Journalisme: Retour sur une victime oubliée du Titanic (WT Stead: Sensationalist or saint?)
Le mot « tabloïd » vient du nom donné par la société pharmaceutique londonienne Burroughs Wellcome & Co. aux comprimés alors commercialisés sous le nom de pilules « Tabloïd » à la fin des années 1880. Avant les comprimés, les médicaments étaient généralement pris sous une forme plus volumineuse de poudre. Même si Burroughs Wellcome & Co. ne furent pas les premiers à utiliser cette technique pour fabriquer des tablettes comprimées, ils furent ceux qui en réussirent le mieux la commercialisation, d’où la popularité du terme « tabloïd » dans la culture populaire. La connotation du tabloïd fut bientôt appliquée à d’autres petits objets, tels que l’avion Sopwith tabloïd et pour le journalisme « compressé » qui condensait des histoires en un format simplifié et facilement absorbé. Le terme de » journalisme tabloïd » (1901) précéda d’ailleurs les petits journaux qui leur servaient de support (1918). Wikipedia
Ce qui m’a choqué, c’est de voir que des hommes ne laissaient pas monter les femmes et les enfants en premier dans les chaloupes. Michel Pavageau (naufragé du Concordia, 2012)
Les femmes et les enfants d’abord ? Cet adage semble ne pas se vérifier lors des naufrages. Des scientifiques suédois ont ainsi analysé 18 catastrophes maritimes et ont publié leurs conclusions lundi 30 juillet. Il en ressort qu’au cours de ces accidents, les hommes se sont principalement préoccupés de leur propre survie avant celle des autres passagers. Mikael Elindera et Oscar Erixson, de l’Université d’Uppsala, en Suède, ont ainsi étudié le taux de survie de 15 000 naufragés entre 1852 et 2011. Il en ressort que le naufrage le plus célèbre du siècle dernier, celui du Titanic, fait figure d’exception à la règle, en comptant 70% des femmes et des enfants qui ont survécu contre 20% des hommes. Terrafemina
C’était le plus grand navire en exploitation et la plus prestigieuse création de l’homme. Toutes les sciences et tous les corps de métiers connus avaient contribué à sa construction et assuraient sa maintenance … Insubmersible, indestructible, il ne transportait que le nombre strict de canots de sauvetage requis par la loi … Morgan Robertson (Futilité ou Le Naufrage du Titan, 1898)
C’est exactement ce qui pourrait se produire et se produira si les paquebots sont lancés avec trop peu de canots. William Thomas Stead
Les océans parcourus par de rapides paquebots sont jonchés des os blanchis de ceux qui ont embarqué comme nous et qui ne sont jamais arrivés à bon port. William Thomas Stead

Alors qu’un an à peine après le 50e anniversaire du tristement célèbre naufrage de 1912, on annonce le lancement dans trois ans d’un nouveau Titanic …

En ces temps où, triste victoire du féminisme, les hommes n’hésitent plus à piétiner les femmes et les enfants en cas de naufrage

Retour sur l’un des passagers oubliés mais en son temps célébrissime …

A savoir William Thomas (WT) Stead, à la fois pacifiste (notamment contre la Guerre des Boers) et spiritualiste mais surtout inventeur, à lui tout seul du journaliste d’investigation (contre la prostitution infantile) comme du tabloidisme le plus sordide ..

Qui de surcroit s’offrit le luxe, dans un article puis un court roman (à l’instar d’un autre auteur, américain celui-là,  Morgan Robertson) une vingtaine d’années avant les faits, d’en prédire quasiment les circonstances …

Avant d’y laisser lui-même la vie …

WT Stead, a forgotten victim of Titanic

A century on, lessons from the life of WT Stead, a newspaperman lost in the Titanic disaster, remain eerily relevant .

Roger Luckhurst

The Telegraph

10 Apr 2012

In the days after the sinking of the RMS Titanic, with the loss of 1,500 lives, the press focused on the rich and famous victims. Between them the heirs J J Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim, and Ida and Isidor Straus, the co-owners of Macy’s store in New York, were said to be worth £70 million (about £6 billion today).

There were heroic tales of sacrifice and stoicism: the eight-man orchestra, who played on until the waters lapped at their feet; Major Butt, the military attaché to American President Taft, who refused a lifeboat place. Captain Smith went down with his ship, but the White Star Line owner, J. Bruce Ismay, who stepped into a lifeboat, would live the rest of his life in disgrace.

Yet for the British press, the first name among the drowned was the editor William Stead, who was travelling on the Titanic to address a conference at Carnegie Hall in New York. Stead was often listed first among “Notable Victims”, and the journalist JL Garvin recalled: “Walking in Oxford Street at midday, when the loss of the Titanic was certain, the only name I heard was his.”

There is a fair chance that you have never heard of William Stead. Julian Fellowes does not feature him in his ITV miniseries. He does not appear in James Cameron’s Titanic and he is seen for only a couple of seconds in the 1958 film A Night to Remember as an unnamed man calmly reading in the Smoking Room as the ship sinks. Yet Stead was a towering figure in journalism and politics between 1880 and his death.

On the centenary of his death, it is worth remembering how much modern culture owes this extraordinary man. A two-day conference at the British Library later this month will feature nearly 50 historians and scholars who are gathering to examine his life and legacy.

Stead is often regarded as the inventor of modern investigative journalism. As the young editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, he used his influential evening daily to shape government policy. In 1884, Stead pressured the government to send his friend General Charles Gordon into Sudan to protect British interests in Khartoum. The eccentric Gordon disobeyed orders, and the siege of Khartoum, Gordon’s death and the failure of the hugely expensive Gordon Relief Expedition was one of the great imperial disasters of the period.

Most notoriously, in July 1885, over three nights, Stead published “The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon”, a dramatic exposé of child prostitution in London. He had gone undercover in the East End to show how easy it was to procure a young girl for £5. He revealed the network of procurers, and the doctors who would guarantee the girls’ virginity. It was a lurid tale, told with a thunderous moral outrage.

The explicit details in this story were something wholly new in journalism, and there was a definite sense that a threshold in public discourse had been breached. In Fleet Street, tens of thousands crowded the offices of the Pall Mall Gazette to get their hands on the next instalment.

The Liberal government was pressured to alter the Criminal Amendment Act then going through Parliament. The Act increased the age of consent for girls from 13 to 16, days after the Gazette’s reports.

Stead was a Northern dissenter, an unorthodox Protestant liberal, hated by many in the London Establishment. Within weeks of his moral victory, he was arrested and put on trial for breaking the very law he had sought to change. He had taken the girl at the centre of the scandal away from her home without the permission of her father. At the trial, plainly intended to curtail Stead’s alarming influence, he was imprisoned for three months.

Allowed to continue working from his prison cell, he wrote the incendiary essay “Government by Journalism”, in which he argued that a properly democratic paper, run by an active network of concerned readers, could render a corrupt parliamentary machine redundant. It was a rather striking version of the Big Society.

Once out of jail, Stead became devoted to various attempts to create this network. He established the Review of Reviews in 1890, a monthly journal with global reach, intended to bind the empire together by synthesising all its best journalism. Stead continued to innovate: he was the first editor to employ women journalists; he loved new communication technologies and reported breathlessly on the new wireless experiments of the 1890s.

His dream of launching his own daily newspaper was finally realised in 1904, but proved a disaster. The Daily Paper closed after six weeks, costing Stead £35,000 (nearly £3 million today) of his own money. He continued to be a political figure of global reach, however. He was heavily involved in both Hague peace conferences, in 1899 and 1907. But he was widely disliked for his opposition to the Boer War in 1899. He was even more marginalised by his crankier passions, ranging from Esperanto, which he strongly advocated in his newspaper columns, to spiritualism and the occult. He seemed willing to believe anything he was told, as if unable to conceive of tricks and trumpery. He enthused about the latest communications from the spirits.

In 1892, he announced he was receiving automatic messages from a recently deceased journalist, Julia Ames. After his son and heir Willie died young in 1907, he set up an office called “Julia’s Bureau”, which employed women mediums to act like telephonists, routing calls between the bereaved and the afterlife.

Survivors of the Titanic reported very little about Stead’s last hours. He chatted enthusiastically through the 11-course meal that fateful night, telling thrilling tales (including one about the cursed mummy of the British Museum), but then retired to bed at 10.30pm and seemed to take no part in the dramatic events after midnight on the open deck.

