on his Guardian media blog, Roy Greenslade remembered working on the Sunday Times when the TV pictures from Hillsborough were first broadcast. Greenlade also worked with Kelvin MacKenzie (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/greenslade/2009/apr/15/hillsborough-disaster-sundaytimes ):
"Prior to my joining the Sunday Times, I was assistant editor of The Sun for five years under MacKenzie and observed him on a daily basis. He was a mercurial, brash bully, characteristics relieved by both intelligence and a sense of humour. His editorship was marked by controversy because he too often made decisions based on instinct and fired by a fierce competitiveness.
"One of his prejudices was certainly a deep dislike of Liverpool, believing it to be largely populated by law-breaking, work-shy socialist scroungers descended from the Irish (another prejudice). So the Hillsborough allegations confirmed what he always suspected about Liverpudlians. It fitted his own perception perfectly."
On his Snowblog, the normally impeccable Jon Snow began by alluding to the years he spent at Liverpool University in the late 60s (http://blogs.channel4.com/snowblog/2009/04/16/liverpool-funny-brave-but-out-on-a-limb/ ).
However, he then took a dated & rather patronising turn:
"Liverpool remains a uniquely interesting community: funny, courageous, idiosyncratic, creative, self-destructive, on occasions sentimental to the point of mawkishness, and tribally divided by Christianity -- divisions most obviously exhibited through the perception that Everton is a Catholic football club and Liverpool Protestant."
Snow's "perception" did have an element of truth....before the Second World War; post-war slum clearance & New Town developments (Kirkby, Skelmersdale, etc.) largely put paid to the sort of tribalism that still afflicts Glasgow.
Be that as it may, Snow went on to raise an interesting point about the presence of Culture Secretary Andy Burnham:
" I am intrigued by the Culture Secretary Andy Burnham's appearance at the Anfield home of Liverpool FC for yesterday's memorial ceremony. I mentioned in yesterday's Snowblog that it had been 'unexpected'. His aides did not like this term. Mr Burnham, I learned, had been committed to attending for some time, having been invited by the organisers.
"But when he was introduced to the crowd (who had no foreknowledge of his contribution), he was prefaced by the words 'in a change to the schedule'. So why did it appear his attendance had been kept secret?
"Was there a nervousness of the deep-seated anger focused on the political classes for never holding a public inquiry into the stadium disaster? Or was it simply that this lover of football and renowned Everton supporter might experience a tricky rite of passage on hallowed Liverpool turf?"
The latter question can be easily discounted: Burnham's footballing allegiances, or anyone else's, for that matter, were irrelevant last Wednesday. The former question, however, is closer to the kernel of the matter.

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