During last Summer's Camp for Climate Action at Heathrow, London daily paper the Evening Standard ran two stories about how campers were planning to storm the airport, plant hoax bombs, and probably eat live babies on the way.
Expecting it to be just a load of hippies in a field, they were shocked when a complaint was logged by the Camp with the Press Complaints Commission.
With the brilliant legal response to BAA's attempted injunction the climate movement had already shown it wasn't going to take slurs and lies, that it could readily give as good as it got.
The Campers tenaciously followed through with their complaint. The PCC finally ruled on it recently. They upheld it in the strongest terms, finding that the Standard's stories were a 'serious breach' of the code of standards regarding accuracy, calling the allegations 'materially misleading'.
The Standard were obliged to report this, but they were canny enough to wait until the day the PCC's judgement on the Madeleine McCann thing came out. That ensured that every media correspondent in the land was looking the other way.
Worse, the Evening Standard published the ruling under the headline 'PCC ruling on Heathrow protest by the Camp for Climate Action'.
This in itself is a breach of the PCC's code concerning accuracy of reporting. The ruling was not on the Heathrow camp, but on the Standard's coverage. There is nothing in the headline indicating anything to do with the one newspaper's coverage, let alone the independent finding that the Standard are a bunch of lying scumpigs and sewer rats (I may be paraphrasing slightly).
The full story of the fabrication is extraordinary reading.
During the course of the complaint the Standard changed its story a number of times. My favourite detail concerns the claim that 'two man teams' had been seen checking out the security fence around the airport. It was, from the outset, obviously nonsense, as the fence was a kilometre from the camp.
But the more they tried to explain it, the more ludicrous the Standard made their claim look.
They said the journalist had seen two people he recognised from the camp whilst going to a nearby petrol station. Except that the only petrol station was separated from the fence by a dual carriageway and a line of buildings, way too far from the fence to let anyone be recognisable.
The two people were, depending on which version the Standard told, standing next to the fence, or one was scaling it while another kept watch, or both were scaling it.
If they'd seen any of this, why didn't they take any photos? 'Because it was pitch black' said the Standard. Yet it was supposedly light enough for the journalist to see from four lanes of traffic and a car park away.
And, of course, two people does not constitute 'two man teams' in the plural. But if they use the plural it gives clear connotations of strategy and thus defames the camp.
The back and forth between the two sides and the PCC is online here, with the main submission - including pictures of the fence from the petrol station showing what a load of arse the Standard were talking - in this pdf.
Having been given such a pasting by the Camp we can expect the Standard to honourably admit its fabrication and report more responsibly in future. That, or feel slighted and bear an ongoing grudge that sees them make up a load of bollocky old lies about climate activists but be careful not to name the people they're lying about. The word 'anarchists' is a nice scary catch-all that evades libel.
Expect more when the Camp for Climate Action returns to the London area this summer.
I'm doing a two-week run at the Edinburgh Fringe
1 month ago