As a defender of women’s rights, he may well have accepted the chivalric code of “women and children first”. As a spiritualist, he will doubtless have met the prospect of death with equanimity. Indeed, he often compared the transition from this life to the next as a journey by boat from the Old to the New World. “Let us imagine the grave as if it were the Atlantic Ocean,” he wrote in 1909.

This was just one uncanny anticipation of the disaster. Indeed, Stead’s predictions were widely discussed after the Titanic sank. In 1886, he had written a short fictional piece called “How the Atlantic Mail Steamer Went Down”. It narrated how a Transatlantic liner carrying 916 passengers had collided in fog and sunk. The new regulations required lifeboats only for 390 passengers, creating a horrifying scene with a mass of “drowning creatures” in the freezing ocean. Stead warned that the scenario could easily happen in real life.

In 1892, his Christmas annual for the Review of Reviews had also contained a story of a Transatlantic sea rescue of a handful of survivors based on the RMS Majestic. The Majestic was captained by Edward Smith, who would finish his career with White Star, shepherding the Titanic on its maiden voyage.

Perhaps Stead’s most striking prediction was made in March 1912 regarding a new boat undergoing sea trials, the Selandia. This was the first ocean-going vessel with a diesel engine, and Stead understood the boat marked the “dethronement of King Coal”. For Stead, the Titanic was hardly the shiny future but the last gasp of an old order. That proved a powerful prediction.

It was perhaps inevitable that Stead’s spirit would reappear. His ghost relayed news of his arrival in the afterlife a matter of hours after the sinking, and first appeared in material form two weeks later. These spirit-world associations probably guaranteed that he faded from collective memory. Yet today, when the place of the press in public life, the ethics of proprietors and whether investigative journalists should break the law in the public interest have become crucial issues, the lessons of Stead’s career remain disarmingly relevant.

WT Stead’s campaigning life

1876 As editor of the Northern Echo in Darlington, Stead joins a campaign to repeal the Contagious Diseases Act, which sanctioned forcible examination of any woman suspected of prostitution. Law repealed in 1886. First gains notice of Liberal leader William Gladstone for his campaign to expose atrocities in the Bulgarian War. Moves to London in 1880 to join Pall Mall Gazette.

1883 “The Cry of the Outcast Poor of London” – Stead adds policy proposals to famous exposé and later writes “In Darkest London” and the “Way Out for the Salvation Army”.

1884 “The Truth About the Navy” prompts increase in military budget.

1885 “The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon” – Stead exposes child prostitution in London in pioneering piece of investigative journalism. Then jailed for breaking the law.

1890 Opens Review of Reviews, a monthly magazine.

1893-4 Lives in Chicago for six months, campaigning against brothels and drinking dens, publishing the lurid “If Christ Came to Chicago”.

1899 “Shall I Slay My Brother Boer?” – Stead’s anti-war stance prompts discussions over whether he can be prosecuted for treason.

1899 and 1907 Pivotal figure at Hague Peace Conference, arguing for early version of United Nations.

1909 Launches Julia’s Bureau, his spiritualist service.

1912 Boards Titanic to speak at peace conference on invitation of President Taft.

Roger Luckhurst is professor in modern literature at Birkbeck College, University of London. “WT Stead: Centenary Conference for a Newspaper Revolutionary” will be held at the British Library on April 16 and 17, and is open to the public. A collection of essays on Stead will be published by British Library Press later in 2012.

Voir aussi:

Book review: Muckraker, W Sydney Robinson

Published on Sunday 6 May 2012 11:01

Robson Press, £20

IT WAS a dirty job but someone had to do it: probe the sex trade in Scotland’s capital city and come back with a scoop. The glamourpuss of the features department would get the byline, the glory and the chat-show appearances, but she needed a man for the eye-witness account of the saunas suspected of being brothels – a leg-man, or more accurately, leg-over man.

This reporter would get the anecdote, the memento of the expenses claim returned to him for framing (“Late-duty tea: entertaining Gloria, £3.95”), and the satisfaction of knowing he’d volunteered while others of a more sheltered upbringing – me included – shirked from the task. Truly, he was a son of WT Stead.

WT who? Only the father of modern tabloid journalism, the pioneer of investigative reporting. Thirty-odd years ago, we chided overzealous hacks thus: “Who do you think you are, Bob Woodward/Carl Bernstein?” Really, though, it should have been “Slow down, you’re not WT Stead.” I’m embarrassed to admit I’d never heard of Stead until reading this fine biography, although it seems he’s been under-appreciated for a while. Tristram Hunt in the foreword is amazed this is the first biog of “arguably the most important journalist of all time”.

Like many great editors, Stead was equal parts genius and madman. “He twisted facts, invented stories, lied, betrayed confidences,” writes W Sydney Robinson, “but always with a great desire to reform the world, and himself.” In 1870, aged 21, he was Britain’s youngest newspaper editor and, with the Northern Echo, put Darlington and himself on the journalistic map by attacking the Tory government over the Bulgarian Atrocities.

Stead was also a towering egomaniac and a raging moralist. As well as reforming the country, he was also reforming newspapers. He introduced maps, diagrams and sub-headings. He kicked dons and civil servants off his pages, believing it was the job of the journalist to “stand between those who know everything and those who know nothing”. Then he moved to London and the Pall Mall Gazette to deploy the first 24-point headline – “TOO LATE!” (about the fall of Khartoum) – and invent the interview.

Newspapers, he told his staff, were “the only Bible which millions read”. A raging moralist, then, but one with what he admitted was a “crazy appetite for sex”. The campaign among many which defined his career was the Maiden Tribute. To expose the scandal of child prostitution, he abducted 13-year-old Eliza Armstrong. A 50,000-word narrative was dictated to relays of shorthand writers. With trademark Stead cross-headings reading “I order five virgins”, this puritanical melodrama caused a sensation. The PMG ran out of paper; copies changed hands for 20 times the 1d cover price. One of the most infamous characters, the “Minotaur of London”, is reckoned to have inspired Jekyll and Hyde, while Armstrong was the basis for Eliza Doolittle. Stead was credited with helping raise the age of consent for girls but he was jailed for his actions and his reputation never really recovered.

Presumably Robinson was working towards a deadline of the centenary of Stead’s death, unaware it would coincide with the convulsing of the tabloid press his subject helped create. Stead died on the Titanic and was last seen turning the pages of a penny Bible in the first-class reading room.

Voir également:

Mystery and controversy aboard RMS Titanic

Taylor Reints

31 July, 2012

It was a Sunday, the date: April 14, 1912. Those aboard the RMS Titanic were worry free, some coming to the United States as emigrants, others traveling for pure pleasure. However, the North Atlantic in springtime is freezing and filled with icebergs, lots and lots of icebergs. No reason to fear, the owners of this immense ship said, because it was « virtually unsinkable! » Nothing could possibly sink this ship, right? Wrong! At 11:40 p.m., a lookout spotted an iceberg straight ahead. However, the ship was going « Full speed ahead! » as Captain Edward J. Smith instructed earlier and it was hard to avoid it. The iceberg ripped an over two hundred foot long hole in the hull and the ocean liner sunk two hours and forty minutes later, at 2:20 a.m. the following day.

We’ve all heard the story of the Titanic… but is that the story that really played out? Could there be a hidden truth to the sinking of this ship?

Believe it or not, the company that built the Titanic never said that it was unsinkable, rather they believed that this myth was interpreted differently by people reading articles in the Irish news and Shipbuilder magazine. Even the Vice President of the company that owned the Titanic believed it to be unsinkable. Obviously it wasn’t, though, as many found out. And interestingly enough, the same story took place in three different literary works, before the mighty ship sunk.

Morgan Robertson was a well-known author, most famous for his novella Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan. The plot of the book revolves around former U.S. Navy officer John Rowland. Dismissed from the Navy, he now works as a deckhand on the huge ocean liner Titan.

There are many similarities between the Titan and the Titanic. For example, in the book, the Titan was eight hundred feet long whereas the Titanic was 882 feet and nine inches long. The Titan also sank in the North Atlantic in April near midnight and there weren’t enough lifeboats for those aboard. Also, Futility says that the Titan traveled at 25 knots (28.75 mph) while, in reality, the Titanic traveled at 22.5 knots (25.9 mph).

However, there are altogether creepier literary coincidences of Titanic fortune-telling, written by Victorian journalist William Thomas Stead.

Stead wrote both an article and a novel that seem to be based upon the sinking of the Titanic, even though they were both written over twenty years before its maiden voyage. The article was published in the Pall Mall Gazette on March 22, 1886 and was titled « How the Mail Steamer Went Down in Mid-Atlantic, by a Survivor ». In this piece, Stead tells of a steamship that sinks after colliding with another ship. Not exactly the story of the Titanic; although, it does say that many died due to a lack of lifeboats. He wrote, « This is exactly what might take place and will take place if liners are sent to sea short of boats ».

