Two and a half weeks ago, footballer Marcus Rashford warned his followers “Just heard [the Spectator] are planning to run a story on me tomorrow about how I have benefitted commercially in the last 18 months”. Many passed severely adverse comment on the increasingly alt-right publication. Others waited for the article to appear. It did not.
The Speccy still hasn’t published what was assumed to be another mean-spirited hit piece. And then yesterday came the story - not yet retracted - that the magazine had effectively been hoaxed. Punked. Duped. Not only that, but suckered at the highest level - right up to, and including, its routinely dishonest editor Fraser Nelson. You can read it HERE.
Fraser Nelson - saying nothing ...
It was claimed that the Speccy “had launched a new enterprise, Wokeyleaks, heralded as ‘A regular column by an anonymous whistle-blower operating deep within the Social Justice Movement’, asking for leaks of ‘classified information’ about ‘woke culture’”. The writer to whom the Rashford info was pitched called themselves “Edward Snowflake they/them”. Laugh? I thought I’d never start. But there was more. Rather a lot more.
... as is his boss
What was pitched concerned “Marcus Rashford and the talent agency he worked with at the time, Roc Nation”. But the hoaxer stresses at the outset “nothing in any of my emails was true, and I have had no contact with Roc Nation, Marcus Rashford, or anyone connected to them”. Yet it appears that the Speccy swallowed it whole. Almost.
No racism at this mag, though
After some delay, word came back “I'm so sorry this is taking so long to make happen. We've been waiting for Fraser [Nelson, Spectator Editor] to read and approve. He finally has today and suddenly he's extremely excited”, and including this gem: “Spec doesn't really do investigative stuff so this is all a bit new to them”. Journalism R Not Us.
Then came a conference call with Nelson and Freddy Gray, including this snippet of conversation: “‘But look if you were actually a wind-up, I think we would have worked it out by now’ - Fraser Nelson … ‘If you are, hats off to you!’ - Freddy Gray”. And that call allegedly took place AFTER the Speccy had told Rashford they were going to publish.
OK, you might say, this is just made up to fill the void caused by the non-appearance of the Speccy’s hit piece. But here a problem enters: the claim that a supposedly reputable publication would get to the brink of running a story, including notifying the subject, without first standing it up, could be construed as defamatory to its reputation.
So the Speccy might be expected to have the claims taken down. It hasn’t happened. Nor have either Andrew Neil or Fraser Nelson commented, not even to dismiss the claims as “Just something on Twitter”. And for as long as they decline to comment, the void will be filled by their critics, not least Owen Jones, whose response was “This is catastrophically humiliating for The Spectator”. LBC host James O’Brien was equally scathing.
“This is like Inception, no idea what's real & what isn't. But it's a rip-roaring read & the suggestion that The Spectator is populated by race-baiting imbeciles is, obviously, all too plausible”. But, as Mic Wright concluded, “The Spectator will take its usual approach to anything embarrassing to it which is to pretend it’s never happened. And Fraser Nelson, despite his long history of trafficking and enabling far right talking points, will continue to be welcome on every mainstream news show”. All too predictable. That’s not good enough.
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