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Wednesday, September 12, 2007 

How to be witless in just over 1000 words.

Not to come over all Alastair Campbell, criticising cartoons, but the one on the fifth page of today's Private Eye (1193), comparing Citizen Kane to "Citizen Journalist", while somewhat true, takes the usual position that all blogging is "witless".

On the same page, the Eye lays into the true witlessness of the summer: the incessant, ignorant, complicit reporting of the Madeleine McCann case. For every useless, highly skippable blog post, you can point to the amount of dead trees used to print the acres of instantly throwaway, endlessly speculating and empty stories that have been haunting the nation. Despite some of the more thoughtful hacks taking a step back, examining just what has happened and why and how they as the media have been involved since the beginning, most of the coverage is still on the level of this abysmal abortion put together by the Mail's latest Glenda Slagg, Allison Pearson:

The past few days of Kate McCann's life may have rewritten the definition of hell.

I don't know: personally, I think I'd rather be in her position than burning for the rest of eternity, forever condemned to listening to Kate Nash's album over and over again while one of Satan's minions' sodomises me with a rusty knife. Each to their own though. Everyone's definition of hell is different; it can't be rewritten every time a tabloid journalist feels the latest situation means it has to be.

Skipping nearly 200 words of how terribly awful and unfair it all is to this unimpeachable couple:

Imagine how thrilled those literally clueless Portuguese cops were to be handed some inconclusive DNA evidence they could talk up to scapegoat the British visitors who had become such a pain in the backside.

Breathtaking, isn't it? The police are dressed up as the villains in Pearson's narrative of woe, rather than simply doing their jobs; the DNA evidence, collected and analysed by the British Forensic Service rather than any nasty clueless foreign types, is inconclusive; and the British visitors are being scapegoated because they'd "become a pain in the backside". Almost all the coverage has treated the McCanns with kid gloves, willingly blind to almost any possibility that they could have been involved, but this kind of myopia could only have been written by someone who's spent the last few days under the American regime of sensory deprivation. Some have accused those who suspect the McCanns of twisting the truth and the reality of what happened; this goes far beyond any of that, seeing an organised conspiracy not just involving the Portuguese authorities but also the British team who've done all the forensic legwork.

Overnight, Gerry and Kate found themselves trapped in a nightmare straight out of Franz Kafka. A world where lack of hard evidence is taken as proof of guilt and innocent explanations are twisted to fit our darkest suspicions.

Pearson perhaps out to reread, or even read for the first time Kafka. The whole point of the Trial is that K. cannot clear his name because he never knows what he's accused of, comes up against a bureaucracy that hinders his every movement towards discovering what it is the case is about, and finds that he is mocked and even more ruthlessly targeted by the authorities for continuing to maintain his innocence. It's a story about the tyranny of everyday life as well as being about the horrors of the totalitarian and unaccountable state. The control order regime is Kafkaesque, where some of those held under what is essentially house arrest never know what it is their meant to have done, and can't as a result fight back and defend themselves; the situation that the McCanns face is nothing of the sort. For someone who's just twisted the events of the last few weeks into a grand conspiracy, it's ever so slightly rich for Pearson to then suggest that the McCanns' innocent explanations are being twisted by some to fit suspicions.

Now Kate and Gerry have been named as official suspects, it suddenly feels as if it's open season on the doctors from Leicestershire.

Really? Unless you count the Desmond papers, which seem to have decided that going with the opposite of the rest of the press might attract a few more readers to their disgusting publications, the press has almost uniformly been completely behind the McCanns. It's only been the internet, predictably, where others have been suggesting otherwise.

In this post-Diana age, people want proof of grief. They don't want dignity or faith or an attempt to keep up appearances, even if you are collapsing inside.

And just who's to blame for this I wonder?

That Gerry and Kate, devoted parents by all accounts, loaded Madeleine's decaying body into the boot of a hire car four weeks later while they were busy courting the international media to help find their child?

Can you credit it? Of course not. The allegation is not just revolting. It is surreal.

Completely unlike the events of the last four months then. Absolutely nothing has made any sense, and it still doesn't. How does someone, within the period of around half an hour go almost completely unnoticed through a bustling holiday resort, manage to get into a locked apartment without leaving almost any prominent clues, take a 3-year-old girl without waking up her brother and sister and carry her off into the dark, never to be seen again, with only a friend of the family seeing a man from behind carrying what appeared to be a child in blankets over his shoulder?

Whatever you may think about the error they made in leaving their children alone that night, these people are not Fred and Rose West.

The deed the McCanns are accused of would have required such black, cold-hearted evil that I refuse to believe they are guilty unless overwhelming evidence is uncovered.

Nonsense. If the McCanns are guilty, and I have no idea, as pointed out before whether they are or not, the most likely explanation seems to be that whatever happened to Madeleine was a tragic accident. Out of self-preservation, probably because they feared losing their two other children as a result, they planned a cover-up, one that was for a few months surprisingly successful. They have probably been completely overwhelmed by the media coverage of the event, as almost everyone else has been. Nothing they've done is evil, or even instantly condemnable; how do we know we wouldn't have done the same thing in their position?

This is the prism through which the tabloids, and some of the other press have to see absolutely everything through. Every murderer is instantly evil, a monster whose actions are eminently unexplainable. One suspects that the media, if the McCanns were to be eventually found guilty, wouldn't vilify them for what they'd done to their daughter, but rather because they had the audacity to play them for fools for so long.

The one point that nearly all the commentators have failed to make, whether because they're unwilling to because of their own role in it or because they quite like their jobs, is that the media has been complicit in this from the very beginning. Everything was staged and created for maximum publicity, the McCanns both using and being used by the media, each out of their own motives. Is it little wonder after all of that they're unwilling to countenance the possibility they could even be slightly involved? It would be the equivalent of admitting that they'd conspired in it all themselves.

So please, spare us the cartoons about the witless blogs. The tabloid press, and especially the commentators within it are the ones currently being exposed as vacuous.

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Great article, but in response to your "How does someone..." question, the answer is "Quite easily" unfortunately.

The apartment is positioned directly next to a road, meaning an abductor would have to walk down a small flight of stairs, through an unlocked gate, a few metres down a public path to their waiting vehicle and they're gone. It pure luck that Jane Tanner even saw the alleged abductor, as the apartment is not visible from the tapas bar. Any abductor left no clues of a break-in as the apartment was, in fact, unlocked. Any forensic clues left would likely have been destroyed by the 20 odd people who searched the apartment before police arrived.

Even if the McCanns are not guilty of killing their daughter, they're shitty parents for leaving their children alone like that.

Christ I fucking suck at putting simple links into comments :(

The first one is supposed to be this story. The second and third are as intended.

Thanks for decent theory.

The thing that's always stuck out for me though is just how rare abductions actually are: if this is how she disappeared, it's not something that could be done on the spur of the moment, it would have taken exceptional planning, something that considering the McCanns hadn't been there long might have been difficult to do. As I've said, I have no idea whether the McCanns are guilty or not, but abduction to me has always seemed one of the least likely explanations. Not that any of theories condemning them anymore likely, and also considering the amount of planning they would have had to do in order to cover it up in such a way.

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