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Writings of Albert Morris
Article 122 - Mystery tour in a world of nudge, nod and wink


INSIDER: "One who is accepted as a member of a group and knows all about its inner workings." Thus, my dictionary definition which although satisfactory as far it goes, does not, in my usually valuable opinion, go far enough, since the word has also come to mean a shadowy, background-lurking figure who not only knows what makes an organisation, group or personality tick, but is also prepared to talk about such knowledge, especially to journalists.

At an appointed hour, I waited, tense-eyed, alert-eared and vigilant-chinned, in a respectable, school-fees-paying district of a city known as the Athens of the North. A limousine, black as the Earl of Hellís car upholstery and stretched almost beyond the bounds of structural rigidity, drew up. A dark-tinted window lowered with a sinister-sounding susurrus and a black-suited, sun-glassed, taut as a cello-string tied figure beckoned me inside after I had given the pass phrase: "A word in your shell-like ear."

As he drove, my companion talked, incessantly, about subjects that he thought would interest me - doubts about the authorship of the Epistle to the Corinthians, the steady-state versus the big bang theories of universe creation and late Anglo-Saxon verb conjugations - but as I was in a tense mood, my responses were like gears refusing to engage.

After a mystery tour through Scotlandís central belt, we arrived at a remote country house called Whisperingdene, the hush-hush training school for insiders and allied activists, unofficial spokespeople of the nudge, nod and wink revelation, fuglemen - and women - of unattributed phrases and minions of the meaningful, between-the-lines comment.

THERE, blending into the background of his dimly-lit office was Reg Undertone, Professor of Theoretical and Applied Insider Conceptualism, known as "Big Mouth", the man who, I was to learn, revealed to a shocked nation John Majorís bizarre tastes in premier cru wine gums, the truth about Tony Blairís alleged abduction and brain-surgery conversion from old to new Labour by right-wing aliens and the factual accuracy of the adapted poetic line: "Theyíre changing sex at Buckingham Palace."

Taking me along expertly constructed corridors of power, I saw undergraduate insiders practising the use of enigmatic smiles and the myriad modulations of the sibilant "pssst", to attract the attention of some journalistic contact. "Here," said Professor Undertone, "we teach all facets of non-attributable information practice that include, "sources close to ..." "a friend", "a close friend", "a very close friend", "an informed source", and, of course, the core phrase, "an insider".

We paused reverently beside a symbolic, abstract statue of Deep Throat, the nickname given to the still-undiscovered American revealer, thought to have been high in the Nixon administration, who erupted a lava flow of information to two Washington Post journalists that helped them to unravel the Watergate story about the 1972 break-in of the Democratic National Committeeís Washington headquarters which led to the resignation of President Richard "Tricky Dicky" Nixon. "A great man, shadowy but with substance and lord of all leakers, I honour him," intoned "Big Mouth", and I noticed that students, hurrying past, saluted the work with a brief nod while they looked for leaks.

PASSING the science block, where a source close to the professor whispered to me watertight facts about the development of a machine designed to produce governmental and industrial leaks, the professor took me to a classroom where a tutor sat surrounded by a ring of students.

"Here," said Professor Undertone, "we are trying to recreate a social and political grouping that has apparently become extinct - the usually well-informed circle." At one time, he added, foreign correspondents would attribute the source of their stories to such circles. But the adverb "usually" affirmed confidence in the circles while also introducing doubt. "It suggested that the journalist had once been let down about some story, on, say the imminent nationalisation of Bangkok rickshaw drivers, but that these free and often desperate operatives had gone on running their business without government take-over and the journalist had been made to look foolish."

Professor Undertone said the aim of Whisperingdene was to turn out the best circles that insiders and other sources could add, in an informed way, extra spin on official statements.

Later, over a snack of non-attributable tit-bits, he spilled the beans about his insider dealings. "We have highly-sought-after, well-paid insiders in all sections of government and industry. We are a growing information phenomenon and" - here he whispered a new low-down on Labourís high-minded election pledges that I cannot possibly reveal. Those interested should contact sources close to this column.


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