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Hillsborough was covered up -- official
September 12, 2012 10:28 AM   Subscribe

On 15 April, 1989, 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death at the Hillsborough Stadium, in what was the worst stadium disaster in British football history. At the time and for years afterward, the blame for the disasters was laid squarely on the supporters themselves, who supposedly were drunk hooligans, smeared and slandered both by the South Yorkshire police and the media, especially The Sun. Now, twentythree years after the disaster prime minister David Cameron has formally apologised for the coverup.

Speaking in the Commons on Wednesday, the prime minister said the findings in the report were "deeply distressing". He said: "With the weight of the new evidence in the report it's right for me today as prime minister to make a proper apology to the families of the 96 … On behalf of the government, and indeed of our country, I am profoundly sorry that this double injustice has been left uncorrected for so long."

The apology is the outcome of the latest and most in depth inquiry into the disaster, done by the Hillsborough Independent Panel, which has today released its final report. The Independent Panel itself was the result of years of pressure by the families of the victims as well as Liverpool supporters in general, who had never accepted the findings of the first inquiry into the disaster or the attempts to blame the victims themselves for their deaths.

The Sun has also apologised for its role in the coverup, but whether that will make much of an impression in Liverpool is doubtful, where many football fans and their families have never forgiven the paper for it.

The Guardian's coverage of the Hillsborough disaster.
The Hillsborough Family Support Group
Hillsborough previously.
posted by MartinWisse (80 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
.

(Fuck the Sun.)
posted by kmz at 10:39 AM on September 12, 2012 [10 favorites]


The Sun has also apologised for its role in the coverup,

Fuck you.

I hope everyone involved in the coverup burns with shame forever.

(The Beatles made me love Liverpool when I was a kid, although I didn't visit until a couple of years ago, whereupon I fell in love with the city for real.)
posted by rtha at 10:42 AM on September 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Meanwhile @kelvinmackenzie (who is most certainly not that one is having a busy day on Twitter.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 10:47 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Billy Bragg: Scousers Never Buy the Sun

Here in the US, this was something I didn't even know existed until a couple of years ago. I think the boycott struck me the most. What an amazing -- continuing -- response to a horrible, horrible series of events.
posted by Madamina at 10:50 AM on September 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


Alexei Sayle on Why Liverpudlians Don't Buy The Sun.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:50 AM on September 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


.
posted by lalochezia at 10:53 AM on September 12, 2012


A good step forward, but still some way to go.
posted by Jehan at 10:54 AM on September 12, 2012


I thought I had said this in the previous Hillsborough thread but I guess I didn't. Even as somebody on the other side of the Atlantic, I had a recurring nightmares about this incident.
For the longest time, if a concert was general admission, I'd always stand as far back as I could and still sometimes feel claustrophobic in crowds.

All that said, I hope those still living get some bit of...something ("closure" and "satisfaction" sure aren't right) from this apology.

And I hope people keep not buying the Sun. (And not just because they should listen to Billy Bragg...which they should)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:57 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I saw this on Reddit today. It's from the team store for Liverpool's local rivals Everton and is a very classy.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:58 AM on September 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


Aren't the Murdochs supposed to be going to jail for breaking into peoples' cell phones?
posted by bukvich at 10:59 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Huh. I wonder who will be apologizing in twenty years for the cover-ups, forcing sick people off benefits and so on that Cameron is doing now. It's like an infinite cycle - government assholes protect themselves while they're in office and then a long time down the road someone else, whose fault it wasn't, who only stand to gain politically by making the apology - that person will stand up and apologize. This kind of "apology" is basically a get-out-of-jail-free card for politicians - you can cover up and lie and cheat and hurt people in the now, knowing full well that your party will be vindicated two decades later when someone pretends to be all "brave" about apologizing.

Stop fucking up right now today, stop lying today, stop hurting people today.
posted by Frowner at 11:04 AM on September 12, 2012 [31 favorites]


Aren't the Murdochs supposed to be going to jail for breaking into peoples' cell phones?
The prosecutions are only just getting started, and no Murdoch is among them. But they've shown the culture of New International only too well.
posted by Jehan at 11:05 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


41 of 96 could have been saved.
116 of 164 statements were altered to make the police look good.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:05 AM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't normally care much for Liverpool FC, or its supporters, but the Hillsborough incident was tragic, the cover-up disgraceful, and the apology long-deserved.

