Here's a little-known (at least here in the US) tidbit that's re-emerged in the News of the World scandal. British singer Billy Bragg has weighed in on the scandal engulfing Rupert Murdoch's media empire with his new song "Never Buy The Sun."
The song is a broad critique of British media practices ("someone's hiding in the bushes/ with a telephoto lens") but one line of the refrain requires a bit of historical context. Bragg sings "The Scousers never buy The Sun."
The who? Why do they never buy The Sun?
Turns out, this is a reference to a lingering controversy stemming from the 1989 Hillsoborough disaster, in which 96 fans of the Liverpool Football Club were crushed to death during a match against Sheffield FC. In the wake of the disaster, the Murdoch-owned published a controversial cover story pinning much of the blame on rowdy Liverpool fans, and asserting that "drunken Liverpool fans viciously attacked rescue workers as they tried to revive victims" and that "police officers, firemen and ambulance crew were punched, kicked and urinated upon."
In the wake of this story, residents of Liverpool (or "Scousers") began to boycott the newspaper, and resentment towards the publication still stands. Though the newspaper officially apologized for the cover story in 2004, the boycott continues to this day, with circulation in Liverpool much lower than any other city in England.
Writing in the Guardian earlier this week, Bragg elaborated on the refrain of his new song:
For the past 22 years, people in Liverpool have boycotted the Sun newspaper because of the lies that it printed about the behaviour of Liverpool FC fans at the Hillsborough disaster. As I listened to the unfolding reports of the phone-hacking story last week, it occurred to me that the scousers had been right about News International all along.
→ Read more about the history of Hillsborough and The Sun on Wikipedia
(Jody Avirgan is a producer with WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show, on twitter at @jodyavirgan)