Archive for the ‘Madeleine McCann’ category

Free Madeleine! (only in today’s Sun)

25 May, 2007

In August 1997, something very odd happened to Britain. The land of the stiff upper lip, the Blitz spirit, the “mustn’t grumble”, where triumph and disaster alike were greeted with little more than a Roger Moore-style raised eyebrow, suddenly became a nation of quivering, weeping, drooling morons, all desperate to outgrieve each other for a thick Sloane they’d never met.

Media commentators applauded our new-found Latin-style enthusiasm for public displays of emotion, and since the demise of Saint Diana, every ‘tragic’ event has been greeted with similar hysteria, accompanied by an even more unpleasant emotional fascism implying that if you’re not weeping/leaving flowers at the scene/wearing a yellow ribbon/flailing yourself with birch twigs, you’re some kind of pervert.

I say ‘every’ tragic event, but that’s not strictly true, for the public’s wailing & gnashing of the old choppers is highly selective. If you’re white, middle-class & photogenic, you’re in. If you’re working-class, black, or physically/morally unattractive, forget it. If you’ve died as a result of a natural disaster, such as a tsunami or an earthquake, you’re deemed eminently blubworthy. But if you’ve been massacred by British/US/Israeli death squads, tough titty. You don’t count.

Back in 2002, two news stories appeared in that witless freesheet Metro in the same week. The first story concerned two parents whose 16-year old daughter died after taking ecstasy at her birthday party. The second concerned two parents whose 14-year old daughter died climbing Mount Kinabalu in Borneo.

Two very sad stories then, but two very different reactions. The parents in the first case (working class from Essex) were villified as being irresponsible, as if they’d physically force-fed their daughter with mind-bending drugs (they hadn’t of course; they knew nothing about it until the autopsy). Those in the second case, being of good middle-class stock, were portrayed as tragic, grieving parents, even though they’d irresponsibly dragged their daughter halfway across the world to climb a notoriously dangerous mountain.

Double standards that we’re witnessing at the moment in the hysteria over Madeleine McCann. Now I’ve no doubt Mr & Mrs McCann are going through hell at the moment and wouldn’t wish their torment on anybody, but it has to be said that the media portrayal of thestory differs from previous cases of parents leaving their children unattended.

Imagine if the situation wasn’t one of two middle-class professionals abandoning their kids to have dinner in a nice tapas bar, but one of a single mother abandoning her kids to go to a bar or nightclub. I suspect the media response would be somewhat different, as would that of the public.

But they’re nice white Christians! And doctors! They couldn’t possibly have done anything wrong could they? Over a million people visit their website and thousands leave messages of support & donate reward money; meanwhile, over 600,000 Iraqi civilians are murdered, Israel tries to blow up the democratically elected leaders of a neighbouring country, and children are butchered in Darfur, with no public outcry whatsoever.

You can’t blame the public for this ignorance – if the mainstream media reported the true horror of what’s going on in Iraq & elsewhere, I believe people would be genuinely appalled – but you can wonder how such a once-reasonable nation has been transformed, in less than a decade, into a nation of emotional hysterics, lacking any sort of perspective or analytical faculties.

Like anyone else I hope Madeleine is found alive & well (though sadly that looks increasingly unlikely) but the whole story reminds me of the old Final Solution joke:

Hitler: OK Goebbels, we’ve decided to kill 3 million Jews and a dentist.
Goebbels: Why a dentist?
Hitler (to Himmler): You see Heinrich, I told you no-one would give a damn about the Jews…