Chapter

‘Every man an emperor’: the British press, Bloody Sunday and the image of the British Army<sup>1</sup>

Greg McLaughlin and Stephen Baker

in The Northern Ireland Troubles in Britain

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print December 2016 | ISBN: 9780719096310
Published online May 2017 | e-ISBN: 9781526120809 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7228/manchester/9780719096310.003.0014
‘Every man an emperor’: the British press, Bloody Sunday and the image of the British Army1

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On 30 January 1972, men of the 1st Parachute Regiment of the British Army opened fire on civil rights marchers in Derry, Northern Ireland, killing 13 unarmed and innocent civilians. The event was reported worldwide and was to seen in hindsight as a significant turning point in the conflict in Northern Ireland; the moment when a struggle for civil rights gave way to a war between the IRA and the British state. Yet, as the textual analysis in this chapter shows, the official story of Bloody Sunday was based almost entirely on army lies and propaganda and on the flawed Widgery Report of 19 April 1972, which exonerated the paratroopers and their officers and cast doubt on the innocence of the victims. Newspaper coverage at the time showed a determination to recover the image and reputation of the Army in the wake of the killings. Indeed, even after the Saville Report 38 years later, which vindicated the victims and cast blame solely on the British army, sections of the British press were reluctant to let go of the official version. The explanation for this, we argue, has more to do with a deep-seated, cultural and ideological predisposition than with propaganda or the normative routines of commercial journalism.

Keywords: Bloody Sunday; newspaper coverage; British Army; pleasure culture of war; propaganda; ideology; textual analysis

Chapter.  6625 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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