Sometimes a story comes along that the press really ought to think about before rushing to follow the herd. And, if the warning signs are so obvious – like part of it combining falsehood and misinformation – one might expect the press to think once more. On top of that, when the source is part of the Murdoch empire, it might be best to think for a third time. But that is not today’s way.
So when a story came along suggesting that members (literally) of the England cricket team were deployed after hours last night to urinate on the pitch at the Kennington Oval, part of the why-oh-why brigade rushed to lift it, instead of checking it out against what was known. For starters, the photo accompanying the claims showed the players sitting on the outfield, and no more.
Moreover, the story had come via News Limited, which is the Australian outpost of Rupert Murdoch’s empire: Rupe owns well over half the Aussie print media, and right now it is being used, when not spinning tales about test cricket, to try and swing the upcoming General Election there in favour of the Liberal-led coalition (the Liberal Party in Australia is the equivalent of the Tories in the UK, only nastier).
“The Splashes: England players celebrate Ashes victory by urinating on The Oval pitch” reports the appropriately-named Malcolm Conn. He went on “A number of players including Stuart Broad, Kevin Pietersen and Jimmy Anderson took it in turns urinating on the pitch to the cheers of their team mates. This could be clearly seen from the outside overflow areas of the press box”.
So it’s come from Rupe’s down-under troops, it’s not been backed up by another source or any photo or video evidence, and here’s the false premise: “It would have been the only moisture applied to the pitch for quite some time given the deliberate dry and dusty nature of the pitches presented in this Test series to blunt Australia’s pace attack and aid spinner Graeme Swann, the highest wicket-taker in the series”.
Australia were the only team with a pace attack? Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad forgotten already? What a load of crap. But the Maily Telegraph has swallowed the story whole, blustering “ECB urged to examine claims”. At least the Mail has qualified its story with “accused of act ... according to an Australian journalist”. The Mirror has gone with “The Herald Sun claim”.
The Australians lost the test series, and had it not been for the deteriorating light, they’d have lost the Oval test as well. The Aussie press, and especially the Murdoch part of it, wants to claw back some credibility, however desperate the means. But the really shameful thing is that some UK media outlets, and especially the Telegraph, have allowed themselves to run along behind the herd without engaging brain.
Don’t trust the Murdoch empire, no matter what country its copy comes from.