Now my enforced hiatus is over, it is time for me to rant a bit about some of the borderline insane things the UK media has been getting up to during the traditionally quiet months at the end of summer. (What summer?)
Unusually, I think I am going to try and be a bit tactful about this and I really don’t want people to get the wrong impression here. Before I go on, I can not imagine the trauma and heartache that the McCann family are going through right now but I am going to use them as an example of the amazing double standards that the tabloid press can hold themselves to. This is in no way meant to imply that I think the McCanns are guilty of any crime.
Over the summer, the tabloid press (especially the Daily Express and the Sun newspapers) have been clamouring about how our (UK) society is going down the pan and coming up with such “common sense” solutions as harsher sentences, more police powers etc. Generally speaking anyone even suspected of a crime which makes it to the press is assumed to be guilty, and if a court finds differently there is outrage about how we need stronger laws etc. (For an example, see the nonsense that a terminally bad singer has been spewing out in the Sun (and alun’s excellent comment))
Almost daily we hear from a distraught relative about how the accused is actually guilty and anything which seems to say otherwise is just flawed. Opinion pages and talking heads on the TV go on about how our “human rights act” means the suspects are treated too lightly and this is preventing the police getting convictions. The trial by media is almost total and almost totally ignores the actual progress of the case or the final verdict. It goes as far as the farcical comment that if they are doing things which aren’t crimes it just means we don’t have strong enough laws… It is, in short, madness.
Stepping into this world of chaos, vitriol and bile we have the poor oppressed McCann family. After months of tabloid coverage showing the distraught family on their world tour to raise awareness of their lost daughter, and months of UK tabloid coverage saying how bad the Portuguese police are (largely because they don’t tell the press every single thing they do, but that is a rant for another day), recently there has been a slight change of events. Slowly the Portuguese press started to consider that the parents may have been involved in the death of the child.
Under normal circumstances this would have been the first line of investigation and, sadly, most child killers are family members (feel free to Google the UK Home Office statistics if you don’t believe me). In most serious crime cases, police officers being police officers, family members are the first to be suspected — especially in cases where there is no obvious signs of forced entry or violent struggle.
Now, slight sideline, there have been lots and lots of murders and abductions in the time since Madeleine McCann went missing. Can any one name any of them? If you search through the news footnotes (mostly local news items), the family are invariably picked as suspects and hammered by the investigators. Although not 100% relevant this is a snapshot from recent news here, here, here and here – all examples of relatives being found guilty of the torture and death of a child. If anything, it is pretty amazing to me that the McCann’s were not brought in by the police and interrogated for hour after hour to find out what happened. Part of me feels that the media circus which sprung up around the case almost from the onset caused this…
Anyway, eventually the Portuguese police have followed on from the media claims and begun to investigate the possibility that one or both of Madeleine’s parents may have been involved. It strikes me that if this was any other case this would be normal and perfectly acceptable. However this is not any old case, it is the McCann case… This means that the papers which print speculation that the McCann’s may be guilty get taken to court for libel (this must be making more than a few UK paper editors worry) and the UK news is now filled with tearful footage about how cruel the police are to even begin to suspect either parent. Even the BBC (which is now pretty much a tabloid as far as “news” goes) seems to be falling in step with the common idea that the McCann’s are saints who would never hurt a fly. Call me cynical but comments like this don’t make me feel the person must be innocent :
“They made a series of ridiculous allegations. Kate is a loving and caring mother who sincerely believes her daughter is still alive. She was absolutely horrified. Kate is a lovely mother to her children, she’d never hurt them. Anyone who knows Kate would say that to make an allegation of this kind about her is absolutely ridiculous.” (Family spokesperson Justine McGuiness)
Leaving aside the “Family Spokesperson” aspect, what criminal (this does not imply I think Kate McCann is a criminal) wouldn’t have a statement like this? Can you imagine the prelims to a murder trial where the defence spokesperson says “my client is a murderous scumbag who hates everyone and loves to kill people”? Does the family spokesperson really think this will sway the police? Obviously, yes is the answer to that – or there is a sinister undercurrent and the spokesperson is actually getting ready for a criminal trial but that is a route I wont go down for now, I will hold to good faith and assume Kate McCann is innocent.
The important part is the media reaction to all this. The local news and radio stations (sadly, I cant find any links at the moment) have been hammering on today about how cruel it is to interview Kate McCann, how ELEVEN hours in questioning is a monstrously long time and so on. On breakfast TV, I watched a reporter go on about what an ordeal Mrs McCann had undergone and the comparisons with the much fairer, reasonable English justice system.
This is mind boggling. Compare the compassion and feeling being poured out towards Mrs McCann with the vitriol and hatred thrown against people like the early suspect (Robert Murat) who was pretty much found guilty during the Trial by Media. Compare this with the demands for harsher laws, tougher police powers to question suspects and the like – all being touted by the same tabloids who are now saying how 11 hours is a long time to be questioned. Imagine how “tired and distraught” a terrorist suspect must feel after 28 days of police questioning. Ironically newspapers cry out how cruel it is to suspect Kate McCann, ignoring the speed with which they demanded the conviction of Mr Murat — not to mention the furore around any other suspect unfortunate enough to make the news pages. As always, the Sun Newspaper (in the loosest sense of the word) is truly blind to the irony and has the following “sun says” editorial comment:
PLODDING Portuguese police have not covered themselves in glory over their probe into the disappearance of four-year-old Madeleine McCann.
For over four months her devoted parents Kate and Gerry have done everything in their power to help detectives find the missing girl.
But while cops have refused to give any public details about their investigation, the Portuguese media is now awash with rumours and innuendo leaked by police sources.
Yesterday, bungling police called Maddieâ€™s tragic mum, Kate, in for yet another agonising grilling.
If this is just another fishing expedition, they should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.
Hasnâ€™t she suffered enough?
It is almost enough to make you want to vomit.
[tags]Madeleine McCann, Kate McCann, McCann, Police, Portugal, Portuguese, Media, Tabloids, Society, Culture, Philosophy, Rant, Law, Justice, Murder, Crime[/tags]