Hillsborough: the truth is that the 96 were killed by the State
SIR Norman Bettison. He’s the chief constable who likes to protest his image, accused of manipulating his Wikipedia page to say nice things in a nice way. He was the chief inspector in South Yorkshire police at the time of the Hillsborough disaster (surely State-encouraged mass manslaughter? – Ed). He’s on the cover of the Sun, his face appears amid the headline:
Families of the 96: top cop must go
This is the:
Hillsborough Report Row
Fury at defiant chief’s comments
What is is to be on the side of the angels for the trusty Sun, the paper that for 23 years sided with the State and libelled the dead. Its editor at the time, Kelvin MacKenzie, never resigned amid considerable fury. Indeed, no-one at the Sun did. No-one resigned from the Sun’s its parent group, News International. Indeed, the Sun’s sister title, the News of the World (now dead – and I for one miss it), went on to spy on people, including Milly Dowler, the murdered child. No-one at the top resigned for any of that.
As for what happened at Hillsborough in April 1989, yesterday the Sun apologised. When faced with overwhelming evidence that only a fool or a bastard could contest, it admitted that it had been wrong to say the Liverpool fans had caused the deaths of 96 people. It said sorry. So did Kelvin MacKenzie. Sure enough it the Sun was not alone in its mass libel.
“DEAD FANS ROBBED BY DRUNK THUGS,” thundered the front page of The Daily Star.
The Express wrote: “Many fans turned up without tickets…It is not for them, noisily and self-righteously, to lay the blame for the carnage at the feet of others, as though they themselves are completely blameless.”
The Evening Standard wrote:
“How long will it take for it publicly to be acknowledged that fans themselves share the blame?…The catastrophe was caused first and foremost by violent enthusiasm for soccer, in this case the tribal passions of Liverpool supporters. They literally killed themselves and others to be at the game.”
The Liverpool Daily Post wrote:
“At best it was unfettered zeal. At worst it was uncontrolled fanaticism and mass hysteria which literally squeezed the life out of men, women and children. This was yobbism at its most base. People without tickets who had no right to be there were crushing to death their fellow Scousers. When it comes to apportioning blame, the accusatory finger can also be pointed at Liverpool. Scouse killed Scouse for no better reason than 22 men were kicking a ball.”
But only the Sun called it “THE TRUTH”. The Sun was not circumspect. It said Liverpool fans had robbed and urinated on their own. They were murderous scum. It was a lie the Sun was happy to keep alive until yesterday. The Sun was not an independent voice that used journalism to expose abuse of power. It just agreed with the State. Football fans were a lower form of life. When those headline first appeared many would have believed what they wrote, it fitted with the narrative that football was for working class scum.
The Sun, whose chiefs never reigns demands higher standards from others. First the Sun went after Sharon Shoemsith, demanding she leave her post in light of the Baby P scandal. Now it weants Bettison gone.
You might puke.
The facts is that Liverpool fans “neither caused nor contributed to the deaths“. The State’s war on football and its attitudes amplified by a compliant media lined up against the working class led to a disaster.
The Sunday Times wrote in 1983:
“The game drifts slowly into the possession of what we are now supposed to call the underclass; and a whole middle-class public grows up without ever dreaming of visiting a football league ground.”
The newspapers’ lies were rooted in a top-down dictated mood and a conspiracy that would tap into it. We now know:
“Documents disclosed to the panel show that the allegations were filed by White’s News Agency, a Sheffield-based company. They were based on meetings over three days between agency staff and several police officers, together with interviews with Irvine Patnick MP and the South Yorkshire Police Federation secretary, Paul Middup.”
Today, the Sun’s Richard Moriarty and Tom Newton Dunn are gunning for Bettison:
A CHIEF Constable who was part of the shameful police operation at Hillsborough faced calls to quit last night after he DEFENDED his actions. Sir Norman Bettison, then a chief inspector, said: “I have nothing to hide. Fans’ behaviour made the police job harder.”… Sir Norman — now Chief Constable of West Yorkshire but then a chief inspector with the South Yorkshire force — steadfastly defended his actions. And he sparked more fury and calls for him to quit by blaming the FANS for playing a part.
What he said was:
“Fans’ behaviour, to the extent that it was relevant at all, made the job of the police, in the crush outside Leppings Lane turnstiles, harder than it needed to be. But it didn’t cause the disaster any more than the sunny day that encouraged people to linger outside the stadium as kick-off approached. I held those views then, I hold them now. I really welcome the disclosure of all the facts that can be known about the Hillsborough tragedy because I have absolutely nothing to hide.”
