"So, apparently, Boris Johnson has a super-injunction." Media conspiracies aren't usually about big lies. It's about small omissions

Some person on WhatsApp probably doesn't have the big secret.

Boy, I love talking about the Kennedy assassination, man. That’s my favourite topic. You know why? Because to me it’s a great example of, er, a totalitarian government’s ability to, you know, manage information and thus keep us in the dark any way they … Oh, sorry. Wrong meeting … Ah [beep]. That’s the meeting we’re having tomorrow at the docks.

Bill Hicks, Revelations (recorded at The Dominion Theatre, London, 14 September 1993)

Here’s a conspiracy theory I actually believe in. It’s about… conspiracy theories:

I think that the ellision of obviously stupid conspiracy theories — the moon landings were faked on a sound stage and have been kept secret for decades without anyone blabbing — and antisemitic ones — David Icke’s whole ‘lizards’ schtick is simply antisemitic doggerel of the basest kind with a sci-fi spin — and actually quite compelling ones that suggest some level of government involvement in dirty deeds — what exactly the full truth of the JFK assassination was, what the hell actually happened to Dr David Kelly — is a kind of conspiracy itself.

But it’s not organised in general, but more of an ambient attempt by the establishments to deny any sense of organised control over events. While we’re allowed to know that the security services exist and while it’s well known that the British State sanctioned, paid for, and undertook dirty tricks in places like Northern Ireland, we’re expected to believe that’s an isolated thing and that no conspiracies ever occur now. Tell that to the women who were victims of the Spy Cops scandal where undercover officers married and even had children with people they were spying on.

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I said all that to make it clear that I do have an open mind and do not simply credulously accept the official explanations offer by the permanent security state and whoever the current government happens to be. However, today’s edition is about a pervasive kind of collective delusion. It’s the one that provokes hundreds and sometimes thousands of people to jump on rumours and amplify them, either from simple human annoyance or for more malicious reasons.

A current one is that the ‘mainstream’ press has definitive proof of Boris Johnson having an affair with a young violinist who tweeters are rapidly keen on naming. The story goes that there is an injuction/super-injunction/DSMA-Notice (colloquially still known as a D-Notice) in place that is preventing the newspapers and news programmes from reporting on this fact. But further, the argument goes that even if they could they would not because they are so wedded to the idea of protecting the Prime Minister.

None of this stands up. Yes, there’s a good chance that the injudicious Mr Johnson will have or is having another affair. He is a serial philanderer who became fully involved with his current partner Carrie Symonds while his then wife was undergoing cancer treatment and it’s a matter of settled fact in the courts that he has had at least one affair that resulted in a child for whom he tried to deny paternity.

However, if the newspapers — of whatever shade — had proof that the Prime Minister was engaged in an affair right now regardless of the imposition of some form of injunction — on what ground, no one seems willing to say beyond vague hand-waving at the notion of ‘national security’ — one or several of them would run with it. If they did not, Private Eye would not be able to resist doing so.

I am not definitively saying that Johnson is not having an affair or that his relationship with Ms Symonds is not ‘on the rocks’. I simply have no proof either way, other than circumstantial stuff and observation of the Prime Minister’s previous behaviour. What I do know is that having spoken to sources at Sky News, within the BBC, and who work at a number of papers, there is not even a whisper of an injunction and while investigative heads have suspicions about Johnson’s relationship to the violinist, just as many did about his ties to Jennifer Arcuri, no one has the smoking cock.

Rumours are not enough and ‘allegedly’ is not a magic spell that you can use to assert whatever you like. In the case of the Prime Minister, in particular, there are plenty of newspapers now that would like to shoot him down in favour of their preferred candidate, but they can’t do that unless they can mount and pin him on the page like a buggered butterfly. If the evidence isn’t watertight, they won’t run with it in this case. As The Wire has it, “If you take a shot at the king, you better not miss.” Boris Johnson may be a buffoonish king, but a king he is nonetheless. And he doesn’t need a DSMA-Notice to exert power.

The real conspiracies in the media are ones of small silences. They are the unspoken agreement that certain people’s nepotistic advantages aren’t referenced anywhere. They are the whispers rather than shouts about criminal connections or columnists who have excused partners or even themselves of truly awful behaviour. Remember, The Times has yet to face up to the fact that its major columnist India Knight was used as a mitigating factor in the criminal conviction of her partner Eric Joyce for possessing an image of child sexual abuse of such severity that it was classed as Category A. It’s seen as terribly impolite to mention this but what is it other than a conspiracy of silence?

Without a former step-father on the board of News UK and a privileged perch in the pages of The Times is it likely that Ms Knight would have been saved from scrutiny by the newspapers and wider media? If you believe that then I have a bridge to sell you across the Thames and you are too credulous to read this newsletter. But you don’t believe that and neither do the newspapers. It’s a mucky little everyday conspiracy of the kind that doesn’t need a complicated chart to explain. Look for those, they’re the ones that should really worry you.

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