Warning: This is a blog. It is personal opinion. There is no evidence that Kate and Gerry McCann killed their daughter then created a media storm to mask their evil deeds. If you do not wish to read personal opinions please read no further.
Now, generally speaking, I am not the biggest fan of the UK media in general and I am certainly not a fan of tabloid press. I find both the Daily Express and the Daily Star to be offensive, trashy newspapers. Despite this, today I feel sorry for them and, part of me feels there has been an interesting twist in the UK law courts. From the BBC news website:
Madeleine McCann’s parents have welcomed a libel settlement and apology from Express Newspapers for suggesting they were responsible for her death.
In a statement the McCanns said they were pleased that the newspaper group had admitted the “utter falsity” of the “grotesque” stories written about them. [followed by]
The papers said: “We acknowledge that there is no evidence whatsoever to support this theory and that Kate and Gerry are completely innocent of any involvement in their daughter’s disappearance. “
OK, on the surface this seems reasonable and for years the tabloid media has been getting away with printing nonsense stories. However, this has normally been seen as just the way the tabloids print “news”. The idea that they can now be taken to court where I think something interesting has happened.
First off, as a sort of position statement, I think that, while there is no evidence Kate and Gerry McCann actually killed Madeleine there are a few issues that strike me as odd. Not least of these is the very fact the McCann’s felt the need, while under so much pressure to find their daughter, to take out a libel action against the newspapers. There was a risk they could have lost, and if so the “find Maddie” fund would have had to cover their expenses. Even though they have won it brings them no closer to a conclusion to the whole sorry deal. All this, coupled with the very existence of a “family spokesperson” leaves a sour taste in my mouth.
Compare and contrast this with the behaviour of Shannon Matthews mother when she went missing. In the early days there was no hint of rich benefactors funding a “find Shannon” account, there was no family spokesperson and, with the recent media hints that the mother was in fact to blame, no signs of a libel action. Why is that? Is it because Karen Matthews is pretty much a “working class oik” while the McCanns are upper middle class professionals?
Anyway, before I wander too close to the line at which the McCanns decide to take legal action against this blog (they can have every single penny this blog has earned to date if they really want…), the other ramification of this case is how it may influence others.
Keeping with the topical nature of the McCanns, lets use Robert Murat as an example. Here we have an example of someone who the general media has declared guilty since pretty much day one. In Mr Murat’s case this is not the newspapers making sly allusions that he may be guilty, pretty much everything written about him says he is the “one.” The Daily Mirror even printed an ironic tirade by friends of the McCanns heaping more suspicion on Murat:
Fiona Payne, Russell O’Brien and Rachael Oldfield insisted they saw him outside Kate and Gerry McCann’s flat on the night Madeleine, four, was snatched – despite his denials.
Despite all this, there is not one shred of evidence that Murat was the criminal. Can we expect to see a large scale libel action? (Well no, Murat doesn’t have a huge fund to bankroll such things…).
In fact, pick up any paper any time of the year and you will read articles in which people are made out to be things they are not. Suspects in rape cases are often named (with all the ensuing problems) but I can not recall a single time, when someone was found innocent, a retraction was published.
Using the Mirror as an example, a while ago a children’s TV presenter Mark Speight was implicated in the death of his girlfriend. For the whole time, he was linked in a manner that would make the casual reader assume the weight of evidence was against him, then today they print an article headlined: “Kids’ TV star Mark Speight won’t be charged over girlfriend’s death.” That is it. No huge payout to assist the investigation into her death, no front page apology. Just a short piece to say he wont be charged.
Amazing isn’t it.
At least now, thanks to the McCanns and their tireless crusade for justice, everyone who has a slightly negative mention in the press can use the vast fortunes of rich strangers to fund their legal defence cases…
[Cynical footnote: I sometimes wonder if the legal action was at least partially motivated by the fact the McCanns have pretty much dropped off the media radar, and since the Shannon Matthews case everyone had pretty much moved on - their donations may have even been starting to dry up...]