“I had absolutely no reason to believe that these authority figures would lie and deceive over such a disaster.”
This is a man who revels in a lavishly maintained reputation for speaking truth to power, for refusing to kow-tow to vested interests and who, famously, boasts about informing a Prime Minister that he was poised to empty a “bucket of shit” over him in the aftermath of Black Wednesday.
He is, in other words, a man who actively resists believing what “authority figures” say and, like many journalists, presumes that they are at best massaging facts to suit their own agenda and at worst lying until it has been proven otherwise.
And speaking of journalism, every other paper in the country was also in receipt of the agency copy which contained these accusations and allegations by police officers and the odious Tory grandee Sir Irvine Patnick. Every other editor in the country understood that they were allegations and accusations, not facts and as such far from being “The Truth”. Whatever he may claim from the corner he has been backed into, Kelvin Mackenzie understood this too. He also understood that the headline ‘Police Accuse Drunken Fans’, with which The Daily Express accurately reported the same story, would not attract as much attention or controversy as “The Truth.” His hunger for attention, his hubris if you like, saw him knowingly report unchecked allegations as truth, self-serving accusations as fact.
But what is most interesting about the line of apology above is what it says only obliquely. While slavishly swallowing the rancid calumnies of policeman and politician alike, what possible reason did Mackenzie - the man of the people, the champion of the downtrodden, the editor Wot Won It – have to believe that every fan, every family, everybody present at Hillsborough would have to “lie and deceive over such a disaster.”
No other editor on Fleet Street, no other journalist in Britain, described these accusations as facts and the simple, unavoidable truth is that Mackenzie chose to. He says “I too was totally misled.” To whom does the ‘too’ refer? The journalist who wrote the story has recorded his horror at the headline under which it appeared, the agency who filed the original copy upon which the story was based have expressed their shock at the disgusting spin applied. There is no ‘too’, there is no refuge in invented company. Fellow travellers may have subsequently subscribed to the now totally discredited ‘official’ account but they didn’t do it before the bodies of the dead were cold and they did it afterwards only by climbing on to a bandwagon built by Kelvin Mackenzie.
Even now, even after being exposed as having spent 23 years dancing on the graves of children and compounding the misery of the bereaved, he is too wilfully myopic, too caught up in self-regard even to see the true extent and nature of his error. For when he writes that he should have written ‘The Lies’ rather than ‘The Truth’ he shows that he has learned nothing. He should, of course, have written ‘The Accusations’. Everybody else did. And then he should have set his staff the task of finding out whether the accusations were true or false. It would, I suggest, have taken them considerably less than “two decades, 400,000 documents and a two-year inquiry” to do so. But it would have demanded a desire to find out the truth and Mackenzie did not have that. It is this simple fact, more than anything, which will see him remembered not only as the worst kind of human but also as the worst kind of journalist. It says more about him than even his pathetic apology that he will probably find the latter description more hurtful than the first.