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.
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."
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.
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.
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."
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".
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."
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