Those who marvelled at the ability of the Dacre hackery to inflate a banner headline out of nothing factual to kick the BBC over supposedly abandoning BC and AD now have another fact-free frightener to admire: this time the bogeyman is not the Beeb, or asylum seekers, or even Muslims, but another old faithful, the dastardly EU, which is gunning for the Union flag.
Actually, the EU isn’t doing any such thing: the by-line of “Mail On Sunday Reporter”, code for “nobody would put their name to it, even when threatened with a carpeting from Dacre himself”, gives the game away. The European Council’s communications director – that’s press officer in basic English – was the one making the comments, at a meeting of, er, press officers.
So a press officer – decision making power exactly zero – making comments about promoting the EU’s “brand” becomes a “senior EU official” (“officials” plural in the sub-heading), “outrage” has been caused, and the thundering headline “Now the Union Jack is under attack as EU officials try to take us closer to a United States of Europe” has been invented.
Press officers doing promotion (or, to many people, spin) is not somewhere I’d care to go, but it isn’t policy making. And the Mail story is complete invention: this is agenda driven hackery at its worst. But at least the hack who put this pile of freshly steaming stuff together maintained some anonymity. Over at the Telegraph, their political editor Patrick Hennessy had to put his name to something similar.
“Britain faces new isolation threat from Eurozone ‘caucus’” is the line being fed to obedient Telegraph readers. The piece sounds authoritative: “The document seen by the Sunday Telegraph shows ...” it starts, but then the source is revealed, and it is anti-EU Astroturf lobby group Open Europe. Hennessy tries to bolster this recycled press release by trying to scrape together “evidence”, but fails miserably.
And the most mainstream talking head he can muster is fringe Tory MP John “live long and prosper” Redwood, but at least he didn’t have to follow the Mail into scraping the barrel and coming up with Nigel “thirsty” Farage of UKIP and master of the casual smear Eric Pickles. The only bonus in both cases is the absence of the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance.
Patrick Hennessy, like his colleague Alistair Osborne, was once credited with being a serious journalist. Osborne sprayed his credibility up the wall trying to stand up the story about Siemens getting the Thameslink contract in a way that they didn’t, and now Hennessy is expending his own credibility by putting his name to formulaic knocking copy. And that leaves one conclusion.
Which is that the Telegraph is now so bad, it’s worse for your cred than the Mail.