[Updates, two so far, at end of post]
The Occupy London Stock Exchange protesters – actually outside St Paul’s Cathedral – are not only still there, but show little sign of moving on in the near future. And, as October draws to a close, Remembrance Sunday is approaching. So the Fourth Estate is obediently kicking the occupiers, throwing whatever it can find at their reputation, however dubious its content.
Setting the scene has been “Mad” Melanie Phillips, who may be persona non grata with Andrew “Brillo Pad” Neil and Fraser Nelson at the Spectator, but still manages to get access to the bully pulpit of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre. Mel puts everyone straight at the outset: the protests have turned St Paul’s Churchyard into “a squalid eyesore and a threat to public health”.
There’s more: “we are witnessing the rise of mob rule by the spoiled children of the very society they are so determined to destroy”. Thus Mel proves that she has departed Barking and is once again en route to Upminster. But the Mail and Telegraph have something else up their sleeves to discredit the protests: they’ve been tipped the wink by the Police (allegedly).
Both papers “reveal” that thermal imaging cameras used by the Met have supposedly shown many of the tents outside St Paul’s to be unoccupied overnight. How the hacks can be so sure, given that the Police have declined to release the footage, is not known. But it allows the Mail to smear the protesters: “protesters ... return home or to hotels after dark to sleep in warm beds”.
See? They’re all minted! Littlejohn take note! But the Telegraph then sent someone with a thermal imaging camera to double check. After claiming that their footage showed “most of the dozens of tents ... were empty”, though, the piece explained “of three tents at the foot of the steps up to the cathedral, two were occupied and one was not”. This after conceding that some were standing and talking nearby.
But that’s enough to set a new narrative going, which will be pushed by both papers, followed a day late by the Express, and more than likely picked up by the Murdoch Sun. It will tie in with the line pushed by a representative of the City of London Corporation, and as Remembrance Day approaches, the “cannot commemorate the people who died for your right to protest” line will follow.
After all, they’re all “spoilt” and well off. The Mail says so: “many of the activists spent much of yesterday sitting in a Starbucks overlooking the Churchyard, several working on laptops” (no photos of that, though). It looks like the message is being put out to try and soften up opinion in advance of a move to clear the site.
[UPDATE 1 October 27: a military scientist who works on camouflaging soldiers against detection from thermal imaging technology has described the claims made by papers like the Telegraph as based on "rubbish science". He has pointed out that tent materials are typically opaque to thermal imaging, that the Telegraph's man should have manually adjusted his camera to define the tents more clearly, and that using the camera's default setting, telling if the tents were occupied would not be possible, especially if an occupant were in an insulated sleeping bag.
But, of course, the narrative has been set running, so expect this line to be parroted by pundits for some time yet, and especially if, as seems likely, some kind of legal action is taken against the protesters]
[UPDATE 2 October 28: the enterprising people at Occupy LSX have borrowed a thermal imaging camera of the kind used by the Telegraph hack Richard Alleyne, who styles himself a "senior general news reporter", which means he gets to not only go after stories, but also shout at his juniors. The video they have created is available for view on YouTube and underscores the advice given to the Guardian (see above). A tent with five occupants does not show any sign of heat until they emerge, one by one, from the flap. Alleyne has been invited to retract his steaming pile of bullpucky, but sadly, is of less than perfect courage, and has remained silent]