An occasional column devoted to examining the opinion management industry in Jersey.
In my last post I explained that I would be producing occasional analysis of spin in action in the political environment of Jersey, and to begin with a nice, easy example, I will recount the Jersey Evening Post handling of a non-story concerning me.
Some people have advised me that blog posting should be short. I’m sure there is a lot of truth in that – but what is missing from political discourse in Jersey? Any meaningful detailed examination of issues. So, I’m afraid some of what I write on this blog site will be lengthy – not all of it, hopefully – but I feel there is a ‘market niche’ to be filed.
Before getting onto the JEP behaviour, some background information is necessary to understand events.
Jersey residents will be very aware that I have spent the last 12 months fighting to expose a dangerous and deficient so-called child “welfare & protection” apparatus in Jersey.
During this episode I had cause to become dissatisfied with the ‘performance’ of the Jersey Data Protection Commissioner. The grounds for my concerns were as follows:
1: A repeated and sustained refusal to answer rudimentary questions put to her by me concerning the proper interpretation of the DP law.
2: This equating to a denial to a data controller of proper and reasonable assistance in interpreting the law and obligations caused by it.
3: Dragging on the process of “investigating” a complaint against me (This being another whole issue which I will address in detail at a later date.)
4: Refusing to explain the accepted grounds for “legitimate” disclosure of data under certain circumstances.
5: Refusing to confirm or deny the veracity of opinions I had gathered from about 7 other data control officers across the United Kingdom – all of which concluded that Data Protection Law did have a generally recognised “legitimate disclosure” defence.
6: After this process – which given her flat refusal to co-operate with me was only ever going to have one outcome – finding against me – without so much as speaking to me – for as much as 1 minute. At least in “The Trial” Kafka’s character is spoken to.
7: Withholding her so-called “finding” from me until it was ready for distribution to the media.
8: Releasing her finding to the media in a way which dovetailed perfectly with the spin against me by the Jersey Establishment.
9: Refusing to respond to legitimate enquiries concerning her previous involvement with Senator Wendy Kinnard – a conflicted politician as Home Affairs Minister and one third of the “Corporate Parent”.
10: Rejecting at least two separate complaints under the law – the explanations for which findings were the diametric opposite of her grounds for upholding complaints against me and a whistle-blower.
11: The first of these two complaints was from me concerning the leaking of personal e-mails from me to Alan Watts at Channel Television. These were leaked by Karen Rankine to her husband – would-be spin-doctor to the Jersey oligarchy and ‘money-for-old-rope’ – Glenn Rankine. He then leaked it onto Senator Frank Walker: I reproduce his section here:
From: Glenn Rankine [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: 05 February 2007 10:26
To: Frank Walker
Subject: FW: The Letter
This e-mail has been received directly from the Internet: you should
exercise a degree of caution since there can be no guarantee that the
source or content of the message is authentic.
If you receive inappropriate e-mail from an external source it is your
responsibility to notify Computer Services Helpdesk (telephone 440440).
The Full States e-mail Usage Policy can be found here:
I send you this in complete confidence so you get an insight to what Stuart’s up to behind the scenes… Hope it helps.
Glenn was never very bright – but fair play – notwithstanding his obvious limitations he has succeed in conning the powerful in Jersey that he is some kind of spin Meister. They say fools and their money are easily separated.
12: The second of these rejected complaints was of far greater importance. During the controversial engineering of my dismissal as Health & Social Services Minister, the other third of the “Corporate Parent”, Senator Mike Vibert, released to all States members and the media four photographs of the cells at the old Jersey secure unit for children. These are cells in which – for many years – already vulnerable and messed-up children had been routinely held in solitary confinement; for 24 hours on arrival – or days if the child was “non-compliant” – or, in the case of one child victim, two months. That’s two months in solitary confinement – for a child.
This illegal and abusive treatment of children was one of the main features of the controversy; whistle-blowers, victims and I were on the war-path about this – thus the senior civil servants responsible, with the enthusiastic collusion of Establishment politicians, naturally – set about getting rid of me.
The photographs issued by Senator Mike Vibert were calculatedly misleading. The concerns we had been expressing focused on how it had been possible to treat children in this way for years previously – and with what had been the wretched condition of the cells. They had been painted about two years ago with colourful murals on the walls, and what used to be a “gymnasium-style crash-mat” (eye-witness testimony) on the floor as the only bedding, had been replaced with wooden platform beds. So whilst the cells were still an utter disgrace – an attempt was made to spin their appearance into something good by using a few colour photos of the bright murals.
And it is here that the Data Protection breach arose. These photos were widely distributed by e-mail – and our old friend the Jersey Evening Post even printed one in full-colour on its front page.
However – in a profoundly serious breach of confidentiality, clearly visible in the photo were the names of four previous child inmates who had signed the mural which they had painted.
The gravity of this breach cannot be over-stated. It breaches the rights of a minor to privacy; it reveals to the world the fact that they had been inmates at a secure child offender institution – and it breaches the legal constraint upon publishing the identities of minors involved with the criminal justice system.
Breaches just don’t get much more serious.
