What we now know about the incident known as Plebgate is that there is rather a lot that we don’t know about it. But that was not the case either in the beginning – when everyone was certain that there was a difference of opinion between former Tory chief whip Andrew Mitchell and the Police – and certainly not after the Police log of the incident was leaked to a paper that wanted to publish it.
At that point, all those who were certain that there had been a difference of opinion became certain that Mitchell had behaved outrageously badly towards a number of unfortunate law enforcement officers and therefore had to go. And they were equally certain that the arrest of one of those officers signalled the end of press freedom, democracy and everything that they held dear.
Alongside that was the idea that Lord Justice Leveson, who was held to be in league with the Hacked Off campaign, was behind it all. “A PC arrested for revealing the truth? This is the world Leveson’s enthusiasts crave. Choose democracy, oppose Hacked Off” Tweeted Tim Luckhurst, whose own democratic mandate, sadly, does not exist. Nor, it now appears, does much of that “truth”.
Luckhurst’s rant was echoed by Collette Walsh, Tweeting “Now we’re arresting PCs who expose the truth ... disgrace”. What was a disgrace, though, was that hacks like her were taking a single source – that has brought us a whole series of whoppers in the recent past – and taking it as unimpeachable fact without bothering to do the most basic research as to whether it really was “the truth”.
Even John Mullin of the Independent on Sunday called the arrest “unbelievable” without stopping to ask why it had happened. That’s doubly worrying, given the IoS’ usually sound journalism, and added to Luckhurst being the originator of a highly regarded degree course for aspiring journos while being unable to stop and think makes one wonder if the Fourth Estate has lost the ability to do its job.
There were seemingly no barriers to being taken in: Neville “stylish masturbator” Thurlbeck was another of the old hands (ho ho ho) assuming something sinister about the arrest: “This is the sort of country failed/embittered/wannabe/neverwillbe journalists of Hacked Off want you to live in” he Tweeted. So that’s another who is happy with a single unverified source, then.
And to cap it all, Neil “Wolfman” Wallis managed to suggest something scary was at work behind the scenes: “I’m no conspiracy theorist, I promise you, but at every turn those who pay lip service to press freedom are combining to try and kill it”. Well, combining to not bothering to check out that single source and thereby killing the freedom of the public to know the facts certainly looks to have taken place here.
So who did that, assembled hacks? That would be you, not Hacked Off or Leveson.