More heavy handed and ill-thought out than shocking. Would any Liverpool supporter or campaigner for justice be shocked by those words? They’ve heard far worse. The fury has been replaced by a desire for justice. Bettison’s words are not in the same league as the Sun’s, which declared:
The Truth; some fans picked pockets of victims; some fans urinated on the brave cops; some fans beat up PC giving kiss of life.
“Drunken Liverpool fans viciously attacked rescue workers as they tried to revive victims of the Hillsborough soccer disaster, it was revealed last night. Police officers, firemen and ambulance crew were punched, kicked and urinated upon by a hooligan element in the crowd. Some thugs rifled the pockets of injured fans as they were stretched out unconscious on the pitch. Sheffield MP Irvine Patnick revealed that in one shameful episode a gang of Liverpool fans noticed that the blouse of a girl trampled to death had risen above her breasts. As a policeman struggled in vain to revive her, the mob jeered: ‘Throw her up here and we will **** her’”
The Sun thinks that saying sorry is all you need to do to make the badness go away. Sorry will restore its Wikipedia page to glory.
Others are equally image conscious.
London Mayor Boris Johnson has said he is “very, very sorry” for saying in The Spectator that police had been made a “convenient scapegoat”. He observed “the mawkish sentimentality of a society that has become hooked on grief and likes to wallow in a sense of vicarious victimhood”.
Ex Tory MP Sir Irvine Patnick says: “I am deeply and sincerely sorry for the part I played in adding to the pain and suffering of the victims’ families.”
FA Chairman David Bernstein, now head of the organisation that allowed the dangerous ground to host the game despite not having a safety certificate, said:
“I offer a full and unreserved apology.”
The apologies merely fan the flames of injustice. Sorry from the FA that put crowd control over public safety and shoved football fans into a death trap – a place where in 1981, Spurs fans were saved from being crushed to death by police officers who did open the gates. Sorry says the Sun, when it has had 23 years to apologise for what was a lie.
Their apologies are hollow. In the 1980s the State’s was at war with football supporters. As the fans lay dying at Hillsborough, the police formed a line across the pitch. No, not to ferry the stricken to safety. No. They did it to save the Nottingham Forest fans at the other end from being attacked by the mob. But there was no mob. As the fans worked to save the dying and make stretchers from advertising hoardings, the police worried about how to control them. How to stop a riot.
It was always about control. It still is.
Did you travel on a football special in the 1980s? I ddi. You were treated like prisoners, escorted from the train station to the ground. There, you were told to remove your shoe laces and stuffed into a metal cage. There, you fought to stand upright, battling not to the one poor sod trapped against the metal bars as the crowd moved. But standing never did claim lives. The cages – erected at Hillsborough under police advice – heavy policing and barriers did that – those symbols of the State’s attitude to the football fan created a death trap.
In 1985, a Sunday Times editorial “described football as a slum sport watched by slum people in slum stadiums“.
After the deaths, Lord Lord Justice Taylor’s report stated:
“The safety and comfort of those on the terraces has not been regarded as a priority…This inhospitable scene tends to breed bad manners and poor behaviour. The atmosphere does not encourage pride in the ground or consideration for others.”
But that was then. The working class now have justice for the dead. The former Labour sports spokesman Andy Burnham trumpted about an age of “truth and reconciliation“. Sure, thing. The police and State are now open and honest. They do not demonise the fat, smoking, scrounging, racist working class. Oh, no. The families of Jean Charles de Menezes, Ian Tomlinson and Mark Duggan might laugh.
As for the prejudices that football fans are lower life forms. Have they changed? No. They are the elite’s social experiment. As Duleep Allirajah writes:
The old terraces might have been unsafe, and fairly insalubrious, but, as long as there wasn’t any fighting, the police didn’t particularly care what fans did. Fans weren’t ejected for swearing, chanting obscenities, smoking or drunkenness, as happens now. Today we’re under greater scrutiny. CCTV cameras are trained on us. Officious stewards patrol the terraces telling fans to sit down, stop smoking, stop swearing.
Before Hillsborough football fans were treated like caged beasts. Today we’re treated like naughty children. I have no great desire to turn the clock back to the past. But isn’t it about time we were treated like adults?