The response of the Data Protection Commissioner to a complaint made to her by a highly professional social worker? “No breach”.
Funny that – isn’t it. You know – how every single complaint made by the Jersey Oligarchy gets upheld – and truly shocking complaints made by anti-establishment individuals always get dismissed?
No, not really – especially when you know that, to a large extent, the DP Office was being ventriloquised by Jersey Attorney General, William Bailhache, who was advising the Data Protection Commissioner throughout. This is a man so nakedly politicised and deeply conflicted in the general controversy of child protection that we shouldn’t be in the least surprised.
Now – that was the background information. So here is the “Anatomy of the Spin”.
Whilst dissatisfied with the standards of the Jersey Data Protection Office for all the reasons described above – and having told her so. I let the matter rest and moved onto work of far higher priority – like attempting to save vulnerable kids from Jersey’s child “protection” system.
Then – rather curiously – I received a letter from the Jersey parliament’s “Privileges & Procedures Committee” “inviting” me to submit any formal complaints I had against the Data Protection Office. I didn’t rise to the bait – so they issued another such letter to me a few weeks later. This time they assured me that it was not an investigation against me – it was going to be a serious examination by them of any complaints against the DP Office.
I rejected this entreaty as well; this time writing to them and saying that whilst I was not happy at the lack of impartiality demonstrated by the DP Office – I had not – and would not – make any formal complaint. To do so would have been an utter waste of my time; for, as I said to them “I would have more chance of employing Osama Bin Ladin to run a brewery than there be any possibility of a complaint being upheld from an anti-establishment person against one of the components of the Jersey Establishment apparatus.
That, I thought, was the end of the matter. But – enter stage-right the Jersey Evening Post.
I was called – out-of-the-blue – by Ben Queree, reporter at the JEP – who clearly new a great deal about the issues – having been briefed by someone from the establishment. He then proceeded to ask me about my “complaints” against the Data Protection Office – and even used a crude journalistic trick of suggesting words or phrases – trying to put them in my mouth – which, if repeated back to the journalist, then become the hook for the story. He asked me about my “complaints” of “corruption” – his word – not mine – against the DP Office.
Being an old hand at this stuff I recognised immediately what was going down.
The Jersey Establishment have always wanted to do all they could to attack me. This has become especially so as their corporate stupidity has finally caught them up and engulfed them in the child protection controversy. Such is the catastrophic nature of their position – so badly did they get things wrong – so mind-bogglingly stupid were people like Philip Ozouf and Frank Walker in siding with manifestly defective civil servants who had failed to protect children – that the Jersey Establishment may – finally – have inflicted terminal harm upon itself.
And this is an election year in Jersey. These are frightened and desperate people.
So – diversionary spin is needed – ideally, diversionary spin against their enemies – “best form of defence being attack” and all that kind of stuff.
Hence the attempts by – first the Privileges & Procedures Committee – then, when that failed, the Jersey Evening Post – to set me up so when my phantom “complaints” were inevitably rejected – they could deliver a few more “Stuart Syvret is a Bastard” headlines. “Former Health Minister accuses DP Office of Corruption”; “Senator makes yet more “unfounded” attacks on staff”; “Syvret wrong again”; “Chief Minister Defends staff Against Slurs” – etc – etc – etc.
All accompanied, no doubt, by several more fruit loop leading article comments in which my culpability for everything from global warming to the stock-market crash would be expounded again.
But the JEP – not to let the facts get in the way of a ‘story’ pressed on regardless – and recently published the article which claimed I had “withdrawn” two “Complaints” I had made against the DP Office.
I did e-mail Ben Queree – twice – and ask him why he had written this fiction? Why had he and the JEP, essentially, lied to their readers?
Curiously – he hasn’t replied yet.
To serve as a final illustration of just how twisted and, frankly, stupid, our local “elites” are – consider: how was I able to recognise – instantly – and I mean within seconds – of receiving the first letter from PPC, that it was all an exercise in political entrapment? That the exercise had precisely zero purpose other than to generate spurious grounds for another media assault upon me?
Simple: The Data Protection Office is an independent law enforcement agency – it possesses a quasi-judicial function. It sits outside the executive and the legislature. Therefore – even if they actually wanted to – PPC had precisely zero – zip, nada, zilch – authority, power or locus standi to involve itself in some kind of complaint enquiry against the Data Protection Office.
Thus – what PPC was purporting to wish to do was simply not possible for an agency of the legilsature.
But, of course, what they and they’re friends at the JEP actually wanted to do was simply strike another blow for the Jersey Establishment against anyone who becomes too much of an inconvenience.
So – here is an “Anatomy of a Spin”. Not one of great importance – but a useful illustration of how opinion management and event manipulation works in Jersey.
Forgive the length of this post;
I’ll keep the next one shorter.
Book of the Post:
Selling Politics: We Have Ways of Making You Think, by Laurence Rees
Joke of the Post:
A linguistics professor was lecturing his English class one day. “In English,” he said, “a double negative forms a positive. In some languages, though, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative. However, there is no language wherein a double positive can form a negative.”
A voice from the back of the room piped up, “Yeah, right.”