You'll Never Walk Alone
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:12 AM on September 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


"The Deaths of more than 50 Liverpool football supporters at Hillsborough in 1989 was undeniably a greater tragedy than the single death, however horrible, of Mr Bigley; but that is no excuse for Liverpool’s failure to acknowledge, even to this day, the part playing in the disaster by drunken fans at the back of the crowd who mindlessly tried to fight their way into the ground that Saturday afternoon. The police became convenient scapegoat, and the Sun newspaper a whipping-boy for daring, albeit in a tasteless fashion, to hint at the wider causes of the incident."
-- Boris Johnson (current Mayor of London), The Spectator, 16th October 2004
posted by inigo2 at 11:21 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think Boris Johnson did actually wrote that - it was the despicable Simon Heffer in The Spectator, which was at the time edited by the aforesaid blond mayoral prick.
posted by bebrogued at 11:26 AM on September 12, 2012


I was expecting the report to be horrifying, of course, but I really didn't expect the extent of the doctoring of police statements. Bloody hell. Also, my best friend was there that day, with the Forest fans. He wrote this piece for the Mirror.

Justice for the 96.
posted by bebrogued at 11:31 AM on September 12, 2012


The Fleet Street Fox wrote a good article on it
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:32 AM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't think Boris Johnson did actually wrote that - it was the despicable Simon Heffer in The Spectator, which was at the time edited by the aforesaid blond mayoral prick.

Interesting. I guess everyone attributes it to Johnson bc he was the editor, and the one left holding the bag when someone had to apologize Liverpool. I've learned something new today, thanks!
posted by inigo2 at 11:50 AM on September 12, 2012


Johnson did commission that awful piece though. In his apology, excerpted from The Spectator, Boris Johnson writes
I wanted a piece on it, not because I wanted to insult the people of Liverpool, but because I believe we have a serious problem in that we tend these days at every opportunity to blame the state, and to seek redress from the state, when things go wrong in our lives. Yes, it was tasteless to make this point in the context of Ken Bigley's death
It was not publicised that Heffer was the author, because editorial pieces in The Spectator don't have bylines. But it's worth reading that apology if you want to get the measure of Mr Johnson. An obnoxious snob.
posted by ambrosen at 12:05 PM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


This however does nothing to change the fact that this kind of smear & coverup technique is still Standard Operating Procedure for UK policing.
posted by srboisvert at 12:07 PM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yet another example of the glorious tradition of the British police reacting to tragedy by immediately smearing the victim or victims, and vomiting lies into the ever-willing mouth of the press. See also Jean de Menezes, Ian Tomlinson, etc. It's become very evident that the immediate, default response to any death where the police bear some responsibility is to start falsifying statements, doctoring documentation, and releasing lies to the press.

Also: fuck Kelvin MacKenzie, essentially a bag of skin filled with pus.
posted by reynir at 12:09 PM on September 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, that's what I was thinking earlier today: Cameron really does do official apologies well and thoughtfully, but like as Frowner said up above, who's going to be apologizing next and for what? I think we can all make some informed guesses.
posted by bebrogued at 12:10 PM on September 12, 2012


fearfulsymmetry: The Fleet Street Fox wrote a good article on it

Holy crap what a ringing accusation. Read that page, puts things into proper perspective it does.
posted by JHarris at 12:12 PM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


It would be justice of a kind to see some of the families of the 96 camp outside former MP Irvine Patnick's house and follow him wherever he went, in complete silence, just holding up photos of those who died.

It would be justice of a kind to if his door went off the hinges at 5am tomorrow, and the police dragged him out under arrest for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

One of the sad things about the time it's taken for the truth to come out is that some of those involved in the conspiracy to cover-up can never be brought to justice, unless you're a believer in the afterlife.
posted by reynir at 12:18 PM on September 12, 2012


Err, 'justice of a kind too', even. Sorry. Angry.

Irvine Patnick. Calls to strip him of his knighthood.
posted by reynir at 12:20 PM on September 12, 2012


The cover of the first edition of When Saturday Comes after the disaster.
posted by asterix at 12:28 PM on September 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I didn't think I was the person to make this post but was going to if no one else did. It looked like the Mirror had some decent coverage that my nonexistant FPP was going to reference.
posted by hoyland at 12:56 PM on September 12, 2012


How do I join that club? You know, the one where, if you make a mistake, commit a crime, whatever, instead of getting arrested and going to jail what happens is a decade or two passes and then a retraction/correction comes out and an apology is issued, and that's it. Did I go to the wrong school, should I attend a particular church, switch my brand of beer? How do I get in?
posted by benito.strauss at 12:57 PM on September 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


Speaking of When Saturday Comes, the editorial they wrote after the incident, seen on the sidebar next to the cover asterix links to, is still as good a statement as any.

