The “Charlotte Fakes” phenomenon is something which could only have existed now – in an age where teh Interwebz allows people with an obsession interest in a subject to discuss and share information outwith the normal strictures of the media.
Professor Greg Philo, of the Glasgow University Media Group, believes that the problem with the media is not so much the differing stances it takes on issues but rather the refusal to cover certain topics at all, with this being a trait across the industry.
I wrote about Professor Philo and his thesis following a talk he gave to the Scottish Press Club and I applied his thoughts to coverage at that time (back in early 2012) of the Rangers story by the Scottish media. You can read the piece here.
We now have, in the Charlotte Fakes story, a perfect example, in a post-modern or meta way, of the subject.
For those who do not know, Charlotte Fakes appeared on the web publishing what seem to be documents, emails and recordings from and to several of the players in the Rangers saga. Despite many of these raising important issues about the progression of Rangers from Murray to Whyte to Green, the main stream media has reported little or nothing revealed by the dogged Charlotte.
However there have been reports about the fact that the media is not reporting what Charlotte is revealing, whilst, at the same time these reports do not discuss what Charlotte has placed in the public domain.
Therefore the media coverage, which has itself been very limited, is not of the stories coming from the document mine located by Charlotte, but rather reporting on the non-coverage.
To anyone who has not been following Charlotte’s revelations on the web, the story must seem baffling.
Why the silence?
It seems that doubts or concerns about the means by which the documents have been produced have petrified the media into ignoring any issues raised in them. There has been little or no discussion about whether or not they are genuine – the opinions on the internet which I have seen, from pro-Rangers, anti-Rangers and Rangers-neutral commenters, all seem to have little doubt about the information being legitimate.
Indeed the actions of certain parties in using solicitors to force, for example, the Scribd website to take down some of the documents suggests that they are genuine. Coverage of the story too which makes reference to a police investigation hints that the inquiry is into how the information was obtained, rather than how someone was faking documents for some nefarious reason.
In the media world post-Leveson Inquiry the press are terrified, it seems, of being accused of using illegally obtained material (even where there is, as far as I am aware, no evidence that any of the information has been obtained illegally). And the “public interest” defence seems also to have been put on the back burner – after all the story is (a) one which is of great interest to the public and (b) bearing in mind the status of Rangers, as declared by its fans, of being “the second most important institution in Scotland” and also one recognised by Mr Salmond when he commented on the potential demise of Rangers last year, it is a story which is of “public interest”.
Cynics might suggest that the concerns as to the provenance of the Charlotte documents in fact allows the Scottish media to continue to indulge in, as regards coverage of Rangers, “succulent lamb” journalism.
Even bloggers have refrained from detailed analysis of the substance of the stories. Why should the fearless folk who frequent the unregulated areas of the web be cowed from reporting and analysing in detail what has been said?
For my part I can say that having two Messengers-At-Arms delivering a formal letter at 10.30pm demanding that I remove certain material from my blog by midnight (as happened last October) concentrates the mind. And, for my part, although I believed that I had done nothing wrong in commenting on material which was widely available on the internet, to be frank the time and expense involved in fighting a case in the Court of Session in Edinburgh against a company such as The Rangers Football Club Ltd were not things I could afford. (I should make clear that, despite some gleeful comments at the time, there was no court action raised nor, as a result, was there any court order granted against me.)
When you do this as a hobby, and are locatable, it is easy for the “big battalions” to attempt to silence you.
Clearly Charlotte is not locatable, because if so her flow of documents would have ceased by now.
So, against that background, why have I mentioned Mr Leggat in the headline?
Yesterday he bravely confronted this informal omerta and commented in detail on correspondence leaked by Charlotte, being what bears to be an exchange of correspondence between Mr Green/Rangers and the SFA.
Mr Leggat makes certain comments about “money laundering” which I do not propose to repeat here and raises questions about the bona fides of some of the participants in the story.
Mr Leggat clearly feels that, despite the concerns which have prevented the Scottish media, Channel 4 News and the Guardian from going into detail about what Charlotte has to say, he should climb the battlements and wave the banner of free speech.
Oddly a couple of the Rangers-supporting message boards which I looked at showed that the perception of Charlotte seemed to have changed. Whereas before any comment upon Charlotte referred directly to what she had produced, and was usually followed by calls for her to be prosecuted with the full vigour of the law for seeking to damage Rangers, the response to Mr Leggat’s bravery was not to question the veracity or source of the information, but to focus on its merits.
So three cheers for the bold master of the “inky trades” and, if Bill Struth was about today, I am sure that Mr Leggat would be his blogger of choice, and not just because Mr Leggat wrote a book about him!*
*Correction – I must apologise to the spirit of the late Mr Struth – to the late Scot Symon (about whom the book actually is – there being a tiny clue in the title and indeed plastered all over the front cover) and to Mr Leggat. The book is of course not about Mr Struth. (But see further correction below.)
Further correction – Mr Leggat has indeed written a book about Mr Struth – but it has not yet been published.
Final PS – I hope if I ever reach the point of having a book published, Mr Leggat will publicise it on his blog!
Posted by Paul McConville