The long-overdue answers about police conduct during the appalling Hillsborough disaster have captured the media, and particularly the red-top, imagination. It’s small wonder- the tragedy is ingrained into our national psyche to a degree unmatched by any comparable event. Understandably, the families of the 96 have campaigned unrelentingly for justice, but the fascination extends beyond them through British working class and middle class culture.
Why? Well, the images shown on Grandstand and subsequently burned into the brains of a generation probably have something to do with it, as do the frankly peerless communication skills of bereaved father Trevor Hicks- a man of colossal dignity and humbling demeanour. For me, though, there is a deeper fear helping to drive this. Hillsborough laid bare just how easy it is for propagandists to manipulate the media. To an extent which only now becomes completely clear, publicity material and records of the event have been doctored and re-doctored to an extent which can only be described as Orwellian.
The results of this enquiry are on one level to be taken at face value: a much needed step on the journey towards transparency and justice following a black day in British history. However, on another, they should come as a warning. If this level of spin was possible back in the hard-nosed 80’s, think how vulnerable a post-Leveson press, facing an over-swelled PR industry, might be.