Some months ago the Editor of the Daily Mirror published photographs purporting to show British soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners. To anyone with the slightest experience of journalism, action photography or military procedure they were immediately and obviously suspicious. Investigation revealed that they were indeed fakes, but not before they had done enormous damage to the British Army and handed a massive propaganda coup to the zealots of the Islamic world and the enemies within.
Why did the Editor, Piers Morgan, a highly experienced journalist, fall for such an obvious fraud? The answer is not too difficult to discover. Morgan had made a conscious decision to run a massive and virulent anti-war slate in the Mirror in stark contrast to its rival, the Sun. The gamble was that his hunch would prove correct and circulation would rise again. In the event, in spite of the war’s continuing unpopularity, Mirror circulation continued to fall. The photos, when they came, were a gift. They were the justification of Morgan’s gamble and a vindication of his editorial line. So badly did he need them to be authentic that his otherwise shrewd journalistic judgement deserted him. It was false intelligence. Morgan was duly sacked.
On another front an even greater media drama was unfolding. A BBC reporter, on the evidence of the senior scientific intelligence officer, had accused the Government of misrepresenting the case for war by exaggerating (‘sexing up’) a key report. The Hutton Enquiry was convened to assess the accuracy of this hugely damaging accusation. With the main witness dead, apparently by his own hand, Hutton still managed to hear considerable circumstantial evidence which pointed to inadequate Government procedures, the dangerous politicization of the Civil Service and the use of the Head of Joint Intelligence as a collaborator in the presentation of pre-determined Government policy. Nevertheless, the noble lord found in favour of the Government and vigorously against the BBC. Justice is, by tradition, blind. To many, Lord Hutton seemed to think it should be deaf and dumb as well. Heads duly rolled at the BBC from the hapless reporter to the Director General. They had, according to Hutton, got it wrong. Once again false intelligence as a basis for action was the grounds for dismissal.
Fast forward a few months to the Butler Enquiry. Written off in the media as ‘Whitewash No 2’ it was not quite as simple as that. Butler revealed, what many had suspected, that the intelligence was poor, inaccurate, partially presented and, in many cases, plain wrong. Such accurate intelligence as undermined the Prime Minister’s apparent commitment to war was sidelined and proper caveats and questions eliminated from the necessary presentation of absolute certainties. It is clear from the Butler Enquiry that the Head of Joint Intelligence was fully party to this ‘rationalization’ of the case and the Prime Minister’s urgent need for the right evidence to secure a Commons victory and his job.
In essence, the BBC had been right. None of them got their jobs back of course but the Intelligence officer who so fulsomely co-operated with the Prime Minister’s agenda found himself promoted to Head of MI6.
Astonishingly, Butler then concluded that this same intelligence officer, whose work was so flawed and who had demonstrated a disastrous inability to retain his professional objectivity under political pressure, was a good chap and should keep his job.
The Prime Minister, Butler insisted, in spite of accumulating evidence of manipulation of material, acted ‘in good faith’ and, by implication, should keep his job. In the light of this the Prime Minister was able to come to the House, mumble a belated withdrawal of the very reason he gave for going to war and pronounce himself vindicated.
It is an extraordinary situation which should cause profound unease to supporters and opponents of the war alike. The question is no longer simply whether the conflict was right or wrong but rather by what means and on what grounds this nation commits herself and the men and women of her armed services to war.
The evidence is alarming. Civil servants are now highly politicized and the intelligence services deeply compromised in their relationship to both Parliament and the military. The judiciary seems incapable of drawing logical conclusions from the clearest evidence if it is uncomfortable to the Executive. The BBC, never the Government’s fiercest critic, is now muzzled to the point of obsequiousness for the folly of telling the truth. Parliament was ‘gulled’ into voting for a war on the basis of ‘facts’ which now appear to exist only in the messianic certainty of the Prime Minister’s own rectitude. There is, in short, a growing democratic deficit and a disturbing culture of connived deceit.
The Editor of the Daily Mirror acted on false intelligence because he wanted to believe it. The consequences of his errors were serious. He lost his job. In Government, where the fate of nations and the lives of millions are determined, a similar moral code, it seems, does not apply.
It was only a matter of time before fathers hit back against the inequitable decision of the family courts. That they chose do so by an invasion of York Minster during the principal Eucharist at the meeting of the General Synod was less predictable. Fathers groups, apparently, have learned a lot. They have grasped the dynamics of the victim culture and are manipulating it with remarkable success.
The procedure is a simple one. The first step is a change in terminology. Feminists arrogated to themselves the name of a whole sex (as in phrases like ‘what women are demanding’ = ‘what we want’). These fathers have managed a similar linguistic transition: ‘Fathers demand’. And they have successfully portrayed themselves as an injured party. They have demanded the one thing which contemporary society cannot refuse: ‘equality’.
The assault on the General Synod, however, showed an unexpected theological depth. The Church, they believe, has betrayed them. Some, at least, of these dispossessed fathers have grasped that in today’s feminized Church God is a victim too.
Fatherhood is indeed under threat in our society (see The Way we Live Now, ‘The Death of the Father’ p23). These fathers have seen that the problem has been taken to the very throne of heaven.