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A Tortoise File


Grooming gangs, conspiracy theories and the lawless digital politics of Oldham


First published
Tuesday 31 August 2021

Last updated
Tuesday 7 September 2021

Why this story?

Around a year ago journalist Joshi Herrmann got an anonymous tip. He had recently set up a local newspaper called The Mill, operating out of Manchester, and someone was messaging him about a website alleging to have evidence of serious corruption, grooming gangs and “cartels” in nearby Oldham. Joshi followed the story for more than a year and wrote a remarkable piece about how online conspiracies are poisoning local politics, spilling out from paranoid corners of the internet all the way to the ballot box. When we read this piece, we knew that Tortoise should collaborate with Joshi, and together we made Smear – a podcast about the death of robust local news, and what can happen in the vacuum left behind. It is a local story and a global one all at once, and it centres on one rather angry man, who calls himself “the recusant”. Basia Cummings, editor


Photograph by Susannah Ireland / Eyevine