Today's extraordinary developments have been covered elsewhere in more detail than I can in a post here, so I intend to concentrate on one aspect: the lies about drunken, out of control Liverpool fans. Liverpool fans were, and are, ordinary people, not saints, but they did have a reputation for being well-behaved at a time when the word 'football' had often been linked in the media with the word 'hooligan'. Police incompetence caused a disaster of unprecedented proportions, and their response was to begin their cover-up and lies on the actual day of the tragedy by blaming the fans. Senior police officers and the local Tory MP, Irvine Patnick, claimed drunken louts had caused the crowd problems and, when it was clear that hundreds were injured and dozens dead, accused the fans of attacking police who were trying to help injured fans, of stealing from the dead and of urinating on bodies and on the emergency services - all fuelled (they claimed) by alcohol. They tried to find 'evidence' of drunkenness by asking relatives of the dead how much their loved ones had had to drink - this while they were trying to absorb the news of their losses - and by testing the blood of all the dead, including the children, for evidence of drink. And as for the police accessing the records of the dead to see whether they had criminal records ... unbelievable.
We now know (although some of us consider we have known this all along) that this was a lie, and that the fans had behaved extremely well, warned the police that some people were likely to be injured or killed, and when those warnings were ignored and thus came horribly true, tore down advertising placards - condemned as hooliganism at the time - to use as makeshift stretchers. We also know that, while some fans had had a drink, there was no evidence either of mass drunkenness or of misbehaviour. So how did the lies of the police and The Sun strike a chord with so many people for so long?
People usually tend to believe what the police tell them, probably less so now than 23 years ago, so their stories of drunkenness did a lot to give the cover-up credibility at a time when the popular perception of football fans among the general public - gleaned from the press - was that they were habitually drunk and violent; the lies of the police, repeated by The Sun, fitted into such prejudices perfectly. People tend to believe stories that match what they already know or, rather, what they think they already know.
There are many things that went wrong in relation to Hillsborough, covered more extensively elsewhere, but I can't help feeling that police lies were given credibility by tapping into a moral panic concerning alcohol and drunken football fans, with the resulting misconceptions being a significant factor in causing this injustice to fester for 23 years. As the fight for justice continues, I look forward to seeing heads roll.
I've had a link to the Hillsborough Justice Campaign since the first day of this blog.