Stranger still, his 1892 book From the Old World to the New tells of a vessel, the Majestic, that rescues people victims of an iceberg that collided with their ship. The captain of the Majestic was Edward J. Smith, the same name of the captain of the Titanic!

William Thomas Stead boarded the Titanic to go to the United States and take part in a peace congress at Carnegie Hall at request of President William Howard Taft. He never made it to the U.S. Oddly enough, Stead had always claimed he would either die from lynching or drowning.

With such creepy coincidences, some wonder if these really were coincidences. One conspiracy theory has emerged concerning the sinking of the RMS Titanic and if it was deliberate. It is the Federal Reserve Titanic conspiracy which states that some of the wealthiest and most powerful men of that day were coaxed aboard the Titanic because those whom thought up the Federal Reserve didn’t want these specific men to oppose the idea.

Coincidences and conspiracies are not of the stranger front. A little girl named Jessie in Scotland lay on her bed dying and hours before the Titanic sank, she envisioned drowning passengers and « someone called Wally…playing a fiddle. » Wallace, or Wally, Hartley was a musician of the Titanic and died playing his fiddle. Similarly, New York attorney Isaac Frauenthal had a dream about the sinking liner the night before he boarded. He said, « It seemed to me that I was on a big steamship that suddenly crashed into something and began to go down. » He had the same dream again aboard the Titanic. When he woke up to the warning of the collision with the iceberg, he fled to a lifeboat and survived.

There certainly are strange stories, conspiracies, coincidences and precognition concerning the Titanic. So ask yourself, are you still going on that luxury cruise?


« The Titanic–Why Did People Believe Titanic Was Unsinkable? » History on the Net. Retrieved July 26, 2012, from

« The Titanic–Futility ». History on the Net. Retrieved July 26, 2012, from

« Interesting Facts ». The Unsinkable RMS Titanic. Retrieved July 26, 2012, from

« Titanic Conspiracy ». Titanic Universe. Retrieved July 26, 2012, from

« Titanic’s Watery Grave This Week at ». Retrieved July 26, 2012, from

Voir encore:

WT Stead: Sensationalist or a saint?

The Northern Echo

10th April 2012

CAUSING A RIOT: WT Stead and Eliza Armstrong and headlines from The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon CAUSING A RIOT: WT Stead and Eliza Armstrong and headlines from The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon

Today, The Northern Echo launches an investigation into modern child exploitation as a tribute to a former editor, WT Stead, who died on the Titanic. Chris Lloyd sets the scene by telling of Stead’s campaign

« LONDON’S lust annually uses up many thousands of women, who are literally killed and made away with – living sacrifices slain in the service of vice. All I ask is that those doomed to the house of evil shall not be trapped into it unwillingly, and that none shall be beguiled into the chamber of death before they are of an age to read the inscription above the portal: ‘All hope abandon ye who enter here’.”

William Thomas Stead was a man of enormous passion, ceaseless energy and a sensational turn of phrase. When he became The Northern Echo’s second editor in 1871, he somehow managed to inflame the whole of the North-East with fury about the slaughter of thousands of civilians in faraway Bulgaria.

Stead had long had a passion against prostitution.

In the early 1870s, he had been dismayed by the sight of women selling themselves on Newcastle’s Quayside, and he railed in the Echo against the rich men who paid for sex with someone else’s daughter.

Then, in 1879, late one night on his way home from the Echo’s offices in Priestgate, he came across a woman sobbing. She said “a scoundrel had attempted to outrage her”. So Stead gave her his arm and kindly walked her home.

He wrote in his diary: “Before we got there she calmly proposed that I should complete the offense and I discovered that my desolate damsel was a common prostitute!”

Stead’s career took him from Darlington to London, where he was appalled by the trade in young girls who were sold into slavery in the capital’s brothels. He determined to expose the trade, and went searching for evidence.

“I am living in hell,” he wrote. “Oh, it is awful this abode of the damned. I go to brothels every day and drink and swear and talk like a fiend from a bottomless pit.”

Beyond evidence, he needed incontrovertible proof. So, with the help of a former brothel-keeper who had found God, Stead bought a 13-yearold girl, Eliza Armstrong, from her drunken, dissolute mother. He paid £3 cash, and then sent a further £2 when a doctor had physically examined Eliza and declared her to be virgo intacta.

Eliza was then taken to a brothel off Regent Street where she was undressed and put into bed. As was the common practice, a chloroformimpregnated handkerchief was placed over her face to make her woosy and to dull the pain of what her first customer was about to do to her.

That first customer was Stead himself.

He later wrote: “The door opened, and the purchaser entered the bedroom. He closed and locked the door. There was a brief silence. And then there rose a wild and piteous cry – not a loud shriek, but a helpless startled scream like the bleat of a frightened lamb. And the child’s voice was heard crying, in accents of terror: ‘There’s a man in the room! Take me home; oh, take me home!’ ***************…

“And then all once more was still.”

Despite the cries (and the asterisks), Stead hadn’t actually done anything to Eliza. Instead, he whisked her off to a Salvation Army safe house in Paris, where he dictated the sordid story to a relay of three shorthand clerks, sometimes for 24 hours at a time, with wet towels placed across his forehead.

He called his article “the Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon”, because in ancient Babylon young girls were sacrificed to the terrible minotaur, and he serialised it over five days in his newspaper, the Pall Mall Gazette.

VICTORIAN newspapers were long screeds of dense type, but Stead broke his columns up with little headlines which seemed designed to attract, or even titillate, the reader: “The Violation of Virgins”, “Strapping Girls Down”, “Confessions of a Brothel-keeper”. The series sold enormously.

By day four, Stead had run out of ink, so his old friends in the printing trade in County Durham rushed some down to him.

By day five, WH Smith refused to stock the paper because of the sexual nature of the articles, and so eager readers besieged the Gazette offices, rioting to get their hands on the latest copy. Indignation meetings were held all over London – at the biggest, in Hyde Park, 250,000 people registered their disgust at the “white slave trade”. The Criminal Law Amendment Act was rushed through Parliament, raising the age of consent for girls from 13 to 16 – just as Stead had set out to do.

BUT the campaign made Stead enemies.

Some felt he had broken all the taboos by discussing sex in public; others felt he had sensationalised sex just to sell papers. More sinisterly, some Parliamentarians were aggrieved that he had ended their harmless fun.

Plus Eliza’s mum, having drunk her £5 away, realised that she was not coming out of the scandal well. Her husband, Charles, thrashed her and then went with the police to Paris to try to find Eliza. Charles wasn’t much use because he twice succumbed to the lure of the Parisian ladies of the night and was then arrested by gendarmes for being drunk.

But Charles’ evidence was enough for Stead to be charged with “felonious abduction of a girl under 14”. A judge ruled that it didn’t matter how high-minded and moral Stead’s motives might have been, if he had taken the girl without her father’s permission, he was guilty.

And Stead had. Stead was guilty.

He was sentenced to nine weeks in prison.

He served three days hard labour before being transferred to Holloway Prison.

Yet Stead remained proud of what he had achieved. Each November 10 afterwards – the anniversary of his conviction – he went to work in his convict’s clothes, celebrating how he had introduced Britain’s first child protection Act, which was copied around the world. He had exposed the horrors of child prostitution, and he had changed attitudes: no longer were poor children regarded as the worthless sexual playthings of the immoral rich.

But, the Act had already begun its path through Parliament when Stead jumped on the bandwagon, and, although Eliza said in later life that she bore him no ill will, he had put a 13-year-old girl through a terrible ordeal which was tantamount to sexual abuse.

It is an extraordinary story, which is to this day controversial. For all the good he did, was Stead a saint or a sensationalist?

Voir encore:


Cornwall Community news


Our dead guest columnist WT Stead – at least he’s cheap

WT Stead was the Godfather of British Tabloid Journalism. Jailed when Editor of the Pall Mall Gazette by a corrupt Victorian court for exposing the scandal of child-prostitution in London, he went on to dominate his newly invented profession until going down with the Titanic in 1912. After his death, he retired to Cornwall, where his disembodied spirit haunts our office, and leaves occasional, vitriolic and completely uncensored opinion pieces lying around. Here’s the latest.