The real culprit isn't the police, who were covering up for their masters. The real culprit was the total disdain in which football clubs held their customers at the time. The layout of the stadiums and the treatment of the fans and the shameful disregard for safety practically DEMANDED a Hillsborough, and if it hadn't happened there, it probably would have somewhere else; and in fact did happen elsewhere, AND EVEN AT HILLSBOROUGH, on a lesser but still frightening scale, before that terrible day. My wife was a Liverpool supporter then, and had spend numerous afternoons on the terraces at Anfield, and she, like every football supporter in the country, knew exactly what kind of hell those people were put through, and knew as well that it could easily have been her on another day.

In a way I feel sorry for the cops, the ordinary cops, who were faced with a situation that was completely out of their control, with no leadership, no clue, no training, no facilities, no possible way out. The real story that day was the complete absence, the complete LACK OF INTEREST, in any kind of intelligent crowd management. They put them into pens; they put them into the WRONG pens, and no one, not just on the police force but no one in the country with any position of authority, had any idea what to do. They're just animals, aren't they? Until you see their faces extruding through the chain link.

Even those cops who falsified their reports were following orders. I blame the order-givers, not the order-takers.

All the rest is piling on. The politicians and the newspapers had their scapegoat, and they played it for advantage in a political climate where demonizing football supporters, and Scousers, the working classes, and pretty much anyone they could get away with demonizing, was absolutely required. The scripts were already written for them. The Thatcherite program demanded villains, after all. Someone must be to blame for the collapse in decent society, and it couldn't be US; not the managerial classes who ran everything then and still run everything today.

MacKenzie sold a lot of papers all right. He's the one I hate the most. Maybe he'll get what's coming to him finally.
posted by Fnarf at 1:06 PM on September 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


In a way I feel sorry for the cops, the ordinary cops, who were faced with a situation that was completely out of their control, with no leadership, no clue, no training, no facilities, no possible way out.

Yeah, as Liverpool fans were trying to get over the fence and onto the ground because the life was being crushed out of them, I can remember those 'ordinary cops' beating them back -- back to their deaths.

So fuck 'em. Fuck 'em where they eat. Because *no* decent human being would react like that to what was unfolding before their very eyes.

And may they live with those lives on their conscience until they eventually rot in hell.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:29 PM on September 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


These weren't "ordinary cops"; they were the battle-hardened veterans of Thatcher's war against the unions. South Yorkshire Police had spent years on the front line against the miners. I won't say none of them were good guys, but they were steeped in a violent paramilitary "us vs them" approach to policing.
posted by nowonmai at 1:45 PM on September 12, 2012 [13 favorites]


You'll Never Walk Alone.
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 2:22 PM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think it’s important to keep in mind the climate of the time. Football hooliganism was on the rise in the 70s and 80s, and the stadium modifications reflect that. The fence around the pitch was built to try to deter pitch invasions. The fences between sections were built so that a team’s supporters were limited in their lateral movement and couldn’t wander over to a section reserved for the fans of other teams. Without those fences, you don’t have Hillsborough.

The Taylor Report illustrates just how inevitable Hillsborough seemed when viewed through this lens. By 1989, law enforcement had spent at least a decade thinking of fans as a foaming throng to be guarded against, instead of individual human beings whose safety they were obligated to ensure. Every crowd control decision seemed to have only hooliganism in mind, not fan safety, and often anti-hooliganism measures (like the fences) were taken explicitly at the expense of fan safety. Those sorts of decisions are not made by “ordinary cops.”

So I find it very hard to dismiss “ordinary cops” as horrible human beings when, in fact, this mentality permeated the whole chain of command. These are the same “ordinary cops” who, faced with radio silence from their superiors, decided to aid in the disorganized rescue efforts. The interim report of the Taylor Inquiry said as much:
Despite the initial lack of leadership, many officers did all they humanly could to rescue and revive the victims. Many supporters who gave evidence paid tribute to these efforts.
This is based on the account of supporters, not South Yorkshire Police.

Of the alterations made to the initial accounts of police, one kind is particularly relevant. Many police accounts referred to “chaos” in the stadium in the aftermath of the crushing, and to the fact that nobody was giving orders over the radios or the PA system. The references to chaos were removed outright; the references to radio silence were altered to say that orders were being given over radios, but they couldn’t be understood. SYP claimed they were editing these accounts to remove opinion and focus only on fact, but it turns out they were removing facts and inserting lies. Those edits were not made by “ordinary cops.”

