We are living in the age of the Whopper
Over the last twenty years, we’ve had some astonishing cases of truth economy. The most famous for a long time was Bill Clinton’s “I did not have sexual intercourse with that woman” – a vastly preferable version of events, from his point of view, to one he might have given, viz, “She gave me a blow job, and I pleasured her with a cigar”. Less well known but equally brazen was Tony Blair’s denial of having lied to the House of Commons about the WOMD dossier – and Alistair Campbell’s evidence to the Chilcot Committee in relation to the Attorney General.
But on the whole in these cases, the liars gave a version of private events with minimal witnesses – or told whoppers knowing full well that the Thirty Year Rule would hide the fib. Of late, however, it seems to me that denial of criminal involvement has entered a new stage wherein in all disbelief has to be suspended in order to take it seriously.
Being a smart Essex boy who is nevertheless too clever for his own good, Newscorp’s Andy Coulson felt so secure in his judgment of public apathy and Cameron’s naivety, he decided to tell a lie of such mind-boggling incredibility that every journalist in every news medium in every country on the planet would know he was lying. Having declared that, as the editor of a leading tabloid renowned for his anally retentive thoroughness in checking the source of stories, he had no knowledge at all of the illegal celebrity phones-hacking going on all around him, he got away with it for five years. Technically, he still is getting away with it – although I’d imagine that even he now knows the game is up. But what’s more, when the New York Times doubted his account – with witness statements – Coulson hit the paper with a bulldog of a writ. This is brass neck to write home about.
It comes of course from arrogance – which in turn comes from access to power so apparently great, it leaves a person exempt from all and any laws. The same is true today of Sepp Blatter’s exoneration from graft charges by a FIFA internal enquiry. Blatter’s insistence that he knew nothing at all about the corrupt success of Qater’s 2022 World Cup bid – this from a man who has run FIFA like a personal fiefdom since 1998 – is so tooth-rattlingly daft, it is the equivalent of Coulson saying he’d never heard of Rupert Murdoch.
Luckily for the rest of us, once the solids finally do hit the propeller-blades, there is no honour among thieves. This morning, the equally unpleasant FIFA trougher Jack Warner has released an email suggesting that there was no way Sepp Blatter could have been unaware of the Qatar bung. And a little bird tells me that the Wapping liars are having one helluva job treading a careful line between giving their Guilty Men vast amounts of spondoolicks….and suddenly finding they’ve turned Queen’s evidence in order to get a lighter sentence.
The explanation everyone in New York awaits with baited breath is Ben Brafman’s version, on behalf of his client Dominic Strauss-Kahn, as to how DSK allegedly wound up on top of Nafissatou Diallo. The ‘slipped on a bar of soap’ defence has already been used by a cartoonist in the French press, so the Strauss-Kahn legal team needs another one. The alternatives on offer are (a) it was a Fed set-up using Diallo as the jail-bait (b) DSK had already ordered a hooker, and mistook the maid for that person, or (c) it was consensual sex.
Oddly enough, although the last is by far the least believable, most of the smart money in the Apple is on that one. New Yorkers perhaps sense that this is the Zeitgeist: the more chutzpah in the defence, the more bonkers the fib, the better it will play.
That’s as maybe, but my instinct tells me they’re wrong. There remain three very big unanswered questions in this case: first, the yarn about Strauss-Kahn ‘fleeing justice in a hurry’ appears to be complete bollocks; second, the maid was in the suite cleaning the room of a guy she knew was about to check out – why? Nobody does that; and above all else – as Ben Brafman publicly hinted last week – there are some irregularities surrounding Diallo. Why was she given political asylum? Why was she living in an apartment reserved for HIV positive women? Was her husband shot dead by New York cops…and if so, why?
It is this mast, I suspect, to which Ben Brafman will nail his colours – viz, undermining the credibility of the witness….perhaps via that route to suggest consensual sex as part of a set-up, perhaps in order to suggest she is a neurotic fantasist who made the whole thing up.
This last possibility occurred to me early on. Her claim not to know who DSK was is right up there with the best that any Coulson or Blatter could come up with: as the bloke’s picture was plastered all over the walls of every floor in the Sofitel, we need to ask ourselves why Nafissatou, alone among her work colleagues, had no idea that Dominic Strauss-Kahn was the boss of the IMF. And why, with the alleged perpetrator under lock, key and leg-tag, she still needs 24/7 NYPD protection.
Just as with the other cases I’ve outlined here, there is a mega-lie at the centre of this one. The difference this time is that, as the case still lies in the future, nobody is certain whether the mendacity lies with DSK or the NYPD. For me, they both fit the frame – very powerful and convinced of immunity from prosecution – so it’s anyone’s guess. But it promises to be fun finding out.
Mark Daley told a hearing at Kensington Town Hall in London: “I have had complaints that people are doing some very unpleasant things, including having sex”. Good for a laugh and all that, but Daley was talking about stuff going on in Guy Pelly’s very exclusive club where – according to the Mail and the Telegraph – anything goes. No surprise, therefore, that Harry Windsor was to be found there, along with his cousin Beatrice.
The Mail’s boat-people who shipped out to the Barclaygraph four years ago have a bit of a thing about the less well-behaved Windsors. I don’t doubt that any kid inheriting the genes of Sarah Ferguson and Princess Diana is going to behave like a dingbat on occasions; but the Telegraph’s obsession with rubbishing the Yorks in general and Harry in particular raises eyebrows here and there.
Tongues have been wagging over the last year or so about what the next stage of Hackgate is likely to be – once the Murdoch criminality has spread to the Sunday Times and The Sun. Former Mailites at the Torygraph are, I’m told, concerned that they might well be the tumbril’s next clients on their way to the Akers guillotine. The subject of their concern, it is alleged, is hacking the Royals.
We shall see.