To those who may somehow be unaware of it, there’s one story that’s been dominating the UK media for the last week or so.
The story of a former BBC journalist called Martin Bashir and the late Princess Diana (and, now, an assortment of former, now deceased celebrities) is front and inside page news across all the papers.
First, let’s be clear: no one wants to speak ill of the dead and that applies of course to Diana who did some very commendable charity work in her relatively short life. Her death at a relatively young age was tragic, as any death of anyone at that age is.
Also, if – as was the case with Bashir – someone has done something wrong they should hold up their hands and admit it – as he has actually done with the forged letters he used to gain an exclusive interview Diana back in the mid 90s.
It was an interview the world’s media wanted and good luck to him for getting it.
And this is where the problem starts.
First, any journalist worth his or her salt will (or should), however reluctantly, admit to bending and twisting things now and again to get their scoop –or just to get a good story.
The excellent journalist on my pre-entry course to the trade back in 1980 called it using “rat like cunning.”
That is exactly what Bashir did – and he got away with it (until now, that is).
If, for the forgery, he should pay some legal penalty (beyond the deluge of bile he is now enduring) then so bit it.
But, please, please, please spare us the deluge of hypocrisy that has befallen us over this sorry little tale.
On this, it is hard to know where to start.
There is the hypocrisy of the media who just love to hang their own out to dry. Can you imagine a lawyer or doctor being strung up the way Bashir has been had he/she committed a wrong? No, their professions have a habit of closing ranks at such times and protecting their own.
Not journalism! Here, it is the opposite.
There is the hypocrisy of those who pretend that the said interview had the slightest impact on Diana’s marriage. The marriage was dead and buried long before the interview took place – that is common knowledge.
And there’s also the hypocrisy of those who conveniently forget how Diana actually died: this, remember, was a full two years after the interview and happened when she decided to step into a car late at night in Paris, a car driven by someone who, reportedly, was under the influence of alcohol. That was her choice, not Martin Bashir’s.
The hypocrisy goes on and on. To some in the UK, Diana has since acquired sainthood when, in fact, she went out of her way to court publicity and the right sort of headlines. That, of course, did not merit her being killed in a Paris tunnel, but, please, do not try to portray the lady as a sort of Mother Theresa and to label all those who even might dare suggest any flaws in her character as demons who should be take to the Tower and flogged.
Now, of course, we see all the rest coming out of the “woodwork” and – as they would – claiming they too were “victims” of Martin Bashir.
The ex partner of George Best now says Bashir set the pair of them up for an interview he did with them in 2000. The nephew of Michael Jackson is saying much the same.
Why is it that these people always suddenly come forward with such claims only after it suddenly becomes “fashionable” to do so – and usually years and years later than the actual event?
Maybe that is just a coincidence – but maybe not.
The bottom line is that Bashir committed a professional error with Diana but this is a man who was, years later, made religious affairs editor no less of the BBC.
Bashir is condemned by lest we forget that there is a certain current UK PM who, while in Brussels as a correspondent, was said to have invented stories. It does not appear to have harmed the career of said politician!!
To me, the real “crime” here is less with Bashir and other factors. Was it, after all, his fault that he was, in 2016, rehired by the BBC? Or that he actualy remained on the BBC payroll until as recently as last week? No, of course not.
While he is not blameless of course, it just leaves an unsavoury taste when you see the sheer hypocrisy that too often surrounds such things.
This is, of course, not the first time this has happened. It’s unfortunately happened many,many times before but, personally, I just wish it would stop.