It is the job of an “ordinary cop” to perform the task they’ve been asked to perform. It is the job of that cop’s superiors to know what the fuck they’re doing with regard to crowd control, and to ensure that those ordinary cops can talk to one another and to their bosses so that they can respond quickly in cases like these. Failures of logistics cost lives. Failures of operations cost lives. Those failures do not fall on ordinary cops.
posted by savetheclocktower at 2:22 PM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is also the job of an ordinary cop to act on the facts as they appear to them within their own knowledge. Policemen are not soldiers, not only do they have no duty to unthinkingly obey orders, they have an active duty not to.
posted by howfar at 2:43 PM on September 12, 2012


Policemen are not soldiers, not only do they have no duty to unthinkingly obey orders, they have an active duty not to.

Soldiers don't have that duty either, in point of fact.
posted by Etrigan at 2:50 PM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


But in the absence of leadership in a chaotic situation, people lose their heads. You would have done no better. The fault lies above.

Soldiers don't have that duty either, in point of fact.

Uh-huh.
posted by Fnarf at 2:58 PM on September 12, 2012


> It is also the job of an ordinary cop to act on the facts as they appear to them within their own knowledge. Policemen are not soldiers, not only do they have no duty to unthinkingly obey orders, they have an active duty not to.

This I don't deny. But reading over the Taylor Report I found just as many instances of officers ignoring orders, or acting in spite of the absence of orders, or generally raising hell (e.g., "you need to open this gate or else people are gonna die") as instances in which officers were abusive or callous or oblivious to the horror that was going on inside those pens.

Hillsborough was largely a failure of crowd control, which means it was the failure of South Yorkshire Police as an organization. But that doesn't mean we need to demonize every individual police officer at the stadium that day. To believe that every officer on the ground was a horrible human being is no better than to believe that every Liverpool supporter was a drunken hooligan.
posted by savetheclocktower at 3:02 PM on September 12, 2012


The fault lies above.

The duty of a police officer, as a matter of morality and law, is to act reasonably on the knowledge they have available to them at the time. Many officers at Hillsborough failed in that duty. They then either engaged in or allowed a cover up of that failure.

You would have done no better.

Then it's a good job I didn't take a job where I assumed the responsibility of doing better, isn't it?

To believe that every officer on the ground was a horrible human being is no better than to believe that every Liverpool supporter was a drunken hooligan

Well, it is probably a little better, actually. Police failures caused Hillsborough, not drunk Liverpool fans. But I do understand and accept the broader point you are trying to make. And good people can do bad things in trying times, as any war-zone will show. But there are reasons for every wrong we each commit, and yet we must each bear responsibility for those wrongs anyway. I'm not in the business of condemnation, but I don't believe that failures of command excuse individual police violence or callousness anymore than I believe sink estates excuse muggings. Explanations and justifications are not equivalent.
posted by howfar at 3:14 PM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


> I'm not in the business of condemnation, but I don't believe that failures of command excuse individual police violence or callousness anymore than I believe sink estates excuse muggings. Explanations and justifications are not equivalent.

That's fine. By no means am I trying to excuse the actions of individuals. Any cops that were violent or callous absolutely deserve punishment for that, and the fact that they escaped that punishment is (proportionally) as unjust as the fact that David Duckenfield escaped his punishment. And if I seemed to imply otherwise, then I wasn't expressing myself very well.

I'll just put it this way: even if no individual officer on the grounds had been callous or violent, Hillsborough still would have happened, because all the decisions that caused it — putting up fences, removing anti-crush barriers, assigning Liverpool supporters to the smaller end, not delaying the match, not directing fans away from Pens 3 and 4 — were failures of planning and operations. Part of me worries, probably irrationally, that we'll lose sight of that lesson if we focus on individual acts of mean police offers.
posted by savetheclocktower at 3:34 PM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


My husband was there.

