Murdoch editor John Witherow, it seems, is not familiar with the Streisand Effect. That is the only conclusion that can be drawn from his willingness to devote his Times editorial to a spectacularly wrong-headed rebuttal of the investigation into Andrew Norfolk’s failings in a series of articles which just happened to pass adverse comment upon Scary Muslims™.
John Witherow, editor of the Times
That investigation, which I discussed yesterday, was at a disadvantage: authors Brian Cathcart and Paddy French could not have hoped to equal the reach of the Times, and so contacted every MP, and many more, directly with copies of their analysis. By responding via an aggressive editorial - which has Witherow’s fingerprints all over it - the Murdoch mafiosi have brought the investigation to a potentially far greater audience.
Having made this all-too-avoidable blunder, Witherow then compounds his error by rolling out a spectacularly lame defence, which consists of a combination of name-calling and crude deflection. Under the heading “Press Gang” (Witherow got one thing right - that’s the name of Paddy French’s blog) he tells grandly “Politically motivated campaigners are trying to smear and suppress fine reporting”. His paper is fine - take his word for it. Er, no.
But do go on. “The attackers have form. When Norfolk revealed for the first time the systematic abuse of white teenagers by men of mainly Pakistani background in Rotherham and other northern towns, he also revealed the complicity of social workers, Police and local councillors who failed to stop the grooming. They failed for fear of being accused of racism. That fear proved deeply entrenched”. There was more.
“Norfolk’s work was eventually honoured with the Orwell Prize, the Paul Foot award and with journalist of the year awards, but not before it had been fiercely disparaged by groups determined to recast the story in terms of Islamophobia. Norfolk’s critics fell silent only when overwhelming evidence emerged in the press, courts and public inquiries that forced the country to confront a deeply rooted pattern of criminal behaviour with a clear ethnic component”. This is the most magnificently crafted smokescreen. And it’s total drivel.
Note the crude linking of “The attackers have form” to criticism of Norfolk’s work exposing grooming gangs. Is there a link? Between Messrs Cathcart and French and that alleged criticism? No. Not the faintest trace of a link. It’s a dead cat. And not a very good one.
Worse, Witherow is effectively telling his audience that Norfolk got it right then, and so whatever he churns out hereafter must also be right. Honestly, Officer, I can’t have taken a wrong turn and gone the wrong way down a one way street, because for the past three years I haven’t taken a wrong turn of any kind. Would that impress a court? Maybe not.
Worst of all, Witherow fails to address even one of the many criticisms made of Norfolk’s attacks. It is almost as if he is unable to do so. He does, of course, tell readers how press non-regulator IPSO has had only minor criticisms of Norfolk’s reportage, but then, as I never tire of reminding the press establishment, IPSO is effectively the same old failed PCC, er, fluid in a differently labelled bottle. It is a sham regulator.
All that the editor of what was once considered a paper of record can say in his defence is that his reporters should be trusted. And to that I say fine - produce trustworthy journalism. Because right now, it can’t be trusted. And so it isn’t. Full stop, end of story.
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