Is this the start of the smearing of Ian Tomlinson?

I wrote most of 'Ian Tomlinson and the tabloids' last night, before posting it up earlier today. At the time of writing, I hadn't seen any of today's coverage and to be honest I expected it to be continuing yesterday's reverse ferreting that followed the Guardian's release of video footage. I had thought about mentioning the smearing of Jean Charles de Menezes and the Koyair brothers following those fiascos, and wondered if we'd see similar here, but since there was video footage of Mr Tomlinson being attacked from behind I thought it unlikely.

Thanks to Bristle in the comments, I can now see that wasn't as unlikely as I thought. The Mail has the constantly-changing 'G20 policeman suspended as new pictures reveal victim's drunken clash with officers shortly before he collapsed' and the Sun has the tastefully worded '85 minutes from death'. Although these are not quite in the league of pretending someone is an illegal immigrant and a rapist, or that a man was shot by his own brother and then conveniently found to have child porn on his mobile phone, they're still laying the ground for turning readers against Mr Tomlinson.

Look at the Mail's headline (at least, the headline at the time of this writing). Mr Tomlinson now had a 'drunken clash' with police 'shortly' before he collapsed. In this context, 'shortly' means almost an hour and a half before. The Mail tells us:
He can be seen deliberately blocking a police van before refusing to be moved on by an officer in riot gear.
The Sun tells us:
New photos show paper seller Ian Tomlinson — unsteady on his feet through booze — being shoved aside after he blocked a police van and refused to move.
He's 'drunken Mr Tomlinson' now.

Of course, the photos don't show Mr Tomlinson deliberately blocking a police van. It's very difficult to show intent in a photo. Have a look at the picture:

Mr Tomlinson's posture is not one of defiance. He is not facing the van, although he is looking towards it. Look at the cigarette hanging downward from his mouth, and the position of his right leg, with the shirt pulled toward the right side. It looks as though Mr Tomlinson is lifting his right leg, possibly walking slowly forward, as we can see him walking in the Guardian's video. But it's not possible to tell for sure. Look at how the man in front of him is looking straight ahead and not paying attention to the van or Mr Tomlinson, which he would likely be doing if there was a prolonged period of someone defiantly standing in front of a police van and being shouted at. The photographer has only managed one photo of the man standing in deliberate defiance in front of the van. Surely a deliberately defiant stand would have lasted longer than it took to shoot one picture.

The eyewitness account says:
'It was weird. The van approached and a cop leaned out to shout at him to get out of the way.

'But he didn't go anywhere. He just mumbled something and raised his arm a bit unsteadily.

'It was then it became obvious he was drunk because he wasn't really coherent and couldn't move well.
This is less consistent with deliberate defiance than it is with confusion and drunkenness, with the way we have seen him behaving later before he was pushed. Mr Tomlinson could have already been experiencing symptoms of his imminent heart failure.

Both papers emphasise Mr Tomlinson's alcoholism. Both emphasise his homelessness. The Sun says this:
The pictures cast doubt on claims the 47-year-old dad-of-nine was on his way home and got caught up in trouble accidentally. And they add to the confusion surrounding the cause of his death.
How? If he was drunk and confused, he may well have been wandering around for over an hour trying to get home, especially if he'd found his way blocked.

As I said, this isn't in the pretend rapist/paedophile stakes, but it's clearly moving away from seeing Mr Tomlinson as an innocent bystander and slowly shifting some of the blame onto him.

These come on the same day as this news 'IPCC: CCTV footage wasn't working'. I do not buy this claim for a single second. Not at all.

Firstly, the official story has quickly been changed from there being no CCTV cameras in the area to the CCTV cameras not working. Secondly, there was no CCTV footage of Jean Charles de Menezes' shooting either, conveniently. That was fishy enough at the time for people to have been sceptical, and the Mail itself reported disputes of this claim by the company responsible for the cameras. I have anecdotal evidence of how CCTV footage is conveniently found to be not working when the police rough someone up. That last shouldn't be enough to convince you, since I'm just some bloke on the internet, but it's enough for me to scoff behind my hand at the claim that there isn't any.

Depressingly, this may signal the beginning of Mr Tomlinson being smeared to remove our sympathy from him. Let's hope not though. There could be little more than that needed to convince us that the police area bunch of shameless liars and not to be trusted.

Let's hope not.

Kudos to the Mail for publishing this, 'The drip, drip denigration of an ordinary man'. We may not see heavy smearing after all. But I wouldn't put it past the paper to carry on with it despite publishing this. (Via Bloggerheads).


merrick said...

The reason the claim of no CCTV is not credible is, as you readily say, nothing to do with your anecdotal evidence.

In the de Menezes case, we could lean a little towards believing it because there are millions of cameras installed around the country and it's reasonable to assume that at any given time a good number of them are on the blink.

In this case, we cannot believe that sort of claim. Police knew for weeks in advance where the protests would be. A small, highly camera-covered area of London. There were more than 100 officers monitoring more than 3,000 cameras on the day.

It is inconceivable that they didn't ensure this system was working in advance. This is a cover-up.

bristle said...

I'll trade you the rather thoughtful Mail editorial in your update with this poison pen profile of Tomlinson from, err, the day before, which ends with this:

"In Matlock, relatives called Mr Tomlinson a 'drifter' and the family 'black sheep'. They said his mother, Ann, had not recognised him in newspaper photographs and had not realised until yesterday that he was dead."

Classy stuff!

Anonymous said...

EVEN if what the likes of the Mail are saying turned out to be true, are they honestly trying to make the case that because he may have been 'drunk and disorderly', that was justification for the police to be involved in killing him?

Though I think this apparent smear campaign is disgusting, the Mail and the like should be ashamed of themselves and show some respect for the dead.