Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Those braying voices on the right of the House are echoed down the Street of Shame.
Where politics mix with bingo and tits. In a strictly money and numbers game.

It looks increasingly likely that the British "torture" photos are not real.

We will be hearing at 3.30pm from the armed forces minister. He is to make a statement on the pictures.

So far my emotions about the pictures have gone as follows: disgust but little surprise when they were first published, disgust at the army for denying them and now the realisation that they are probably fakes after all.

Looking at the Guardian's break down of the pictures they do look incredibly staged. The prisoner's t-shirt is pristine, the jet of urine being dispensed over the prisoner doesn't look right, the van is apparently wrong and the gun is of a type not used in that area.

As I said though, when these pictures were first questioned, I didn't believe their doubts. I applied the PR man's logic to what was being said. Like the Beckhams' latest tabloid dealings, they chose not to offer a 100% denial, instead they just expressed doubts.

My rule is this - if it's not denied 100pc then it's probably true. This way you make a noise about suing. Express your distrust at tabloid behaviour and generally muddy the water as to whether this is fact or fiction. Then, a year down the line, you conveniently drop the legal action by which time everybody has forgotten the story.

Of course this may well have been the military's intended tactic. However it now looks like they have a real case for exposing these pictures as fakes.

If this is true then what will the outcome be? Well it's likely that Piers Morgan will lose his job. And with Piers out of the way and the Mirror suitably bruised and shamed, will it carry on its anti-war stance? If it does then will anyone ever trust it again?

So the Mirror would be added to the post-Hutton BBC scalp. Two down and only the Guardian and Independent left.

However, we should also remember this. Whether or not the pictures are fakes, Amnesty International has highlighted numerous other reports of this kind of behaviour. Then of course there are those American pictures which are real.

If the Mirror pics are found to be fakes we cannot afford to sit back and pat ourselves on the back and praise British fair play and heap the blame on the Americans instead. This is a coalition. If our partners are found to be guilty then we are in this together. If our partners have turned out to be less than perfect then we must ask ourselves why we got involved in the first place.

Like the BBC, the Mirror appears to be guilty of having the facts largely right but the details wrong. And yes, for that they deserve to be taken to task.

But what about the rest of the free press? The papers that towed the party lines from the outset. Remember the Evening Standard's "45 minute from attack" front page? They got that horribly wrong. But, just like the Mirror, they trusted their sources.

The media, during this war, has printed often without questioning, the lies that have emanated from the White House and Number 10. No one is demanding resignations from the Mail or the Sun. It's fine to be wrong if you are doffing your cap to number 10, but if you are against the war and you are wrong then it appears you have to pay.

The Mirror has been very brave in its anti-war stance in a tabloid market that thrives on right wing, reactionary thinking. Historically tabloids have dished out nationalism and intolerance. Instead Piers Morgan decided to take the Mirror back to the days before its circulation war with the Sun. Back to the days when the Mirror was a left-learning working man's paper. A paper that, despite being tabloid, was often lauded for its serious content. He deserves credit for this.

Of course, if the photos are fakes then this is very serious. He will be accused of providing recruit tools for Al Qaeda and I can't really argue with that. However, if Morgan does go I would hate to see the Mirror's anti-war stance go with it.

At worst the photos were printed, with good faith, but without proper checks. The same could be said of the many statements about WMDs that have come from Tony Blair. In a fair world, they should both be out of work.

Love, light and peace,


I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.