Our dead guest columnist WT Stead

It’s a fair old time since I boomed sonorously from the pages of a good old-fashioned free uncensored scandal-rag, but may I say, that the stark rebellion this week, of the good old-fashioned scandal-rag reading British public, against my old arch-enemies in the bent and perverted secret world of the disgraceful British courts, emboldens me to take a deep and revolutionary Victorian breath and boom once more.

We have a little club up here above the clouds, founded a couple of space-folds back by some luminaries of free speech through the various ages, my humble self included. And I’m glad to say the ‘Olympus Club’ (Honorary Patron: J. Christ), dedicated to those unjustly persecuted for exercising their right to free speech on Earth and taking its name of course from the late Twentieth Century dictaphone, rather than the cruel mythical oligarchy of the Greek Mount, has been a modest success.

Although not much is doing in the way of a recreational club by the standards of my age, it is always fascinating to muse over developments down below, and a post-match chin wag with Zola, Gilbert, Voltaire et al about what it can all possibly mean is always, as our vigorous new member Mr Leary likes to call it, something of a ‘Gas’. It’s refreshingly and rightfully rare that we agree of course, but over the last Earth month, it has proved impossible to differ on one increasingly obvious and rather exciting point.

We see a battle looming in Britain between orthodoxy and reason, between fascism and freedom, between bogus officials and citizens.

Up at Club Olympus, as you may guess, we are firmly for the freedom, and all bets are on.

The mockery that ordinary people armed with QWERTY keyboards made of Britain’s fat, sick and corrupt civil courts this week marks the first real strike home for our side.

And just because it all centred round some dozy git with the brains of a baboon and the tackle of a Grand National winner getting stitched up by a BFH, doesn’t make it any the less of a blow.

What the complete destruction of Ryan Gigg’s stupid super-injunction tells us is that people in Britain are sick of being told how to live their lives.

We, you seem to say, are not daft monkeys. We are free men and women, and it is for no-one but us to decide what is in our “best interest”.

You, the public, have for once asserted to those in power that you are – as your collective name literally suggests – ‘grown ups’ (public, from “publicus”, from‘pubes’ – meaning “adults” – with thanks to our club etymologist Senator Juvenal)

And that means you can all “bloody well decide for yourselves” (attrib: Juvenal – May 2011) what you should and shouldn’t know.

75,000 Twitterers among you decided you damn well deserved to know anything you liked about a juicy sex and blackmail scandal involving a TV starlet and a footballer.

Bizarre beginnings perhaps. But Bravo all the same. And where could, or should, it all lead? Well that’s the interesting part.

Let’s break down this tabloid scandal in full.

Now as your humble muck-raking reporter see it: in the case of Giggs, the decision of old Judge Eady to side with the sportsman was a fairly benevolent one.

Dear old Imogen Thomas appeared to be blackmailing Giggs, and Giggs, rather than go to the police, cried to the civil courts, where Eady took pity on him and his bulging bank account.

But idiots like Ryan Giggs and Imogen Stubbs and their unpleasant private lives are not the point – and they are not the problem.

The problem is a legal culture in which Eady readily believed himself to be right to ban a newspaper from telling the public about this first-rate scandal. And this illness of reason is not just Judge Eady’s disease. It represents a widespread anti-democratic cancer that is well into Stage 2.

Because it’s not just the silly tabloids that are denied their right to free speech by British courts. Millions of people across the country are gagged by secret courts every day. And the growing trend for more secrecy in the remaining public courts stems from this terrifying fact.

In Cornwall, for example, everything that ‘Children, Young People and Families’ (trans: Social Services) do to ‘families and children is secret. And everything that the inextricably linked ‘family courts’ do is secret too.

So most lawyers and council officials operate in secret, and are accountable to no-one.

One of the myriad evils arising from this secrecy, is that the colleagues of the secret officials and lawyers, those who still work under public scrutiny, notice what is going on. And what they chiefly notice, day in day out, is how their less capable colleagues in the secret world never get into trouble, because nothing they do, however wrong, is ever made public, making say, a ‘family’ lawyer or a ‘social’ worker better off in every way than say, a criminal barrister, or transport manager. And these public officials – like Justice Eady – fancy a bit of this magic all-forgiving secrecy for themselves.

Most law firms today live off family cases. This is because the fees are as secret as everything else, so are never held up to public scrutiny. The cases are a doddle too: you just make it up as you go along: after all – what juror is going to disbelieve you, or what reporter expose you for your mad decision about, say, little baby Peter, to the public? There are no jurors or reporters. There aren’t even any pesky old rules of evidence to trouble your wretched excuse for a mind. If tired or grumpy old Judge Elwen sends little Peter and Jane to live with highly-paid foster parents in Stirling in secret and pronounces that father or mother can send them an appropriate message by carrier pigeon at Christmas for no other reason except that he’s got indigestion – so what? No-one will ever be the wiser. It’s just ’10.00am Re: X Court 1’ – closed session, end of story. The press can’t go in, if Mum or Dad go to the press, they can’t publish it, and if they tell their mates, we jail them, and they can’t tell anyone about that either! So we can do whatever we like, for ever, and while there’s no threat to stop us, there is an enormous network of other inter-related ‘family professionals’ with a massive vested interest in keeping this highly profitable system of endemic injustice going.

It’s a sick world in which super-injunctions are the rule and fascism is the result.

Now a secret bureaucracy like this will grow, unchecked by civil society. It will grow, and is growing, like a Cancer, and Justice Eadys coming down with his terrible case of super-injunctivitis is a symptom of the secrecy disease spreading to the other organs of the democratic body politic. The ‘family’ courts and ‘Social’ Services are already completely cancerous and can only be removed, if democracy is to return to anything like its former health. The criminal and civil courts could still be saved. So Twittering Justice Eady’s secrecy out of existence at least provides some palliative respite, if no cure.

Now I’ve quoted Mr Bentham, who as I write sits in his slightly bizarre disembodied state alongside me at the Olympian table, before about this. Mr Bentham put it most neatly when he said simply that ‘without publicity, there is no justice’. But I get the impression you’re quickly forgotten by a media-soaked world, so this time, let me quote from an advocate of freedom who still labours on your Earth, and so commands air-time.

Julian Assange – not by coincidence the victim of a risible attempt by the authorities to stitch him up on a censored prosecution for ‘rape’ – said this to David Frost when defending his publication of secret Government documents on Wikileaks.

“Secret institutions become corrupted in their purpose. They are able to engage in secret plans, which would be opposed by the population, if the population knew about them, and then carry them out for their own internal purposes. So they are not performing the function that the people demand that they perform.”

He could have been talking about how in December 2006 Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys signed a secret document ordering the assassination of Government officials. He could have been talking about how in March 2003 the US Army at Guantanamo Bay secretly denied the Red Cross access to prisoners. But he could just as well have been talking about Ryan Giggs, or Cornwall’s ‘Children and Young People and Families’ council departments and our ‘Family’ courts.

Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys was exposed – for all the difference it made.

Guantanamo Bay should have been closed – but hasn’t been.

Ryan Giggs is on the front page of every newspaper in Britain.

Perhaps the British public could extend that courtesy to Britain’s family lawyers and social workers?

There is enormous pressure for the ‘family’ courts to open but greater resistance from within those courts – for the simple reason that they know it will mean Game Over. The public – and particularly juries – would never stand for the state sponsored child abuse that goes on in the ‘family’ division. Many bloggers and web users do publicise the crimes of the ‘family’ courts and of social workers, and even the old press pushed hard for the courts to be opened. In fact in 2009 Jack Straw did open them – at which point the legislature – in the form of former corporate lawyer and cretin Sir Mark Potter – blatantly and openly defied democratically elected Parliament, by sending a note to all ‘family’ division judges giving them a list of reasons for closing all and any of their ordered-open courts ‘in individual cases’.

In January 2011 Mail reporter Steve Doughty wrote in a news article that “Judges have effectively kept the family courts closed” without fear of any contradiction or press complaint, and his is an exact description of what has happened.

That’s the sort of official misbehaviour any dictator would be proud of: the actions of a bureaucracy completely out of control. Democratically elected Parliament passes a law ordering a group of officials to end their official secrecy – and the officials disobey it, and they get away with it.

The new Government promised a ‘review’ of the ‘family’ division as this farce rumbled on, but a year in, and the self-policing document produced has proven yet another sham, and it’s left to random Twitter users publicising salacious home-grown controversies and public-spirited contributors letting Wikileaks or campaigning websites beyond the grasp of UK law know about international scandals and throw up two fingers to a thoroughly corrupt legal system: fingers that legal system is trying harder and harder to break with yet more and more secrecy and censorship.

