herald

Friday 19 January 2018

Show the files the door

the conspiracy files (bbc2) the field of blood (bbc1)

"YOU have to ask yourself who we are and where we would be now if it wasn't for 9/11," said one Dylan Avery in The Conspiracy Files.

If you happen to be the geeky Avery, a tedious and irritating 9/11 conspiracy theorist, the answer would surely be: "Living in richly deserved obscurity, where you belong."

Regrettably, the self-important Avery is the man behind the notorious Loose Change films, a series of outrageous internet documentaries -- if you can call a jumble of half-truths, myths, misinformation and fabrication a documentary -- which posit the ridiculous claim 9/11 was one big inside job by the US government.

Avery claims, among other things, that the Twin Towers didn't collapse but were blown up in a controlled explosion. The "proof" of this he offers are some loud bangs and puffs of smoke coming from the towers as they toppled.

It doesn't matter that countless structural engineers -- including one, interviewed here, who worked on the construction of the buildings -- have explained the bangs and puffs as the effects of floors, their metal girders weakened by intense heat and their windows shattering, collapsing.

Avery's ill-informed and downright dangerous films, full of the same old guff he's been peddling since the dust from that awful day settled on New York, have received millions of hits on YouTube.

This tired and wholly unnecessary updating of a programme from 2007 gave another run-out to Avery's objectionable nonsense, along with that of an even more odious conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones.

Jones, a right-wing loudmouth whose three-hour Texas radio show goes out daily to an audience of rednecks who, he noted with relish, pride themselves on not believing a single word their government says, claims the World Trade Centre attacks were the work of "rogue networks at the top of the US government", abetted by President George W Bush, intent on "making trillions from war".

One of his most disgusting allegations is that the US Air Force were ordered to stand down for 45 minutes while the attacks were taking place. It was trashed by air traffic controllers and pilots involved in the response.

The Conspiracy Files let Avery, Jones and other attention-seeking chancers set up their theories, and then duly had experts and eyewitnesses punch holes in them.

This approach is all very well; the trouble is the people who need to know the truth most -- the ones who believe this drivel -- won't have been watching. Maybe the BBC should post the programme on YouTube.

Were all male journalists in 1982, which was about the time I got into this business, really foul-mouthed, unreconstructed, chain-smoking, hip flask-nipping sexist boors who'd think nothing of telling a young woman working in the office, "You're just the fat tart who makes the coffee"?

Not in the newspapers I worked for, but that's exactly how everyone behaves in The Field of Blood, a two-part thriller set in and around a Glasgow paper office in '82.

The aforementioned "fat tart" (actually, she's just a bit on the chubby side) is Patricia 'Paddy' Meehan (Jayd Johnson), a copygirl who aspires to be a reporter. When a 10-year-old boy who happens to be related to her is charged with the murder of an even younger child, Paddy -- trapped between the ridicule of the jaded hacks and the disapproval of her strongly Catholic family -- decides to conduct her own investigation.

There are plenty of striking performances here, including the excellent Johnson, David Morrissey as her hard-edged/soft-centred boss and the great Peter Capaldi, working wonders with a single line and a raised eyebrow, as a veteran reporter.

But even as it lays on the period detail (old typewriters, old cars, the smoke-fogged newsroom) thickly, it strains the credulity.



the conspiracy files HIIII the field of blood HHIII

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