Perfect article from Roy Greenslade (whose work is worth browsing through for more great examples of analysis of the national press) to illustrate not only how events such as the Bloody Sunday killings, and the wider 'Troubles', have undermined positive representations of the Army upon which much of our collective British identity had been built, but also flak...
Before reading the article, ask yourselves which papers you might expect to be hostile to calls for British soldiers to be prosecuted for what is now legally recognised as murder of unarmed civilians; which, if any, might be supportive of this call? (If you want to get really sophisticated, one of the two most likely, as a left-wing leaning paper, to support calls for prosecution gave little coverage to the story - perhaps ever since they took the brave decision to campaign against the invasion of Iraq, and got incessant flak from much of the media, they no longer have the will to take up controversial causes? Clue: Piers Morgan was their editor, sacked as sales fell and for the scandal around a doctored photo they used on the front page)
Chomsky's propaganda model says that you can predict how the media will react to certain types of stories, with five filters dredging out the content that might be critical of our ruling elites (reflecting Marxist theory). Switching to film, remember Hennebelle's argument that even when we do get seemingly counter-hegemonic political films, they don't actually really critique the system, but rather argue that it will be fine if we just weed out the 'bad apples'.
Anyway, back to Roy...
Bloody Sunday: How the press greeted Saville's report
The prime minister said sorry for Bloody Sunday yesterday. Through gritted teeth the former head of the army, General Mike Jackson, also apologised.Unsurprisingly, given its content, the story of Lord Saville's report exonerating the 13 victims of 1 Para on that terrible day in 1972 dominated the television news throughout the day.But how have today's newspapers reacted? All the serious papers have given it big front-page treatment with plenty of coverage inside.The Times (splash: Cameron seeks closure as he says sorry for Bloody Sunday) carries five full pages plus an opinion piece by Danny Finkelstein, a leader and a clever Peter Brookes cartoon.The Daily Telegraph (front: Cameron apology for Bloody Sunday) gives it four pages inside, a comment by former chief of general staff Sir Richard Dannatt, a leader and cartoon.The Independent (front: Truth and reconciliation) carries 10 pages, which includes commentaries by Robert Fisk and the Irish actor James Nesbitt. In its Viewspaper section, there is an article by Henry Patterson,a leader and cartoon.The Guardian (front: 38 years on, justice at last) devotes six pages inside plus an opinion piece by Jonathan Freedland, a leader and a cartoon.The Financial Times carries a page one picture with a cross-ref to a page inside plus a piece by John Lloyd and a leader.In terms of quantity - and I'll come back to the content in a moment - this was to be expected. The papers' treatment reflects the seriousness of the topic and therefore fulfil a public interest.Now let's look at the populars, starting with the Daily Mail. Its page one (True face of our soldiers) is a rather convoluted "take" on Saville, seeing it through the prism of deaths of troops in Afghanisation. There are six further pages inside, which include a Max Hastings comment. There's also a leader.The Daily Express has front page room only for a blurb and a mere two pages inside plus a short leader.The Sun manages a couple of front page paragraphs turning inside to just one page, plus a leader. The Daily Mirror doesn't even think it merits page one treatment, giving it two inside pages and a leader. Mind you, that's a great deal more than the Daily Star, which carries only page two story.OK, what do the papers think? There is a clear theme in most of the leading articles. Though accepting of Saville's findings and sympathetic to David Cameron's response to them, they wish to draw a line under the affair. There should be no legal action against the soldiers who murdered 13 unarmed innocents.The Times, acknowledging the lack of justification for the murders, concludes: "To prosecute individual soldiers would only compound injustice."The Telegraph's leader headline is unequivocal: Prosecutions would be in no one's interest. It says: "Without diminishing the suffering of the bereaved or seeking to exonerate any of those criticised, it cannot be in the interests of the victims, their relatives, the people of Northern Ireland or of the United Kingdom to pursue this through the courts. This tragic chapter should now be closed."The Independent agrees, arguing that "it would be best" if the Northern Ireland DPP "let matters rest, and avoids wearisome legal proceedings which might well not result in convictions. The Saville report cleared the dead of Bloody Sunday and said that what the Paras did was unjustified."It should suffice if dignified expressions of regret are voiced, healing efforts made and perhaps compensation offered... Since these are finally on offer, a start can be made to consigning Bloody Sunday to history."The FT, in its leader, Truth at last about Bloody Sunday, agrees about compensation. Contending that Saville's inquiry "elided an inquest with a prosecution", it says: "The lapse of 38 years, make prosecutions problematic... For now, the UK state has apologised. The Parachute Regiment should follow, as should compensation for these unlawful killings."But The Guardian alone, in Derry's moment of truth, urges prosecutions.If it kills its citizens, the state and its servants must answer for their actions. Saville's findings are part of that process. But the cases must also be properly examined by the prosecution authorities.
If the evidence permits, which at this distance it may not, those who killed the innocent in Derry in 1972 should be prosecuted. No amount of political convenience should be permitted to stand in the way of justice.The Sun takes a polar opposite view: "Nothing will be achieved... by dragging soldiers into court 38 years on. We emptied the prisons of IRA murderers as the price of reconciliation after the Good Friday Agreement. How could we jail squaddies after freeing IRA killers?"The Express is also against legal action: "British soldiers must always expect to be held to higher standards than terrorists. But it is difficult to see how bringing criminal prosecutions against the retired paratroopers involved could possibly be in the public interest."Surprisingly, the Mirror is agnostic on this key question. It restricts itself to saying that "the atrocity is a horror story which had to be told.The Mail is the most critical of the report, saying "we are slightly mystified" as to how Saville can be so certain that the Paras shot first, without warning or provocation.It complains about the cost of the inquiry and its longevity but it does not deal with the rightness or otherwise of prosecuting the soldiers.Its columnist, Max Hastings, is even more critical in his polemic, This grossly misguided excavation of the past. "Only Britain," he writes, "could have been so foolish as to allow an inquiry into 14 selected deaths during the Troubles which killed 3,526 people to become a 12-year black comic saga which has cost almost £200m."He continues: "It may be true that this report offers an approximation of the truth, but it would be absurd to place unlimited faith in findings based on evidence gathered so long after the event."And he concludes: "If there is now any hint of prosecutions, there will be just public outrage, when hundreds of Republican and Protestant killers walk free, and some indeed draw pay as MPs."David Cameron has responded to Saville with a fine combination of honesty, dignity and regret. We should all hope that this tragic fragment of history now gets decent burial."