It’s no coincidence that the embittered Swedish prosecutor gunning for Assange – whose website exposed him as a lying fraud – is using the device of a censored ‘rape’ prosecution. Rape prosecutions, in Sweden as the UK, are highly secret on your behalf if you’re the alleged victim, but very public if you’re the accused.

In fact the censorship of rape cases is a classic, public and clearly demonstrable example, of how legal secrecy fuels lynch-mobbing and mass hysteria, and supports tyranny. Nobody gets to see the horrible injustices of the ‘family’ court and ‘social’ services, because they simply refuse to obey the law and open up, but we can see, in horrible detail, what has happened in traditionally open criminal courts in rape cases, when just some of the injustices from the secret fascist bureaucracies have crept in.

Political correct legislators excused their decision more than a decade ago to censor the name of the accuser but name the accused in rape cases by saying it would help more victims of rape come forward and get more rapists convicted. Even if you accept this ropey argument for censorship, it’s impossible to see how naming the accused helps spare the accuser her blushes. But arguments and logic were never part of this legislation. It was law based on political prejudice and misandry (a little heard term describing the pathological hatred of men) and drawn from the hysterical belief that rape is a common crime, a lunacy in turn born out of the famously insane assertion of fascistic sixties and seventies feminists that ‘all men are rapists’, which of course makes about as much sense as saying ‘all women are baby-killers’.

Of course, all-but no men are rapists, as we all now know beyond reproof. And the results of trying to unearth, or failing that create, thousands of these rapists of bigoted myth, by abusing the law and censoring the press, have much more closely resembled a medieval Pogrom than an enlightened legal reform. The indiscriminate offer that the law made to millions of women of massive financial compensation, bucket loads of unquestioning sympathy, bulletproof legal anonymity (and as an added bonus from Chomsky’s self-censoring corporate media whores, heroine status and another £2,500 odd quid if after a successful conviction they sell their story), created a sickening witch-hunt, which even its feminist high priests proved unable to justify to themselves, because the statistical results have been the exact opposite of those they proclaimed they intended.

The rate of rape convictions has sunk to an all time low. It’s sunk because Juries (Juries which, it’s probably worth pointing out for the benefit of the many imbeciles who react to any questioning of feminism by accusing the questioner of some antique mythical chauvinism, are almost always dominated by women) throw out wild and outrageous politically inspired or just plain raving claims of rape against innocent men.

So the actual result of censoring and twisting perfectly good laws to prevent and punish rape, laws that previously applied equally well to allegations of rape as to murder, has been a massive nationwide scandal of false allegation, uncovered, to their credit, by vigilant jurors. Rather than lots more guilty rapists being prosecuted, a deliberate and extreme dilution of the definition of rape to include almost every kind of sex has led to officials taking the most ludicrous allegations before public courts. There time and time again good honest citizens untainted by legal or political prejudice have thrown these bizarre cases out, reducing the rape conviction rate yet further to about five per-cent. The only area in which related convictions have risen – is in the few cases where a woman lying about being raped has been inarguably proved to have done so by the police – and the alleged victim has wound up prosecuted for perverting the course of justice. Not that the generally very lenient sentences handed out for this will have proved much comfort to the intended victims of the 21st Century’s rape pogrom: many of the men dropped into the Kafkaesque nightmare of being put on trial for a crime they didn’t commit but which nonetheless branded them as social outcasts killed themselves, and God knows how many lie in jail today convicted of rapes they did not commit, jury scrutiny notwithstanding.

And what has all this to do with Ryan Gigg’s super injunction? It has a lot to do with it.

For a start, there’s a shared principle here, which is that if you censor the law and interfere with open justice, you get secret injustice as a reward.

Everyone who appears in a court in a democracy should be named, or it’s not open justice.

Ryan Giggs is Ryan Giggs, and in a democracy, when he goes to court he should remain Ryan Giggs, not suddenly become ‘CBT’ – as court proceedings called him.

Likewise, Tracey Connelly and Steven Barker, should be named as the parents of a baby called Peter: not ‘Baby P’ – as court proceedings called him.

And in just the same way, the children fed through barbaric secret court cases held in Truro have NAMES – they are not called ‘X’ – as they appear on the censored list.

Until reporters can go into those court cases and name those children, everyone in the court, and report every decision that is made, cruelty and injustice will prevail.

It is not a coincidence that the MP who blew the final whistle on Ryan Giggs and Fred Goodwin was John Hemming.

Hemming is Britain’s primary opponent of the ‘family’ courts.

And – although the old media never reported it – he only named Goodwin and Giggs in order to highlight the case of a constituent subject to a similar gagging order.

Lee Gilliland was the man Hemming named in the same breath as Fred Goodwin.

Social workers and lawyers stole Lee’s home, then banned him talking about it with the usual ‘family’ court super-injunctions, and his MP wants them punished.

To Hemming – as to any right mind – Lee Gilliland was just as much as victim of censorship as were you, the adult public, over Giggs and Goodwin.

In committee last month Hemming revealed an even more mortifying case of how secret courts flout democracy and mock personal freedoms.

The MP told a ‘Bill of Rights’ committee family lawyers had threatened to take away another of his constituent’s children if he spoke to his MP!

Court documents showed ‘Family law barrister’ June Williams telling Andrew France he wouldn’t see his kids again if he went to Hemming with his story.

How does this happen?

Simple: secret courts and secret officialdoms all act together to pervert democracy.

Not by coincidence – What France wanted to tell his MP and the press was how he was falsely accused of rape and wrongly imprisoned after censored court proceedings,

When France won his appeal and was cleared, he tried to clear his name in public.

He demanded to tell his story to the papers about how a social worker stitched him up for a crime he didn’t commit.

The social worker responded with an action to remove France’s child, which because it was heard in the secret ‘family’ court – allowed for the routine press blackout, and made the whole scandal conveniently secret again.

Thrust back into the hell of a secret court, France found himself threatened by his own barrister: threatened that if he even so much as told his MP what was happening, the court would indeed take away his child.

Some barrister: but so it goes in the courts of fascist countries.

Were it not for Hemmings brave constituency work, no-one would ever have known anything about this appalling abuse of power by secret officials.

An unapologetic maverick, the Lib Dem MP is one of the few lights at the end of this depressing tunnel of tyranny, and a man confined to the backbenches.

But – thanks to randy Ryan and unfaithful Fred and daft old Judge Eady – his message is now being heard by MPs with stronger political career prospects.

Conservative MP David Davis is widely held to be the man who should be leading the Tories.

The son of a single mother, a modern man, and a brilliant mind, he is a heartfelt Liberal where Cameron is a scheming fraud.

The parliamentary record of Hemmings ‘Bill of Rights’ Committee shows a shocked Davis asking Hemming to repeat his evidence about France for the stenographer.

After doing so Davis said this:

“What we are seeing, and it has got worse over the course of the past 22 years, is the interests, prejudices and career risks of the organisation dealing with the individual, be it a solicitor or even a family or social services officer, put to the fore-not always, but sometimes-ahead of the interests of the constituent. Those officers of local authorities, courts and so on have put their interests or privileges ahead of ours, and it has happened time and time again. In my constituency, teachers have been accused of sexual misdemeanours which were later proven not to be true, and people have been threatened with their children being taken away-a whole series of areas.

“Our job is to be the defence of last recourse for the individual. We stand between the individual and the misdemeanours of the state or, indeed, the lynch-mob law at the other extreme. That is why, in modern terms, and not just in terms of the ancient rights, our access to information is fundamental to continuing freedom in Britain. Once our right to have that information is taken away, the freedoms of our citizens and constituents are undermined. Parliament itself-its officers and the Speaker-should take a stand and make a statement to the effect that we have those rights on behalf of our constituents.”

Yes. Well, hurry up about it. Because the sooner it’s not just Ryan Giggs we’re naming and shaming on Twitter, the better.

Voir par ailleurs:

Titanic, lectures d’une tragédie

France culture


« Il était 23h30 passées ; c’était un dimanche ; le dimanche 14 avril 1912.

Soudain, Fleet aperçut un obstacle en avant du navire, quelque chose d’encore plus noir que la nuit. (…) Fleet sonna trois coups à la cloche pour avertir que quelque chose se profilait juste en face, puis appela la passerelle au téléphone.

– Qu’avez-vous vu, lui demanda une voix à l’autre bout du fil.

– Un iceberg, juste en face !

– Merci, lui répondit la voix d’un ton courtois et, lui sembla-t-il, étrangement indifférent. »

(La Nuit du Titanic, Walter Lord, 1955 )

Il y a un siècle, le Titanic s’enfonçait en deux heures trente dans les profondeurs glaciales de l’océan Atlantique ; 1500 de ses 2200 passagers furent également entraînés par le fond.

