As an ardent Liverpool fan the memory of Hillsborough and its images are etched deep within my consciousness. Of course I cannot begin to comprehend the pain and agony of the families of the 96 who so sadly lost their loved ones. Last week, the world heard the unpalatable truth about the Hillsborough disaster, the truth that the fans were in no way to blame, and that the police were complicit in a system that looked to shift the blame from their shoulders onto the fans. Lies, amendments and an orchestrated smear campaign, by South Yorkshire Police, supported by some conservative MPs and the media, had led millions to believe that the blame rested with drunken and unruly Liverpool fans.
We have seen before instances of officers distorting the facts by comparing notes in draft form and coordinating statements to fit their chosen narrative, as in the Jean Charles de Menezes case. I do ask why in a system of checks and balances can we get such an orchestrated campaign that is built upon lies and innuendoes, and where there must be people who know/knew the truth and are complicit by their silence. What makes people ignore or support that which they know to be wrong? Is it the fear of breaking away from their peer group, or being paranoid that they will be vilified for leaving the party line, or being bullied into submission. Surely within the South Yorkshire police there were those who knew and did not act. Are these people just as guilty as those who changed statements, distorted the truth or enticed, encouraged others to do so. Are we the general public also to blame for being so easily wanting to believe something as it was easy to believe.
In organisations too I have noted many times the collective blindness to the hard truths about Leaders, culture and profitability. I have seen Leaders who would rather see out their tenure even though they know they are risking the future of the business and those who work within. Organisational deceit and bias are a stain on the character and morals of those who fail to act. All of us have a dark side, and all of us have probably avoided sharing the truth. Perhaps we could all learn from the dignity of the families who for so long stood for something greater than themselves—the truth about their loved ones. Perhaps all of us could use this as an ‘aha’ moment and ensure we too are not complicit by actions, deeds or omissions in facing today’s realities today.
Our world can be undoubtedly more open and transparent now than it was in 1989: for the police or a system that wants to hide reality, with a mobile phone in every pocket there can never again be just one official account, a monopoly on reliable information in the crucial early hours of a disaster: We hope. We know that if each of us take responsibility for our corner of the truth we can have utopia—an open and transparent world.