The Sunday Times was once a great newspaper. It has had some great editors, and some very good ones – you may be surprised to learn that I include Andrew Neil in that. Whether you agreed with them or not, virtually all of its editors for 200 years have been formidable intellectuals. Until now, as the apotheosis of Murdochian corporatism, it is “edited” by a genuine intellectual featherweight, Mr Martin Ivens.
When called out on the lie that David Miranda had been arrested at Heathrow after visiting Snowden in Moscow – a lie crucial to the fabric of deceit they had twisted into a story to justify the “snoopers’ charter” – Ivens did not apologise or explain, he merely had the lie excised from the online edition with no explanation. The print edition was already out, and despite the fact that the online “story” which had already been full of holes, now made no sense at all, they continued with it.
I had produced an undeniable (and undenied, anywhere) analysis of why their story had to be a lie, pointing out the confusion of agents and officers, that neither the Russians nor the Chinese have killed an MI6 officer for 50 years, and that the Russians know who almost all the MI6 officers are anyway.
A gentleman called William Douglas sent my analysis to Mr Ivers, asking him for his views. Ivers replied:
Dear Mr Douglas,
: I think you should address your remarks to
: 10 Downing St. If you think
: they have lied to us then so be it.
: Yours faithfully
That really is it. The editor of a once great newspaper does not think it is any business of his whether he publishes lies or not. He does not consider that there was any responsibility on himself or his journalists to find out whether the story was true before they published it. They did not attempt to take any other views or do any checking. And now they claim that what the Sunday Times publishes is not the responsibility of the Sunday Times, but rather it is the responsibility of government.
When the correspondent responsible for this disgraceful “story”, Tom Harper, gave his car crash CNN interview, I did not read too much into it. He managed to discredit his story across the mainstream media of the entire world, except of course in the UK, where it was covered up. It provoked great hilarity. For me, it wasn’t actually fun, it was like watching a child dismantle a jellyfish with a beach spade. The jellyfish is not only helpless, it does not even know it is being dismembered. Mr Harper may have the constituents of a brain, but they are distributed around his wobbly torso in disconnected nodules.
Harper’s astonishing admission that “We just publish what we believe to be the position of the British government” caused all of CNN’s audience to rock back in their chairs. But I just took it that a not very bright young man was misspeaking on TV. He did however say almost precisely the same thing twice, in response to two different questions.
But what we have now from Martin Ivens, in his response to Mr Douglas, is confirmation from the Sunday Times editor himself of exactly the same line. It is not the editor’s responsibility whether it is the truth or not, he just publishes what the government tells him to publish. The responsibility for what the Sunday Times publishes lies with the British government.
It is not just that Ivens is a lightbrain with zilch professional pride and a disgrace to his profession. He is in fact totally redundant, and his proprietor Mr Murdoch is sharp enough to realise he actually does not need to spend £200,000 a year on a Sunday Times editor. Software now exists which can put the government’s words straight into the paper without Mr Latham and Mr Ivens having to put their input of – actually absolutely zero – into the process.
Murdoch could then give the gentleman who cleans the toilets a raise of £1 an hour and entitle him the Editor. In fact, perhaps that may be how Martin Ivens got the job, as he seems to have no other qualifications. Oh, I do apologise – I realise I just gratuitously insulted the gentleman who cleans the toilets, who at least has a function.