Just found the first academic paper I wrote (see link above), back in 1995, after a visit from Max Clifford to the University I then worked in. The paper is a bit of a mess  – no references attached, unclear layout, but it is interesting to note how I have consistently asked the same questions over 20+ years, namely:

  • Do all PR people really tell the truth all the time?
  • If not, is hypocrisy worse than lying?
  • Do practitioners self-deceive to avoid cognitive dissonance?
  • Is the main issue truth or credibility?

Clifford’s refusal of cant seemed attractive in the context of uncritical PR self-praise. But  I was also clear that his monstrous ego clearly felt qualified to issue judgement on who should live or die by tabloid and that this was an abuse of power.

I felt too – and have spoken about this recently in revisiting Barnum – that there is a place for information as entertainment, and that Clifford’s nonsense was not treated as reportage by readers, though those were very different media landscapes. This BBC article rejects that position as underestimating the harm done to journalism by the continual use of false stories to sell papers. Clifford obit

The part I strongly retract now is that I then thought he knew when he was lying. The intervening years and court cases demonstrate that he did not.


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