Monday, 25 August 2008

On a Disgusting Ploy by Liberal Democrats

On the last day of the Olympics, the day of the handover to London, the Liberal Democrats sought to make a news story out of some stock Visit London video footage. This video footage included a brief glimpse of a notorious "modern art" work in an art gallery.

The Liberal Democrat ploy here was entirely artifical. The video footage was of dozens of scenes in London, including the art gallery, and the glimpse was of an art work, not of the subject. The video had been used for years without complaint.

(The art work in question, by Marcus Harvey, is itself of rather bad taste. It is of Myra Hindley, who tortured and killed several children. I wouldn't want to ban it, though I wouldn't want to see it either. It hung (and may well still hang) in a posh London art gallery.)

The BBC then fell for this "news story" completely, see here, even sending out an email news alert. Such news alerts are usually reserved for important deaths or the results of elections and major trials.

The news email said simply "The Liberal Democrats criticise the use of a portrait of murderer Myra Hindley in a video shown at a London 2012 event in Beijing".

(So it appears the initiative came from the Liberal Democrats, but even if not, they capitialised on it with all the PR savvy they could muster.)

No doubt the BBC news team thought that if they rushed the "news story" out it could have some desired anti-Boris effect. As it was, Boris commented wisely (when he shouldn't have to needed to comment at all), and - tellingly - the story then quickly slid down the BBC news site. One would never have thought it had been a "news story" worthy of an email news alert an hour or two before.

It was, in fact, a completely invented non-story, a mild example of what Nick Davies has called "Flat Earth News".

The Hindley image is powerful. It really should not be used by the Liberal Democrats for any cynical political purpose. Indeed it was, in my opinion, a disgusting ploy for them to do so. Disgust is a strong word, but think for one moment about the ultimate atrocious circumstances which give the power to that image.

And it is sad, but predictable, that the BBC news team tried to give the story such a boost on such a day.

But I will go further.

The video footage merely contained a brief glimpse of an art work in a London gallery. There was actually nothing wrong with featuring it at all.

It is a Good Thing that such "modern art" can be seen in this country, even if one thinks the stuff is in extremely bad taste (and poor quality), and such liberal and democratic freedoms should be celebrated.

Even by Liberal Democrats.


Darkwinter said...

Could you possibly clarify something for me which I may have missed/misread?

In what way is this a ploy purely by the Liberal Democrats? Certainly I've read that they commented on the video, but so did Boris and Widdecombe. Is it that the Lib Dems were the first to comment? Or brought it to the attention of the BBC?

I entirely agree with your position on the video itself, and indeed with your position on the comments made in regard to it, but I'd just like a little clarification on the source of your title.

Jack of Kent said...

Good question, darkwinter.

The BBC News Alert email stated:

"The Liberal Democrats criticise the use of a portrait of murderer Myra Hindley in a video shown at a London 2012 event in Beijing.

For more details:"

Only later did the BBC add the other condemnations to the story.

Moreover, the Lib Dem spokesman was quoted at length in dozens of follow-on stories.

Darkwinter said...

Ah, thanks for that Jack. Seems I simply caught the story late-on. I see even Downing Street are joining the party now - though possibly out of political necessity rather than anything else.

What do you think the Lib Dems were attempting to achieve here? Just a bit of disruption? A reputation for misguided moral crusade?