We do not sell The Sun.

posted by triggerfinger at 3:37 PM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't think we disagree, savetheclocktower. I was sat with a Scouse work-mate today, though, and it just reminded me how truly is a raw wound for many people in and from Liverpool. I can understand how many don't feel inclined toward forgiveness, or even understanding, of any of the police involved. But your point that we should focus our energies on dealing with the people and institutions that were fundamentally to blame is well taken.
posted by howfar at 3:42 PM on September 12, 2012


The Taylor Report illustrates just how inevitable Hillsborough seemed when viewed through this lens. By 1989, law enforcement had spent at least a decade thinking of fans as a foaming throng to be guarded against, instead of individual human beings whose safety they were obligated to ensure. Every crowd control decision seemed to have only hooliganism in mind, not fan safety, and often anti-hooliganism measures (like the fences) were taken explicitly at the expense of fan safety. Those sorts of decisions are not made by “ordinary cops.”

It's horrible and tragic that Hillsborough had to happen for that system to change and individual safety be addressed. What about Burnden Park in 1946, the Ibrox in 1971, or Valley Parade in 1985? You'd think Heysel would have prompted a rethink about stadiums and fences, but nothing was done.

It wasn't until Hillsborough and the crush and the 96.

I know it's not really Thatcher's fault, but I'll lay a lot of the blame at her feet because her government treated football fans like they were all hooligans and with the same disdain she had for the unions. I fully expected the Hillsborough files to remain secret until her death, and I'm happy we finally have the truth. I haven't had a chance to read the documents yet, and I know they will be damning for South Yorkshire and Sheffield Wednesday, but I'm very happy that the 96 are finally getting some justice.
posted by kendrak at 4:28 PM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I read the Observer article linked in the 20th anniversary MeFi post, and it's a hard read. One of the hardest things I've read. Stories from people who are there. But it needs to be read. Because I see about the police and I think "hey, I might have done things just as wrong", and I'm not doing their job, but one day I might have to save someone's life by breaking the rules I'm meant to be following, and that's what those police didn't do.
posted by ambrosen at 4:30 PM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


On the ordinary cops taking an active part in the cover-up, from the new report, p.25, paras 148-9:
  • A further document records a meeting in Sheffield of Police Federation members on the morning of the publication of the controversial story in The Sun. The Police Federation Secretary, Mr Middup, confirmed that ‘putting our side of the story over to the press and media’ had been his priority. He told the meeting that the Chief Constable had stated that ‘the truth could not come from him’ but he had given the Police Federation a ‘free hand’ and his support.

  • At the meeting police officers repeated many of the allegations published in the media. The Chief Constable joined the meeting and advised that the SYP case had to be pulled together and given to the Inquiry. A ‘defence’ had to be prepared and a ‘rock solid story’ presented. He believed that the Force would be ‘exonerated’ by the Taylor Inquiry and considered that ‘blame’ should be directed towards ‘drunken ticketless individuals’.
  • posted by Abiezer at 4:41 PM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


    It's horrible and tragic that Hillsborough had to happen for that system to change and individual safety be addressed. What about Burnden Park in 1946, the Ibrox in 1971, or Valley Parade in 1985? You'd think Heysel would have prompted a rethink about stadiums and fences, but nothing was done.
    ...
    I know it's not really Thatcher's fault, but I'll lay a lot of the blame at her feet because her government treated football fans like they were all hooligans and with the same disdain she had for the unions.


    Wasn't Thatcher's ID card scheme in response to Heysel? If everyone's got an ID card, the structural dangers of the grounds won't matter?

    One thing I'm curious about is the extent that the organising against ID cards and Hillsborough contributed to it taking another 20 years before ID cards came close to happening. One can only assume that if Thatcher had brought in ID cards for football, they would have been brought in in general.
    posted by hoyland at 5:05 PM on September 12, 2012


    I read the Observer article linked in the 20th anniversary MeFi post, and it's a hard read. One of the hardest things I've read. Stories from people who are there. But it needs to be read. Because I see about the police and I think "hey, I might have done things just as wrong", and I'm not doing their job, but one day I might have to save someone's life by breaking the rules I'm meant to be following, and that's what those police didn't do.

    Thank you for posting that. I had not seen that article. My god, it is heartbreaking.
    posted by triggerfinger at 5:44 PM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


    . x 96
    May their families find peace.


    It's like an infinite cycle - government assholes protect themselves while they're in office and then a long time down the road someone else, whose fault it wasn't, who only stand to gain politically by making the apology - that person will stand up and apologize. This kind of "apology" is basically a get-out-of-jail-free card for politicians - you can cover up and lie and cheat and hurt people in the now, knowing full well that your party will be vindicated two decades later when someone pretends to be all "brave" about apologizing.