Il est remarquable de voir combien la lecture de la tragédie a fluctué (nec mergitur…) au cours du 20e siècle. Symbole de la déconfiture d’une société capitaliste et positiviste à la fin de la Belle Epoque, ramené au rang de fait divers tragique mais non moins factuel à l’époque des Trente Glorieuses, ce naufrage aura fait couler beaucoup d’encre. Aujourd’hui encore, alors que les esprits se sont apaisés à son sujet depuis quelques décennies, le Titanic prête le flanc à plusieurs fictions, plus ou moins réussies.

Nous sommes partis à la découverte de quatre ouvrages dédiés au paquebot transatlantique britannique : ceux de Morgan Robertson (1898), Joseph Conrad (1912), Walter Lord (1955) et Erik Fosnes Hansen (1990). Grâce à leurs places respectives dans la chronologie, ces livres, par leur perception propre de la tragédie, deviennent de véritables clefs de lecture permettant d’appréhender un siècle en mutation.

1898. Morgan Robertson : la fiction devance la réalité

Dernières années du 19e siècle, prémices de la Belle Epoque. La Reine Victoria est bien vieille et, suite à la Révolution industrielle, la société occidentale a entériné le règne du commerce, de la technique et du rationalisme.

C’est dans ce contexte que Morgan Robertson, ancien marin, auteur américain de ce qu’on qualifie aujourd’hui de « romans de gare », écrit, en 1898, Futility (rebaptisé Le Naufrage du Titan après la tragédie d’avril 1912). Quatorze ans avant l’engloutissement du Titanic, Robertson imagine l’histoire d’un très grand navire possédant de nombreuses et troublantes similitudes avec le malheureux paquebot de la White Star Line. Les premières lignes du roman sont surprenantes :

« C’était le plus grand navire en exploitation et la plus prestigieuse création de l’homme. Toutes les sciences et tous les corps de métiers connus de notre civilisation avaient contribué à sa construction et assuraient sa maintenance. (…) Que ce soit de la passerelle, de la salle des machines ou d’une douzaine d’endroits sur le pont, on pouvait fermer en trente secondes les quatre-vingt-douze portes des dix-neuf compartiments totalement étanches en tournant un simple levier. (…) Si neuf de ces compartiments s’étaient trouvés inondés le navire aurait pourtant continué à flotter (…) C’était en fait une ville flottante qui renfermait à l’intérieur de ses murs d’acier tout ce qui peut atténuer les dangers et le manque de confort d’un voyage à travers l’Atlantique (…) Insubmersible, indestructible, il ne transportait que le nombre strict de canots de sauvetages requis par la loi.

Morgan Robertson est un curieux personnage, peu connu, et qui se prévaut d’une connexion avec un « partenaire astral ». Il fait vivre à son Titan un naufrage apocalyptique dû à une collision avec un iceberg, en plein milieu de l’Atlantique. Alors que l’histoire s’attarde moins sur le destin du bateau que sur celui de ses trois protagonistes – un marin ivrogne, une jeune femme mondaine et détestable, et une petite fille – nombreux ont été ceux à se persuader de son caractère prophétique, après le naufrage véritable du Titanic.

Olivier Mendez, préfacier du Naufrage du Titan et longtemps rédacteur en chef de l’Association Française du Titanic, est plus sceptique :

Ce roman, sans la tragédie d’avril 1912, serait tombé dans l’oubli, vu sa médiocre valeur littéraire. En 1898, il ne connait d’ailleurs guère de succès :

Il n’empêche ! Même si la prose de Robertson est banale, elle témoigne, selon Olivier Mendez, d’une époque capitaliste et positiviste fragilisée par son assurance d’être toute puissante, et de l’effondrement d’une grande société mondaine et inégalitaire. Pour le spécialiste du Titanic, la tragédie de 1912 marque même l’achèvement du 19e siècle :

Ce sentiment de fin d’une ère est d’ailleurs déjà bien présent dans l’esprit de certains intellectuels de l’époque. Au lendemain du naufrage, leurs écrits sont particulièrement révélateurs…

1912. Joseph Conrad : manifeste contre le positivisme

Immédiatement après le naufrage, les écrivains anglo-saxons sont nombreux à s’emparer de la plume pour manifester leur indignation, dans un grand flou émotionnel.

Soulignons notamment qu’une véhémente correspondance s’établit entre Conan Doyle et Bernard Shaw, célèbre dramaturge irlandais, via le Daily News and Leader. Shaw vilipende le travail des journalistes qui, avides de pathos, façonnent leur propre tragédie à grand renfort de faux témoignages, et il dénonce leurs accès de lyrisme qu’il trouve inappropriés. Cette charge n’est pas du goût de Conan Doyle qui, en lui répondant publiquement et vertement, engage une polémique par colonnes interposées.

Parmi les figures intellectuelles désireuses de s’exprimer, Joseph Conrad. Cet auteur britannique, d’origine polonaise est l’un des plus importants écrivains du 20e siècle, mais il a également la particularité d’être un ancien capitaine de navires. Dès 1912, dans plusieurs textes aujourd’hui rassemblés en un seul, Le Naufrage du Titanic, le vieux marin dit sa révolte contre ce monde qui porte aux nues l’économie, et lui sacrifie ses hommes de mer.

Olivier Weber, écrivain et grand reporter, a rédigé un essai sur cet auteur : Conrad, le voyageur de l’inquiétude (Flammarion, 2011) :

Conrad et ses pairs, en brandissant le naufrage comme la manifestation d’une société positiviste en perte de valeurs, l’ont inscrit dans le mythe :

Dès lors, la tragédie fera figure, non de fait divers, mais bien de véritable symbole, acquérant ainsi une stature quasi légendaire.

Avec les Trente Glorieuses, de nouveaux éléments émergent et, avec eux, un regard différent sur le naufrage.

1955. Walter Lord : une nouvelle manière de percevoir l’événement

En 1955, Walter Lord devient le premier historien de la tragédie. Il publie La Nuit du Titanic, une enquête au long cours constituée à partir d’une soixantaine de témoignage de rescapés.

« Au milieu des années 1950, le public s’intéressait de près aux technologies nouvelles. Deux guerres mondiales étaient venues réduire à néant les espérances de l’humanité, mais après une trop longue nuit, celles-ci ne demandaient qu’à renaître de leurs cendres. Pour autant, on ne relevait pas la tête sans tirer les leçons du passé. », écrit Gérard Jaeger dans la préface de l’ouvrage. Historien, essayiste et romancier, il est l’auteur d’Il était une fois le « Titanic ».

Parfois contradictoires, les déclarations recueillies par Walter Lord n’en sont pas moins extrêmement riches. En les regroupant par thèmes, l’auteur américain a pris conscience que certaines personnes avaient mis l’accent sur des événements très personnels, au point, parfois, de réinventer leur vérité. Et pourtant, à partir de cette publication (1958, pour la traduction française), les historiens font de ces témoignages leur source privilégiée. Walter Lord, en remettant en perspective la première lecture très émotionnelle et intuitive du drame, malmène la vision symbolique de la tragédie, qui prédominait depuis 1912. Le naufrage légendaire redevient un fait divers résultant, non pas de l’arrogance industrielle, mais d’une suite d’événements malencontreux et de négligences ayant bouleversé des vies :

C’est alors que la fiction peut entrer en scène, à travers la littérature, mais plus encore sur grand écran :

1990, Erik Fosnes Hansen : la fiction s’empare de la tragédie

Plusieurs décénnies se sont écoulées depuis avril 1912. La lecture de l’événement a évolué, et les esprits se sont apaisés. Toujours mythifié, mais en partie débarrassée du terrifiant symbolisme d’une société en déroute expiant ses excès, la tragédie devient d’autant plus matière à fiction.

A côté des superproductions bien connues de tous, quelques romans et, parmi eux, Cantique pour la fin du voyage.

Deuxième texte de l’auteur norvégien Erik Fosnes Hansen, il se révéla l’un de ses plus gros succès et fut traduit dans plus de vingt langues.

N’ayant pas de lien particulier avec le Titanic, l’écrivain se sert de la tragédie pour imaginer la vie des musiciens du fleuron de la White Star Line et dépeindre une époque.

