Nick Davies is looking for paedos in Murdoch’s Wapping
Following the revelation that it probably wasn’t News of the World journalists who deleted key voicemail messages from Milly Dowler’s phone, as Davies claimed on the front page of the Guardian in July, some are now wondering if Davies has been over-egging the pudding in order to make tabloid hacks appear *really* evil.
If this is the case, it wouldn’t be the first time Davies allowed his desire to brand a bunch of people as evil to override his responsibility as a journalist to be completely accurate and objective.
Back in the late 1990s, he was similarly chastised, by a judge, for sexing up his newspaper reports, this time in relation to incidents of child abuse that allegedly took place in Welsh care homes.
During the Bryn Estyn care-home panic of the 1990s, when some care-home workers in Wales were accused of acts of child abuse, many of them falsely, Davies wrote regular reports for the Guardian.
During the tribunal of inquiry into the Bryn Estyn affair in 1997, Davies was singled out for criticism by Sir Ronald Waterhouse, the retired High Court judge in charge of the tribunal, who accused Davies of going totally OTT in his descriptions of what allegedly happened in Welsh care homes.
In his Guardian reports, Davies compared what had allegedly happened in care homes with the Holocaust, describing the inquiry into the affair as a “little Nuremberg“, and wrote sentences such as: “for years the muffled sound of scandal has been leaking from the closed world of Britain’s children’s homes” and “now, finally, for the first time, the truth is pouring out“.
Sir Ronald was not happy. He slated the Guardian’s “highly coloured reporting” and wondered if Davies was “reporting [on] the same tribunal that I have been attending“.
All of this was documented, exhaustively, by the late Richard Webster, in his brilliant, Orwell Prize-shortlisted book The Secret of Bryn Estyn: The Making of a Modern Witch Hunt. Webster showed how hysteria about children’s care homes led to numerous false accusations of abuse being made and subsequently to shattered lives and broken reputations.
He argued that the modern paedophile panic was part of a long and tragic tradition of hysterical witch-hunting, and said that “even ostensibly critically minded journalists” – referring to Davies – “have willingly become part of this modern search for evil“.
Indeed, there is a common thread tying together earlier hot-headed journalistic campaigns to uncover child abuse in every single care-home and religious institution and the current broadsheet campaign to reveal rottenness at the heart of the tabloid press.
In both instances, journalists have become so swept up in the rush to find a modern narrative of evil, in which they can pose as brave warriors for goodness against unspeakable depravity, that they have allowed their desire to make hysterical accusations to leap ahead of their responsibility to check facts and report the truth.
Having once indulged in “highly coloured reporting” in the name of exposing allegedly Holocaust-like conditions in care homes, is Davies now doing the same in his war against the evil tabloid witches of Wapping?