    This for truth. It's not the grunts on the street that need to be nailed, it's the supervisors and politicians that promote a climate where this stuff can happen.
    posted by BlueHorse at 8:30 PM on September 12, 2012


    From the Observer piece:
    Perhaps the most important thing Hillsborough taught me is honesty. There is so much about 15 April 1989 that is wrong, and false, and dishonest, that survivors cling to what they know to be true. Lord Justice Taylor described the Liverpool fans' reaction at Hillsborough as "magnificent". But to experience something so terrible, to be accused of thieving and pissing on police officers when you were in the process of trying to save lives, or comforting people in their final moments, is an insult so deep in the psyche that honesty becomes the key not just to remembering but to anything that really matters in life. And it's honesty that allows me to look other survivors in the eye and know that we did what we could.
    Respect.
    posted by the cydonian at 9:00 PM on September 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


    When I read that paragraph, it made me out and out cry. So fucking horrible, what happened to them.
    posted by triggerfinger at 9:36 PM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


    The Bradford fire would have been a whole lot worse if the ground had fences. Thankfully, it did not. There was never going to be an inquest about fences after Bradford.

    The fire did lead to changes in stadium safety (non wooden seating) and to imply that no lessons were learnt ignores this and the fact that it was a different kind of tragedy to Hillsborough.

    Heysel is also of interest to this story. The tragedy was largely blamed on visiting Liverpool hooligans, and led to the banning of English teams in Europe.

    For a lot of people, Liverpool fans had form, and they were hated for the consequences of that form. To my embarresment, I believed initial reports that Liverpool fans were to blame, and I suspect The Sun knew that as a story, it'd be an easy sell.

    No excuses though. To continue to demonise Liverpool supporters in conjunction with this tragedy was abhorrant.
    posted by zoo at 10:20 PM on September 12, 2012


    Another interesting point. In 1985, as a consequence of the miners strike, South Yorkshire Police will have been utterly despised. They'll have spent a year clashing with the working classes. They would be hated, they would hate and they may have been embattled and tired.

    Again, no excuses, but it adds a bit of context as to why the police would have tried to shift blame away from themselves and towards supporters (the same kinds of people that would be throwing half bricks at them of a week day)
    posted by zoo at 10:36 PM on September 12, 2012


    I know it's not really Thatcher's fault

    It wasn't her direct fault, but she was the root cause of the attitude that saw victims as hooligans. Hillsborough came at the end of a long decade of sustained warfare against the working classes, led by somebody who did not believe in society and who did her best to break it down: us versus them and them are all dole scum, hooligans, poofs, dirty horrible wogs. Under Thatcher and Major the Tories picked fights with everybody they didn't like as they battered down the unions and the workers as they made Britain safe for investment bankers.

    That version of Britain that Alan Moore showed in V for Vendetta? In the eary nineties, looking back at it, he said his only mistake was that he thought it would take a nuclear war to bring fascism to Britain, yet here the Tories were doing their best to bring it about without one. That was the climate in which Hillsborough took place.
    posted by MartinWisse at 10:51 PM on September 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


    It makes me deeply uncomfortable to see people using this tragedy as a reason to push a pretty hardline anti-Tory agenda.

    The strikes of the seventies and eighties have significance, but you're veering into SWP conspiracy propaganda.

    Why even mention Major? Unless he went back in time and contributed to the disaster somehow.

    Your use of '70s racist language is stupidly offensive. Completely unnecessary and the fact that you're using it sarcastically doesn't excuse it.

    Your righteous anger at the British Political Establishment has a place, but using the deaths of men and children in order to sell your agenda is utterly tasteless.
    posted by zoo at 11:15 PM on September 12, 2012


    Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's only political if it's your ox being gored, isn't it?
    posted by MartinWisse at 11:26 PM on September 12, 2012


    In fact, how dare you use the phrase "dirty, horrible wogs" in this context. This is the racist word that got thrown at black people the most in the 70's and 80's. It's such a bad word. As offensive in that context as the N word is now. You know this MartinWisse. The Americans and the moderators may not, but you do.

    It wasn't Thatcher making monkey noises at any black player that ever played football. It wasn't Major throwing bananas at John Barnes. It wasn't a secret clique of investment bankers covering the streets and walls surrounding first division football clubs with NF graffiti. Michael Heseltine wasn't the one filling our grounds with shitty racist propaganda.

    This story isn't about hooligans, but it also isn't about the Tories. And it most certainly is not the place to introduce race (even obliquely). Especially when being a black football supporter in the 70's and 80's was a difficult and sometimes dangerous thing.
    posted by zoo at 11:34 PM on September 12, 2012


    Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's only political if it's your ox being gored, isn't it?

