What triggered it off was my stumbling across an apparently silly remark by Jon McClure, a popular musician of whom I’d never heard:
If David Beckham had of spoken out about Iraq it wouldn't have happened, I honestly believe that hand on heart, or Britain certainly wouldn't have got involved. Beckham's cultural gravitas was as such in that period that if he'd have gone 'I don't want this war in Iraq, it's an awful thing, we should not do it', it wouldn't have happened, the public would've gone mad against it. But because he kept his gob shut, and everybody else did, it happened, we sleepwalked our way there.
My first reaction was to laugh and to blog something appropriately piss-taking – ‘Iraq war was Beckham’s fault’. Easy fun.
But then I dug a little deeper. I wondered to myself just how well Beckham had been playing in the run-up to the war – if he’d been messing up, that wouldn’t suggest much “cultural gravitas”, would it?
Now, I’m not much of a football fan, but even I remember this incident – perhaps you do too:
Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has refused to apologise for the dressing room bust-up in which he injured David Beckham. … Beckham was hurt after a furious Ferguson kicked a boot in the dressing room which hit the midfielder in the face.
But do you remember when it happened?
Let me put it another way: can you guess on exactly which day it happened?
Yes. It was Saturday 15 February 2003:
Alex Ferguson, of course, is a longstanding Labour/Blair supporter. He is also rather pally with none other than Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s war-propagandist-in-chief.
I need hardly spell it out, so obvious is it. Ferguson got wind that Becks was planning to address one of the marches. He alerted Campbell, who feared that the England captain could topple the government with one flick of his Alice band. Blair told Campbell that Becks had to be stopped, and so the order went out for Fergie to take him down by any means necessary. Things were smoothed over for Fergie by one of the club’s then major shareholders, pro-war Rupert Murdoch’s BSkyB.
Job done. Becks was cowed into submission while the war broke out, and he was further bribed with an OBE on 13 June of that year. The very next day, the US military launched a major new campaign against Iraqi insurgents.
Three days after that, on the very day that Robin Cook and Clare Short were giving evidence to a parliamentary enquiry into the war, Manchester United sold Becks to Real Madrid for £25 million. Becks himself was out of the country at the time. The move to Spain (whose government also backed the war) would keep him safely away from the UK political scene.
It gets murkier.
The transfer deal was brokered by Beckham’s management agency, SFX Entertainments, which is owned by the Texas-based media conglomerate Clear Channel Communications.
Clear Channel’s politics is revealed by controversies such as the 2004 refusal of its outdoor advertising division to allow a billboard ad against the Iraq war. Many of its radio stations led the boycott of the Dixie Chicks’ music after their criticism of George Bush, and one of its TV stations rejected a paid-for ad by Cindy Sheehan protesting the war.
Most of Clear Channel’s talk radio stations are affiliated with Fox, and carry programmes by such ferocious right-wingers as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Lowry Mays, Founder and then Chairman/CEO of Clear Channel, was of course a Bush campaign donor.
At this point the evidence trail goes cold. I can’t yet prove that Lowry and Bush were personally involved in moving Becks out of the UK so he’d pose less of a threat to Blair’s premiership, but only a fool would doubt it.
(Ladies and gentlemen, I give you… the horrific and preposterous power of the internet. The above is the result of me mucking around because there was nothing on the telly last night. Imagine what a group of truly dedicated paranoiacs could accomplish on a more serious subject.)