Louis Chevaillier est éditeur du roman chez Gallimard :

Mais pour Louis Chevaillier, si un tel livre est capable de toucher son lecteur, c’est aussi parce que malgré le caractère toujours légendaire du naufrage du Titanic, une telle catastrophe serait tout à fait susceptible de survenir aujourd’hui :

« Ressusciter tout un monde », le défi semble bien tentant ! Alors pourquoi sont-ils si peu à relever le gant ? « On a besoin d’une documentation extrêmement importante pour écrire sur le Titanic. Peut-être que cela décourage certains écrivains. C’est toujours difficile, aussi, d’écrire des fictions sur des événements qui restent dans la mémoire des hommes. Là, le fait de choisir d’inventer des vies est un parti pris qui fait sens, qui fonctionne, mais ça reste un parti pris important. », explique l’éditeur.

Certains, comme Olivier Mendez – notre premier interviewé, fortement attaché à la mémoire des véritables passagers -, déplorent fortement cette subjectivité, regrettant qu’on déploie des trésors d’imagination au lieu de s’en tenir aux nombreux documents dont on dispose. Mais cela montre à quel point, constitutif et représentatif du 20e siècle, ce drame appartient aujourd’hui au patrimoine planétaire. Et si nous le conservons dans nos mémoires, n’est-ce pas aussi parce qu’il nous appelle encore à plus de mesure dans nos ambitions ?

Voir de même:

Des événements prémonitoires …

Le 22 Mars 1886, le célèbre spiritualiste et publiciste anglais William Thomas Stead, propriétaire de la revue « Pall Mall Gazette » écrit un article intitulé « Comment le Paquebot Poste sombra au milieu de l’Atlantique, par un Survivant ».

Cet article raconte qu’un paquebot, sans nom, entre en collision avec un autre navire et, qu’en raison d’un nombre insuffisant de canots de sauvetage, on déplore la perte de nombreuses vies humaines.

Stead écrit: « C’est exactement ce qui pourrait se produire et se produira si les paquebots sont lancés avec trop peu de canots ».

Dans le numéro de Noël 1892 de la « Review of Reviews » qu’il vient de fonder, William Thomas Stead publie un autre article intitulé « De l’Ancien Monde au Nouveau ».

Cet article est consacré à une traversée fictive entreprise par Stead pour se rendre aux Etats-Unis sur un paquebot de la White Star Line bien réel, lui, le Majestic.

Le Commandant du navire n’est autre qu’un certain E. J. Smith.

Lors de cette traversée, le Majestic recueille à son bord les survivants du paquebot Ann and Jane, qui a heurté une montagne de glace et coulé dans l’Atlantique.

Stead conclut son article de manière lugubre par: « Les océans parcourus par de rapides paquebots sont jonchés des os blanchis de ceux qui ont embarqué comme nous et qui ne sont jamais arrivés à bon port ».

Vingt ans plus tard, il embarquera sur le Titanic commandé par le Commandant Edward J. Smith et disparaîtra dans le naufrage.

William Thomas Stead

Un jour, William Thomas Stead marche le long du Strand, au coeur de Londres, en compagnie d’un jeune journaliste plein d’avenir nommé Shaw Desmond. Ce dernier essaie de discuter d’un article qu’il est en train d’écrire pour la « Review of Reviews », mais Stead amène la conversation sur son prochain voyage. Il annonce qu’il va bientôt voyager sur le Titanic, nouveau paquebot réputé insubmersible, dont il vante les qualités. Desmond n’a jamais entendu parler du Titanic.

A un moment, Desmond s’écarte légèrement de Stead. Une étrange sensation saisit soudain le jeune journaliste, un sentiment qu’il décrira plus tard:

« J’ai eu pour la première fois de ma vie, mais pas la dernière, la conviction d’une mort imminente. Dans ce cas, c’était que l’homme qui se trouvait à mes côtés allait mourir. C’était incontrôlable et je me sentais plutôt impuissant. Je ne l’associai pas, non plus, un instant au transatlantique dont il venait de me parler ».

Desmond décide de ne pas parler de ce soudain pressentiment et les deux hommes se quittent. Arrivé chez lui, Desmond a la bonne idée de griffonner une courte note sur sa prémonition ainsi que la date pour « référence future ».

Quelques jours plus tard, la nouvelle de la tragédie arrive en Angleterre. Malgré les premières rumeurs déclarant que Stead a survécu, Desmond est certain qu’elles sont fausses et que son pressentiment se vérifiera. « Il n’a pas survécu » dit Desmond à sa femme, « Il s’est noyé ».

Effectivement, William Thomas Stead fera partie des victimes.

En 1898, l’écrivain américain Morgan Robertson (1861-1915) publie, aux éditions M. G. Mansfield, son roman « Futility » dans lequel un paquebot anglais, baptisé Titan, heurte un iceberg et coule lors de sa 4ème traversée, au mois d’Avril dans l’Atlantique Nord, en n’ayant à son bord que le nombre strict de canots de sauvetage réglementaires mais insuffisant pour le nombre de passagers.

Ce navire imaginaire, réputé insubmersible, est presque semblable au Titanic par ses dimensions, sa vitesse, ses emménagements somptueux ainsi que le nombre de ses passagers (à la fois riches et pauvres) et celui des victimes.


Cette page a été réalisée à partir de plusieurs sources bibliographiques dont les principales sont:

Le drame du Titanic par Philippe Masson aux Editions Tallandier,

Titanic – Psychic forewarnings of a tragedy par George Behe aux Editions Patrick Stephens.

Si vous avez connaissance d’autres faits incontestables susceptibles de la compléter, merci de contacter l’auteur afin de lui en faire part.

Le R.M.S. Titanic

Voir enfin:

Le  »Titan » de Morgan Robertson prédit le naufrage du Titanic

le besoin de savoir


Morgan Roberston, écrivain américain et fils d’un capitaine de navire, offrait, en 1898, à son public un roman captivant : le naufrage du Titan.

Un roman – fiction qui racontait l’histoire d’un paquebot sombrant dans l’Atlantique Nord après avoir heurté un iceberg.

Quatorze ans plus tard, le 16 avril 1912, le New York Times annonçait le naufrage du Titanic qui avait accueilli à son bord 3 000 passagers et membres d’équipage. Si l’on veut bien prendre en compte les analogies du roman américain et la catastrophe maritime du début du XXe siècle, on peut s’interroger : l’auteur a-t-il eu une prémonition ?

Un contexte reproduit à l’identique

Le Titanic a sombré, après avoir été transpercé, à tribord, par un iceberg dans l’Océan Atlantique Nord; 1500 personnes périrent dans les eaux ou sur le bateau.

Or, l’histoire du Titan, racontée dans l’ouvrage de Morgan Roberston, a cela d’étrange: son paquebot, coule, lui aussi dans les mêmes conditions, faisant 2 000 victimes. Il raconte ainsi dans les moindres détails une nuit tragique où tout avait pourtant commencé dans une ambiance festive.

La différence dans l’histoire de ces deux naufrages repose sur un détail auquel il faut accorder une valeur somme toute dérisoire : le Titan effectuait son troisième voyage de retour vers New-York alors que le Titanic effectuait, lui, son voyage inaugural.

Naufrage du Titanic, le 15 avril 1912 au large de Terre-Neuve. Morgan Robertson, auteur en 1898 deFutility or the wreck of the Titan (Le naufrage du Titan)

Des similitudes techniques

Réputé insubmersible, considéré comme un summum des réalisations technologiques, le Titanic de ce début de XXe siècle était équipé d’une coque de double-fond comprenant 16 compartiments étanches.

Dans son ouvrage, Morgan Roberston présente également son navire imaginaire, le Titan, comme un transatlantique de luxe, dont la technologie infaillible avait permis de concevoir 19 compartiments étanches.

Plus surprenant encore, l’auteur dénonce la vanité, la cupidité et la sottise des hommes qui, forts de leur supériorité technique et technologique, n’avaient pas jugé bon d’équiper le bateau de canots de sauvetage en nombre suffisant.

Lors de la construction du Titanic, la presse avait, à maintes reprises, qualifiée le paquebot d’insubmersible.

Dans leurs rapports, les experts durent reconnaître que le nombre de victimes était lié au fait que le Titanic ne pouvait recevoir que 1 178 personnes dans ses canots de sauvetage, en cas de naufrage.

Les prémonitions de l’écrivain

Cet étrange naufrage fictif n’est pas la seule histoire racontée par l’écrivain américain.

En 1914, Morgan Roberston rédigeait un autre roman, Beyond the spectrum, une guerre ouverte entre les Etats-Unis et le Japon qui lançait des attaques surprises contre les navires américains en route vers Hawaii et les Philippines.