    You have no idea what my politics are. You have no idea what I think of the Thatcher era.

    Thatcher could have done a lot more than she did, but you seriously think Jim Callaghan would have done anything differently? The woman was a monster and no doubt the situation at the time (Police in conflict with the working classes) had a hand in this, but to classify Tories as the root cause of this tragedy is either posturing or naivety.
    posted by zoo at 11:39 PM on September 12, 2012


    This story isn't about hooligans
    Correct
    but it also isn't about the Tories
    Incorrect
    posted by fullerine at 11:53 PM on September 12, 2012


    A link about a man elected to parliment two years after the tragedy occurred.

    Really? That's your proof?
    posted by zoo at 11:58 PM on September 12, 2012


    Anyway. Apologies for the hijack. Never buy the Sun. I'm glad there's some closure finally on this, and here's hoping people get prosecuted and the families affected get the justice they deserve.
    posted by zoo at 12:02 AM on September 13, 2012


    You have no idea what my politics are. You have no idea what I think of the Thatcher era.

    Oh, I have an inkling.... "SWP conspiracy propaganda" is a definite tell right there.

    And no, a Labour government, how horrible it might be in other aspects, would not have been waging the same war on the working classes, on gay people, on hippies travelling to Stonehenge, etc.
    posted by MartinWisse at 12:05 AM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


    Thatcher had encouraged racism - the famous "swamping" dogwhistle - so I see no need to leap to her defence on that score.
    posted by Abiezer at 1:02 AM on September 13, 2012


    kendrak: "What about Burnden Park in 1946"
    Do I read that right? Did they play a football game with 33 corpses lying under coats on the sidelines?
    posted by brokkr at 2:31 AM on September 13, 2012


    Hillsborough is explicitly about the government of the day, because that government had demanded the cages and policing strategies that were the cause of the atrocity. The stadiums weren't set up in this way because the teams wanted to do it - all they wanted to do was the minimum of provision at the maximum of profit - but because the government had told them to do it. The police had this attitude to the people they were policing (many police in crowd control situations still do - vis the demonstration by medical staff a few months ago: middle class professionals kettled and intimidated by armed police for complaining about the government) because it was the kind of policing that the government demanded, combined with what was in places an unpleasant militarism and contempt for civilians (the true face of the 1970s Manchester Police force isn't cuddly Gene Hunt, but crypto-totalitarian James Anderton).

    "Football hooligans"* were the latest in a long line of groups who had been declared Enemies Within by the government in order to create fear narratives and bogeymen that the government could then step in and protect the Decent Upstanding Folk from. That division - between Us (the Tory party and their supporters) and Them (everybody and anybody else) - was what their ideology was based on (which is why it was at least a nascent kind of fascism). Any Enemy Within that was identified was to be treated with cursory brutality - it had already been shown that they deserved that brutality. No consideration was made to real individuals caught up in the narrative, and so the fundamental shock of Hillsborough was the way that the mythologisation ultimately clashed with reality with tragic consequences.

    Hillsborough really goes to the heart of the Thatcher government's ideology and they way they wanted to impose it on the country. There's a reason she is so deeply hated even over twenty years later. When she dies you will find it easy to locate her grave because of the overwhelming smell of urine emanating from it. They might as well officially declare it a toilet.

    *Scare quoted because the "football hooligan" was as much a part of a government narrative as it was actual individuals - so this is a reference to a mythology rather than people.
    posted by Grangousier at 2:38 AM on September 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


    Also, I just remembered how apocalyptic the late 80s seemed - there were so many disasters, many of them politically redolent - Hillsborough, Bradford, the Herald of Free Enterprise, King's Cross, Lockerbie are just the British ones I can remember off the top of my head. It seemed like every week there was another jaw-dropping news report. I suspect the later tendency towards stricter health & safety regulation was as much a reaction to that litany of horror as any government authoritarianism.
    posted by Grangousier at 2:45 AM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


    (actually, come to think of it there wasn't much crypto- about James Anderton's totalitarianism. Perhaps "aspiring totalitarian" rather than "crypto-totalitarian".)
    posted by Grangousier at 2:48 AM on September 13, 2012


    A link about a man elected to parliment two years after the tragedy occurred.

    @zoo: rights or wrongs in your argument with @fullerine, the link is to Irvine Patnick, who (along with senior police officers) has been shown to be the one passing those despicable smear stories about Liverpool fans urinating on the dead, picking pockets, etc to the press.

