When all else fails, blame the Internet

On this morning’s bus journey, I read in what appears to be yesterday’s Metro, from the date on the Metro website version of this article, (although I can’t believe the Metros has a Sunday version.)

Web vengeance on Baby P couple
The identities of the mother and stepfather of Baby P have been posted on the internet – along with messages urging convicts to attack them.

The baby P story is a truly mind-numbing story, involving the torture and murder of a baby, at the hands of his mother, stepfather and the lodger. The child was listed by social services as being at risk, The police had already been involved and had sought a prosecution. No one seemed able to save the lad’s life. It’s one of those stories that push the boundaries of your capacity for rage.

The visual presentation of this story has been disturbing, even for those who can’t bring themselves to read the court statements. The police released a 3-d rendering of a baby’s head with a catalogue of injuries. The next day, the papers followed this up the image with pre-injury pictures of an angelic-looking little blonde boy.

Every one involved – which now means most of the UK population – has been looking to find someone or something to blame. The almost inconceivable stupidity of the social services staff seems a fair target. The government has set up an enquiry. A BBC Panorama programme tonight will investigate claims by police and a senior social worker that they recommended that the child be taken into care. (Hindsight is 20/20, as teh saying goes.)

But, the actual culprits have already been found guilty. The visceral response is to want to execute them. Of course, faced with these backward and depressed people, no doubt themselves abused as children, the quality of mercy would get the better of this instinct, for most people. After all, that’s why most of us are not murdering simpletons.

Understandably, many people expressed their natural fury on the Internet. Intemperately, yes. Still, it seems quite bizarre to see that now this means that the Internet has got to take the blame. As usual.

There was already a half-hearted attempt to blame the Internet in the trial reports when it was reported of the mother that

When she was awake, she spent much of her time on the internet, gossiping in chatrooms and playing online poker.

I am no fan of either moronic chatrooms or online gambling. But, I find it hard to draw any connections between either of these activities and child murder.

Similarly, I can’t see that venting rage on the Intenet is much of a crime either. The argument seems to be that internet rage is bad because it will find its expression in attacks on the guilty three.

Late last week Facebook shut down pages carrying threats and abusive comments about the mother, including one entitled: ‘Death is too good for [the mother’s name], torture the bitch that killed Baby P.’
Another was added yesterday and had been viewed by at least 6,000 people last night.
The mother’s profile page on Bebo was removed after abusive messages were added.
The postings demonstrate the ease with which the law can be breached online.

How odd that writing (richly deserved) insulting comments on a website can be a crime. Indeed, unless, the web access in x prison is much more generous than in my (non-custodial, though it sometimes feels otherwise) workplace, I don’t even see how the mother will get to read the comments.

I am most baffled by the idea that identifying these people and saying vicious things about them is somehow equivalent to instructing fellow prisoners to injure them. And that such orders – from people unknown – will be followed to the letter.

Are there people in jail who assume that behavioural instructions on the internet have the force of law? Well, more than the force of law, apparently, because they may not be too responsive to the force of law, given that they are in jail.

Would a random cheque-fraudster who finds him or herself sharing a cell with one of these disgraces to humanity think “Oh, we’ll get on really well” but then read the undisobeyable internet instructions and be obliged to torture and kill the said disgrace to humanity?

One thought on “When all else fails, blame the Internet

  1. This story creates two lines of thought for me:

    First off, I am repulsed beyond belief about it. Sensory overload is an understatement. There have been a few news stories I have avoided but this sets a new level. I can not watch any news bulletin which mentions it and I skip over any news article about it. I am deliberately trying to shield myself from any contact with the details of this horror. I cant take it.

    This leads on to the next thing that gets under my skin.

    News is not (or at least, I never thought it was) the same thing as “horror story.” The news is supposed to tell you things that will help you make an informed judgement about your life. News that there is a global shortage of oil is something you can (and should) react to. News about traffic jams helps you plan a new route. That three poor examples of humanity have killed a baby is (just about) newsworthy, in that it helps people make informed judgements on the state of society (yes, I know…).

    What is not, and as far as I can see, will never be “news” is the unbearable detail with which we are exposed to the end of this childs life. It serves no purpose except the vicarious thrill you get from a slasher movie. 99.9999% of the people who are exposed to this news will not be in the jury for any future trial, and if they are this is prejudicial to the case. We can do nothing with the information presented to use here, so how is it newsworthy?

    All the news outlets do is seek out more and more shocking items with which to tantalise, shock and surprise the public. It is depressing that the horrific death of this child has fallen into the same bucket of sadness.

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