Des ressemblances, pour ne pas dire de nouvelles prémonitions, avec l’Histoire mondiale cette fois, toutes aussi déroutantes quand on connaît l’histoire du conflit qui s’est déclaré 27 ans plus tard.

Ironie du sort

Lors de la parution du livre de Morgan Robertson, le naufrage du Titan, en 1898 ( en anglais : Futility or the wreck of the Titan) le journaliste W.T Stead, critique littéraire écrivait :  » ce livre explique exactement ce qui pourrait se passer si les grandes compagnies de paquebots refusaient de s’équiper de chaloupes de sauvetage en nombre suffisant. « .

Le journaliste W.T Stead était à bord du Titanic qui effectuait son voyage inaugural de Southampton à New-York. Il fut parmi les victimes du naufrage qui périrent dans la nuit du 14 au 15 avril 1912.

Voir enfin:

For Years, the Tabloids’ Sting Kept British Politicians in Line
Sarah Lyall

July 9, 2011

LONDON — In 2004, Clare Short, a Labour member of Parliament, learned what could happen to British politicians who criticized the country’s unforgiving tabloids. At a lunch in Westminster, Ms. Short mentioned in passing that she did not care for the photographs of saucy, topless women that appear every day on Page 3 of the populist tabloid The Sun, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. “I’d like to take the pornography out of our press,” she said.

Big mistake.

“ ‘Fat, Jealous’ Clare Brands Page 3 Porn” was The Sun’s headline in response. Its editor, Rebekah Wade (now Rebekah Brooks and the chief executive of News International, Mr. Murdoch’s British subsidiary), sent a busload of semi-dressed models to jeer at Ms. Short at her house in Birmingham. The paper stuck a photograph of Ms. Short’s head over the body of a topless woman and found a number of people to declare that, in fact, they thoroughly enjoyed the sexy photos.

“Even Clare has boobs, but obviously she’s not proud of them like we are of ours,” it quoted a 22-year-old named Nicola McLean as saying.

It is the fear of incidents like this, along with political necessity, that has long underpinned the uneasy collusion between British politicians and even the lowest-end tabloids here.

However much they might deplore tabloid methods and articles — the photographers lurking in the bushes; the reporters in disguise entrapping subjects into sexual indiscretion or financial malfeasance; the editors paying tens of thousands of dollars for exclusive access to the mistresses of politicians and sports stars; the hidden taping devices; the constant stream of stories about illicit sex romps — politicians have often been afraid to say so publicly, for fear of losing the papers’ support or finding themselves the target of their wrath.

If showering politicians with political rewards for cultivating his support has been the carrot in the Murdoch equation, then punishing them for speaking out has generally been the stick. But the latest revelations in the phone-hacking scandal appear to have broken the spell, emboldening even Murdoch allies like Prime Minister David Cameron to criticize his organization and convene a commission to examine press regulation.

The power to harass and intimidate is hardly limited to the Murdoch newspapers; British tabloids are all guilty to some extent of using their power to discredit those who cross them, politicians and analysts say.

“The tabloid press in Britain is very powerful, and it’s also exceedingly aggressive, and it’s not just News Corp.; The Mail is very aggressive,” said John Whittingdale, a Conservative member of Parliament who is chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee. “They do make or break reputations, so obviously politicians tread warily.”

Those who do not pay a price. Cherie Blair, wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, was regularly tortured in print by the right-leaning Daily Mail because she made no effort to cultivate it and because it was not an admirer of her husband’s Labour government. In a stream of articles, The Mail portrayed her as greedy, profligate and a follower of wacky alternative-medicine regimes, selecting unflattering photos to make her look chunky and ill-dressed, her mouth invariably curled in a strange rictus.

But politicians have always been most afraid of the sting of The Sun and its Sunday sister (at least until this Sunday, when it is to close), The News of the World, because the papers’ good will is so important politically.

“They go on little feeding frenzies against various politicians,” said Roy Greenslade, a professor of journalism at City University London. Until the floodgates opened on Wednesday, when the outrage over the latest phone-hacking revelations had politicians voicing disgust in a cathartic parliamentary session, most members of Parliament were terrified of crossing Mr. Murdoch, Professor Greenslade said.

“Privately, M.P.’s say all sorts of things, but most of them have kept very, very quiet about Rupert Murdoch until now,” he added. “When you are facing the wrath of News International, you can bet they will turn up anything about you — whether it be true or just spun in a certain way.”

Labour politicians still shudder about the fate of Neil Kinnock, the party leader in the early 1990s, who was leading the Conservative Party’s John Major in the 1992 election when The Sun mounted a sustained attack on him. The reasons were political — the paper supported the Conservative Party — but the means were personal. Mr. Kinnock was the subject of a barrage of articles depicting him as inept, long-winded, strange looking, and even mentally unstable.

The day before the election, The Sun printed a package of articles under the headline “Nightmare on Kinnock Street.” It printed a picture of a fat topless woman and the warning, “Here’s How Page 3 Will Look Under Kinnock!” And, in an image he would never live down, the paper printed a large front-page photograph of Mr. Kinnock’s head inside a light bulb, under the headline: “If Kinnock Wins Today Will the Last Person to Leave Britain Please Turn Out the Lights.”

The attacks have not been limited to Labour politicians. David Mellor, a Conservative member of Parliament who served in several Tory governments, had a different sort of bad experience. In 1989, Mr. Mellor declared that the tabloids were reckless, too powerful and in need of more regulation; they were, he warned, “drinking at the last-chance saloon.”

But he was the one at that particular bar. And Mr. Mellor, who returned to the anti-tabloid theme three years later, ended up leaving the government after a series of racy tabloid exposés about his personal indiscretions. In the most famous one, The News of the World paid about $48,000 for his mistress’s account of their affair, complete with secret recordings and the indelible detail that Mr. Mellor had made love to her while wearing only a Chelsea soccer jersey. (He always said that part was not true.)

Sometimes it is just the threat of harassment that frightens politicians.

“I can think of at least two members of Parliament who could have been criticizing Murdoch five years ago, and said nothing because they were afraid,” said Chris Bryant, a Labour member of Parliament who serves on the Culture, Media and Sport Committee and who has been a persistent critic of Mr. Murdoch.

It was Mr. Bryant who, at a hearing on press standards in 2003, asked Ms. Brooks, then editor of The Sun, whether she had ever paid the police for information. She was seriously displeased with the tough tone of his questions; so were other tabloid editors who spoke at the hearing.

A few months later, Mr. Bryant was the subject of an article in The Mail on Sunday, illustrated by a photo of him in his underpants that he had posted on a gay dating site. (He does not make a secret of his sexuality.) The News of the World also printed the story, copying the account.

After Mr. Bryant spoke last fall in Parliament against tabloid tactics, he said a friend received telephone calls from two Murdoch underlings. “They told him, ‘You know Chris Bryant? Just let him know that this will not be forgotten,’ ” Mr. Bryant related.

A spokeswoman for News International said the company had no comment for this article.

Mr. Bryant received a stranger form of threat, he said, when he ran into Ms. Brooks at a News International party at a Labour conference.

“She said, ‘Oh, Mr. Bryant, it’s after dark — surely you should be on Clapham Common,’ ” a notorious gay cruising spot, Mr. Bryant related. He said she was not trying to be funny.

On Wednesday, Mr. Bryant led the debate in Parliament about phone hacking. “We politicians, I believe, have colluded far too long with the media,” he said. “We rely on them. We seek their favor. We live, we die politically because of what they write and what they show, and sometimes that means we are not courageous or spineful enough to stand up when wrong has occurred.”

“This is a remarkable turnaround,” Professor Greenslade said, speaking of attitudes toward Mr. Murdoch. “All these years, he’s been a tycoon, a media mogul — and now it’s as if he’s suddenly become Citizen Kane.”

6 Responses to Journalisme: Retour sur une victime oubliée du Titanic (WT Stead: Sensationalist or saint?)

  1. jcdurbant dit :

    Voir aussi:

    Le violon en bois de rose du chef de l’orchestre du Titanic a été retrouvé dans un grenier en Angleterre et authentifié 101 ans après le naufrage du paquebot « insubmersible », a-t-on appris vendredi auprès d’une maison d’enchères britannique. Il a fallu sept ans pour certifier l’origine de l’instrument, qui a miraculeusement survécu au drame, a expliqué Andrew Aldridge, de la maison Henry Aldridge & Son située dans le sud-ouest de l’Angleterre.


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    Journalisme: Retour sur une victime oubliée du Titanic (WT Stead: Sensationalist or saint?) | jcdurbant


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