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Saturday, September 08, 2007 

Still failing to get the balance right.

Witnessing the current rush to defend the McCanns by the vast majority of the British media, it's hard not to think of just how daft they're going to look if they move from being suspects to being charged. The previous biggest reverse ferret in history was the death of Diana; this could yet far surpass it.

From the very beginning, the coverage of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, at first highly manipulative, the equivalent of emotional pornography when there was very little that anyone in this country could do to help, has struck almost entirely the wrong note consistently. The lack of desire to examine any alternative theories, the attacks on the German radio journalist who dared to ask one of the first difficult questions directly of the couple, all of it has been so utterly craven and so completely untypical of this countries' tabloid media. The one supposed saving grace of the tabloid culture is its indefatigability; it is unrestrained, unafraid to think the unthinkable, and uses all of its critical muster, often for ill. Numerous previous cases have shown how it loves to think the very worst: see Colin Stagg, smeared, libeled, pursued and attacked for years until he was finally cleared of all involvement in the murder of Rachel Nickell; Maxine Carr, smeared and attacked for lying for the man she both loved and was in fear of, forced to be given a new identity because of the hate that the tabloids, especially the Sun threw at her; and a paedophile whose former garden was dug up last year after a tip-off, with the Sun screaming about a new "house of horrors", a reference to the bodies buried on the property of Fred and Rosemary West, only for the entire story to completely disappear and never be mentioned again after no human remains were discovered.

All of this has been thrown out of the window when it's come to the McCanns. The unwillingness to think any ill of them whatsoever, and now to treat the Portuguese decision to make both Gerry and Kate suspects as evidence of a plot to fit them up because of the police's own incompetence suggests that many journalists have completely lost the faculty to report the story with any modicum of independence. It's ever so slightly reminiscent of the case of Louise Woodward, also a Brit abroad, who was almost universally held by the tabloids to be innocent, regardless of the merits of the defense or prosecution case.

To call it strange would be by no means overplaying the atmosphere currently prevailing. The mood of the close to six past years in the new age of terror has been to presume guilt until innocence has been proved, as the attitude towards the Kamal family showed. With the McCanns it's been the absolute opposite. It'd be a welcome development if this was shown to all those suspected of crime, but somehow I can't imagine it'll spread. As with everything, there has to be a balance, and it's been as sorely missing as ever.

I have no idea whether the McCanns have anything to do with the disappearance of Madeleine, but to completely discount the possibility, especially in line with the forensic evidence, examined not by the Portuguese police remember but by the Forensic Science Service in this country would be foolhardy, considering the complete lack of any other suspects apart from Robert Murat, himself the victim of heavy speculation to begin with. The so-called feral beasts, when made to decide between a middle-class British couple and a foreign police force, have already made their choice.

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As you know, I have been questioning the McCanns and the media spin on the case from the start.

At the very least, they are guilty of child neglect and/or child abandonment, and this was from the outset.

The McCanns version of events did not hold up under scrutiny. Now there are voices questioning them.

I think it is a shame that the media is giving air time to every McCann relative and friend to spout off that the Portuguese have got it all wrong. The basis for them saying this is that they are such a lovely couple and they know that they could not possibly have done such a thing.

However, the odds are in favour that it was an inside job. Until such time as (and if) they are cleared, I believe that it is right that they are treated as prime suspects.

I agree about the media coverage of this development. I managed to watch 20 minutes of Sky news on friday afternoon but the constant implication that Kate McCanns questioning was due to nothing more than sheer malice on the part of the police coupled with digs about their competence made me shout obscenities at the screen. For once BBC news seemed positively restrained in comparison.

Having said that, and despite my own misgivings about some of the rather strange antics of the McCanns since their daughter disappeared, I'm not convinced they are guilty of anything other than leaving their kids unattended and reaping the consequences. How did they store a body for at least 25 days in the portugese heat without it being discovered, and then under constant media scrutiny, dispose of it? Did the pope lend a hand?
I keep being reminded of the Jonbenet Ramsey case where the police were convinced the parents 'dun it' partly because they couldn't make a case against anyone else but also due to the odd behaviour of the family after the event (like doing a runner out of the polices' jurisdiction, ahem.)And I believe the consensus now is they were not reponsible after all.

I agree, sonofajoiner. Thing is, absolutely nothing makes sense about her disappearance. How is it that someone can apparently carry a child off between 9-10pm on a Portuguese holiday resort, presumably bustling with life, and only be seen by apparently just the one person, who only saw him from behind?

The McCanns are, as I mentioned, innocent until proven guilty, and I hope for their sake that they are. The media though has already decided they're innocent, and some might well suggest that xenophobia has more than a slight role in the stance that they've taken.

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