    So you have to say, it is a fairly relevant link.

    For what it's worth, I think politics - Tory politics - is very relevant to this whole terrible tragedy, but not so much (and this is fairly unusual) race.
    posted by Myeral at 5:51 AM on September 13, 2012


    From the article on the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster:
    The disaster resulted in the deaths of 193 people. Many of those on board had taken advantage of a promotion in The Sun newspaper offering cheap trips to the continent.
    Do not buy The Sun.
    posted by gilrain at 5:52 AM on September 13, 2012


    Also, I just remembered how apocalyptic the late 80s seemed - there were so many disasters, many of them politically redolent - Hillsborough, Bradford, the Herald of Free Enterprise, King's Cross, Lockerbie

    Manchester runway disaster, Piper Alpha, Marchioness...

    Just remember some of those when Clarkson et al a profiting by moaning about 'elf and safety and red tape
    posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:28 AM on September 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


    And now the current Tory leaders have just announced the end of the burden of health and safety inspections and rules for "low risk" environments....
    posted by MartinWisse at 6:43 AM on September 13, 2012


    Another interesting point. In 1985, as a consequence of the miners strike, South Yorkshire Police will have been utterly despised. They'll have spent a year clashing with the working classes. They would be hated, they would hate and they may have been embattled and tired.

    David Conn has written about this on the Guardian website today. Attempting to frame 95 miners sounds like a pretty good reason for the SYP to be despised.
    posted by hoyland at 6:53 AM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


    Just coming to post that, hoyland. Orgreave was also where the BBC 'accidentally' reversed their footage clips so it appeared the miners attacked first. You could be forgive n for getting paranoid.
    posted by Abiezer at 7:09 AM on September 13, 2012


    A link about a man elected to parliment two years after the tragedy occurred.

    Really? That's your proof?


    You have time backwards.

    Hillsborough was in 1989. Irvine Patnick, who helped feed the lies about the dead and the living to the press and who was one of the sources for The Sun's article, was elected MP for Sheffield Hallam in 1987.
    posted by reynir at 1:19 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


    My wife's family is lace curtain Irish from Liverpool by way of Plymouth and she once mentioned to a family reunion where they talked to some remote cousins working for the South Yorkshire Police who gleefulyl told them how much money they'd made doing overtime during the miners' strike. Also of their little habits of waving tenners at miners during the strike...

    Needless to say neither her nor her father ever talked to them again...
    posted by MartinWisse at 1:20 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


    Roy Lille has an interesting blog relating this to the Mid Staffs scandal.

    The Royal College of Physicians released a report saying Hospitals in the UK are at the brink of collapse. I'm in different hospitals on a weekly basis talking to clinicians and I think it' s a very timely report.

    But through all this week I can't help thinking for the first time that I've understood the maxim "for evil to triumph all it needs is for good men to do nothing". I find by and large the bulk of the British public to be decent and law abiding and to believe what they are told, just like the widely respected ex NHS manager Lilley (and that's no small achievement!). They simply can't countenance the evil that can flow from people who don't do a good job and who then spend energy hiding that fact. In hospitals people can die of thirst due to these pressures and right now we are entering a phase where the NHS is being dismantled piecemeal due to the Heath & Social Care act.

    I can't imagine the ongoing pain of not just the gruesome circumstances of losing a loved one, but then having that person blamed, shamed, villified, having an entire community dismissed as somehow "lesser". Respect for the long-haul actions of the people of Liverpool in trying to get justice.

    I recall the heavy emphasis in the media at the time on fottball hooligans, the exagerration of the 'them and us'
    posted by Wilder at 3:28 AM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


    First of these letters is very poignant.
    posted by Abiezer at 9:54 AM on September 14, 2012


    Thatcher's "boot boys": When the unholy trinity of police, press and government took root
    posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:57 AM on September 15, 2012


    You'll Never Walk Alone re-enters top 40
    posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:01 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


    A nice gesture of solidarity from Goodison Park before tonight's match.
    posted by afx237vi at 2:10 PM on September 17, 2012


    There was also this gesture of solidarity, though not as poignant. (More about Reds and Blues telling the world don't buy the Sun.)

    Also from this weekend on The Guardian: How Bradford fire neglect left Hillsborough doomed to disaster. The lack of fences in 1985 saved a lot of lives, but nobody paid attention to that lesson. (Or the fear of the football hooligan was too great.)
    posted by kendrak at 9:42 PM on September 17, 2012


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