Deborah Orr adds her verbal distortions to the Zimmerman – Martin story

Sculpture on display in the grounds of Ightham Mote, Kent, England, Sept 2012

Sculpture on display in the grounds of Ightham Mote, Kent, England, Sept 2012

Deborah Orr adds her own distortions to the Zimmerman – Martin story

Somewhat late in the day, Deborah Orr has dedicated her regular Saturday Guardian slot to promote her own distortions to the mountain that already exists. (See the piece on Gary Younge’s article here)

Deborah Orr writes about the murder of Stephen Lawrence :

“The awful depths of the hostility of the police to the idea of prosecuting his racist killers is still being revealed, 20 years on, as we learn how undercover officers gathered intelligence into the Lawrence family as they campaigned for justice for their son.”

It’s a pity Ms Orr didn’t spend a little more time researching her article before submitting it as had she done so, she would have found the following article in 18 July edition of the Daily Mail.  Headed – ” SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: A very troubled undercover cop and growing doubts over the police ‘plot’ to smear the Lawrence family”. The writers seriously question the entire basis of Ms Orr’s statement.  The article concerns the former undercover police officer Peter Francis whose new allegations are being used to promote a book by Guardian journalists who are not named. The article is quite detailed but here’s a flavour:

John Carnt, a retired Scotland Yard superintendent, trawled through hundreds of documents relating to Scotland Yard’s investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence ahead of his family’s ill-fated private prosecution in 1996. He told us: ‘I saw the contents of information gathered on the first murder inquiry, and at no time did I see anything which suggested there was a surveillance operation on the Lawrences to discredit them in any way. On the contrary, our role was to try to give them as much support and help as possible, to help them mount a private prosecution.’

and:

This week, chief constable Mick Creedon told the Commons select committee that his 20-month inquiry — codenamed Operation Herne — had uncovered references to relatives of the murdered teenager among the files of Scotland Yard’s undercover units.

Pressed on the smear claims, he said: ‘There is nothing in Operation Herne which suggests any attempt whatsoever to do two things. Firstly, to be tasked against the Stephen Lawrence family; and secondly, to besmirch the Lawrence family.’

and:

What puzzles those who knew Peter Francis, or have followed his story, is that almost all the ‘revelations’ trumpeted in the Dispatches programme and Guardian newspaper last month had already appeared in print anonymously three years ago, in the Observer.

But:

Francis made no mention of a police ‘smear’ campaign in 22 hours of recorded interviews about his career only three years ago.

Stephen Lawrence was murdered by a gang of white racist thugs and while it may have taken nearly 20 years, in 2012, two of the gang, Gary Dobson, now age 37, and David Norris, 36  were and are currently serving long prison sentences.

From what we know about Stephen Lawrence – he was a student of technology and physics at the Blackheath Bluecoat School and English language and literature at Woolwich College, and hoping to become an architect. At the time of his murder he was waiting for a bus to take him home along with three witnesses.

To compare the death of Stephen Lawrence and the circumstances of his death to Traynon Martin rather sullies his memory.

Update 1

Deborah Orr was seriously challenged BTL for her claim – that “The world is aghast over Trayvon Martin”.  The Guardian reports today on the “I am Trayvon Martin” rallies across the USA:

The rallies were mostly small, good-natured gatherings, ranging from a few dozen to a couple of hundred people.

Forty comments in response to her article were deleted by the moderators including this one:

“Nursing her wrath to keep it warm.–Robert Burns”

First we had Gary Younge with – “There is no doubt about who the aggressor was here. The only reason the two interacted at all, physically or otherwise, is that Zimmerman believed it was his civic duty to apprehend an innocent teenager who caused suspicion by his existence alone.”

Next we have Professor Patricia Williams with: “Zimmerman was found not guilty because of a sequence of unquestioned habits of thought: from the prejudgments that clouded his vision on that dark and rainy night; to the Sanford police department’s casual reaction to the crime scene,….”

And now we have Daborah Orr telling us – “… the world is aghast that this right does not extend as far as Trayvon Martin.”

Have the Guardian’s writers given up rational thought and analysis and instead adopted clairvoyance?

Ms Orr had started her piece with a verse from Burns.

Update 2

I have been challenged about the accuracy of the Mail article, largely on the basis of its support for Fascist movements in the 1930s and 1940s. It’s quite a usual response to anyone who cites the Daily Mail journalists. My response:

I, along with many others have stated our objections to the way the Guardian’s journalists, have opportunistically used the case of Stephen Lawrence to try to promote their opposition to the jury’s verdict in the Zimmerman – Martin trial. Deborah Orr is just the most recent example of what I suspect will be the subject of complaints to the Readers’ Editor and possibly the Press Complaints Commission.

“Our own Trayvon Martin is Stephen Lawrence” she proclaims, totally ignoring both the circumstances of the two killings, the social and behavioural backgrounds of Lawrence and Martin, the outcome of the trials and the feelings of Stephen Lawrence’s family and friends. Given the many objections that had already been raised to the comparison, her repeating it can only be viewed as desperation and deliberate wilfulness.

You say “I suspect Ms Orr was pretty much up to speed on things”, but as I refer to on the front page, she dismisses the hundreds of thousands of hours of police work that went into the eventual conviction of Gary Dobson and David Norris with – “The awful depths of the hostility of the police to the idea of prosecuting his racist killers is still being revealed.” Furthermore it’s a conviction she doesn’t even mention. Readers who might not have known the 20 year history of the case might easily have concluded that like Zimmerman, the killers of Stephen Lawrence were never convicted.

Had she been “up to speed” she might at very least have mentioned the statements to the House of Commons Home Affairs select committee and the Mail’s interview with John Carnt, the retired Scotland Yard superintendent who it reports “trawled through hundreds of documents relating to Scotland Yard’s investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence ahead of his family’s ill-fated private prosecution in 1996″ and stated “I saw the contents of information gathered on the first murder inquiry, and at no time did I see anything which suggested there was a surveillance operation on the Lawrences to discredit them in any way. On the contrary, our role was to try to give them as much support and help as possible, to help them mount a private prosecution.“ (my emphasis)

Yet Ms Orr in her desperation condemns the entire police force as being hostile to even “the idea of prosecuting the killers.” Even the Mail, to give it some credit says – “Some officers simply didn’t try hard enough because of Stephen’s colour”leaving its readers to conclude that at least some officers did.

Paul Lewis states in his article “Whistleblower Peter Francis said he’d be smeared. He was right.”:

“The former police officers who have cast doubt on the account given by Francis either had nothing to do with his deployment, or have much to lose if his controversy results in a public inquiry.”

This is apart from Former Special Branch commander Roger Pearce and a former Special Branch colleague who carried out surveillance work with Peter Francis, both of whom were interviewed by the Mail. But not it would appear, by Paul Lewis, who despite his protestations, singularly fails to provide any evidence to corroborate the claim that Francis was tasked to discredit the Lawrence family and friends.

When the story of police infiltration of left wing groups first came to light, those of us who weren’t born yesterday, shrugged out shoulders and said so what, tell us something that hasn’t been known for half a century. Likewise the “revelation”that left wing group members sometimes sleep with each other. What would have surprised me were claims of a secret police operation to smear the family and friends of Stephen Lawrence. But at the time of the Observer interviews there were no such claims, not Paul Lewis’ “full details”, not even a vague hint.

One final point. Some of us are sufficiently sophisticated to be able to read newspapers and journals of all political persuasion and extract those parts that are relevant and reject the rest. Mechanistic rejection of journalism for political reasons, is for the seriously uneducated.

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