Can the media be trusted?

OK, stop laughing. No, please, let’s have some order.

Andrea Leadsom is complaining that the Times has misquoted her. Well, no surprise there then but a revealed transcript is being taken by either side in the argument as evidence that (a) it’s a smear or (b) that it isn’t. I haven’t read it yet so will not pass judgement. Instead, I’ll go back to an occasion when the Times, with help from the BBC, tarnished the reputation of a Labour party member and possible future politician.

One evening, a couple of decades or so back, the BBC-tv news said they’d received a tape-recording, courtesy of the Times, of a Labour party candidate(?) expressing a desire to overthrow the system of government in this country. This is, as best as I can recall, what he said:

“Then I would throw the Royal Family, the judges, and the heads of the military into the Tower.”

This was all there was. Now, I don’t know about you, but there’s one word in the sentence that stuck out like a sore thumb when I heard it. I waited in vain to hear something in the rest of the bulletin regarding the context in which this statement was made. Nothing in later bulletins that evening or the next day or in the press picked up on the all-important word. Early next morning on the radio, there was a  brief interview with the accused in which clarification came, but I only heard that interview once and, as far as I’m aware, it was ignored forever afterwards.

Oh, didn’t I say what the word was? Do I need to? It’s obvious isn’t it? OK, perhaps it isn’t that obvious as the BBC didn’t spot it or they never would have been so gullible as to accept the doctored tape from the Times. Nor did any journalist I heard or read – bar perhaps one? – seem to have the required number of grey cells to spot it. What is the word?

“THEN”!

This vital word showed me immediately that no sense could be made of the extract without knowing what prompted the statement. It was in the brief interview the following morning that it came out that the condemned man had been taken part in a debate. He said that he had been arguing in favour of parliamentary democracy when he was asked, “What would you do if you became aware of a plot involving the Royal Family, the judiciary, and the military to overthrow the government?” He answered, “Then . . . ”

Thanks to the duplicitous actions of the Times, and the stupidity of the BBC and the rest of the media, this man was forever referred to as being someone who was intent on overthrowing parliamentary democracy in this country.

I’m ashamed to say that I can’t remember his name or what happened to him afterwards. If anyone recognises the event and can shed more light on it, I’d be grateful.

About the Author

Graham Davis
Born 1944. Educated at Wellingborough Grammar School. Started work at the Met Office in 1962 instead of going to university as I felt it was time I brought some money into the house - my father was an OAP. Was a weather observer and forecaster. Worked for eight years in the Met Office Ice Unit. Last 26 years were spent as a computer programmer.

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