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Crocodile tears

Have you seen this man?

Have you seen this man?

Another British child has gone missing. Looks like summer’s definitely here.

Sorry for the off-colour joke, but it’s true, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds the whole media circus surrounding the matter distateful in the extreme. This time round, a four-year-old called Madeleine McCann has disappeared while on holiday in Portugal, and, predictably, most of the 24-hour news channels have dropped everything in order to dedicate 99% of their airtime to providing up to the minute coverage of how the parents’ neighbour’s best friend’s dog is feeling about the tragedy. Every time this happens, thousands upon thousands of people line up to grieve for the disappearance of a child they don’t even know, while the tabloids dream up nonsense like “Support Madeleine by wearing yellow” (this particular little doozy courtesy of The Sun).

The phoneyness that people are capable of seriously makes me sick, and they don’t come sicker than Sky News, who have replaced their usual lead-in with a special “Search for Madeleine” title sequence. They have a reporter permanently stationed at the Praia da Luz resort to deliver “up to the minute news”, and the studio-based newsreaders are all wearing yellow ties. The whole thing is such a piss-take that it would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic. And, if all this mawkish, insincere sentimentality wasn’t bad enough, Sky News has already begun making rumblings about Europe-wide paedophile rings, and speculating, in true News Corporation fashion, as to their involvement in the child’s disappearance. The only thing the Brits enjoy better than wringing their hands over a missing child is an old-fashioned paedophile hunt.

Please excuse me for not going into any more detail here. I’m going off to puke my guts out.

Posted: Saturday, May 12, 2007 at 11:05 AM | Comments: 15
Categories: General | TV



I know what you mean. I sincerely hope they find the little girl safe and well, but I can't understand why a story like this will be the main "news" headline for days on end, when there's essentially nothing to report. The media seems to actively avoid real news nowadays, especially politics - I sometimes wonder what the Govt's sneaking through while no-ones watching.

I hadn't heard about the "wear yellow" campaign. That's really sickening. As a nation we seem to have descended to making shows of fake emotion ("just look how upset I am") without actually doing anything.

Posted by: Philly Q, May 12, 2007 12:58 PM


I agree with you on this. Furthermore, in such cases the media almost always uses the term 'pedophile' as a synonym for 'child molester', although pedophilia is actually a term that denotes a sexual orientation and nothing else. Moreover, as criminal studies show, most child molesters are not even pedophiles.

But I guess factual news coverage is not a top priority for television programming... "Support Madeleine by wearing yellow" sounds like brilliant satire though. ;-)

Posted by: Greeny, May 12, 2007 2:01 PM


The difference in this case is that people are doing something: they're praying, as the BBC has taken every opportunity to remind us, devoting frankly inordinate amounts of time to the McCanns' regular visits to church and the prayer meetings and vigils being held here in Britain, presumably because there's so little actual information emerging regarding the police investigation.

I pay very little attention to Sky News or The Sun, so I wasn't aware of just how tasteless they had been in their ratings-grabbing. Since the death of the Princess of Wales, the British media has loved nothing more than a widespread, public display of communal grief, and this has been their best opportunity since the leering coverage of the Ipswich serial killings of late 2006. Listening carefully to the news broadcasts, you can almost hear the producers rubbing their hands with glee.

Posted by: Echidna, May 12, 2007 2:02 PM


I can assure you it isn't just the British media. In one of the rare cases in which conservative US columnist Michelle Malkin and me agree, the US media is always preoccupied with cases in which attractive (or cute and little) girls go missing, and referred to this phenomenon as "Missing Pretty Girl Syndrome" or "Damsel in Distress" Syndrome.

In Brazil there was a case in the 70s of a small boy from a rich family who was kidnapped (one of the very first times) and the media covered it like crazy. He was never found and to this day no one knows his fate. I wonder if so much attention would've been given to him if he wasn't the prototype of the Aryan child.

Posted by: Marcus, May 12, 2007 6:09 PM


Natalie Holloway anyone?

Posted by: aw, May 13, 2007 3:48 AM


Marcus, I think you’re absolutely right about the racial/class element. My mum also raised the important point that we’re talking about the child of two wealthy doctors here. She suspected (quite rightly, I believe) that, if the parents had been unemployed and from a working class background, the tabloids would be portraying them as negligent, in much the same way that some of the Portuguese papers are currently doing.

Posted by: Whiggles, May 13, 2007 11:22 AM


@ Whiggles

This is similar to what my dad said. He said if it were a single mother then it would portray her as negligent.

Posted by: Muratcan, May 13, 2007 11:35 AM


Although you may have a valid point when you question whether a single parent would receive such favourable and sympathetic coverage, I do find your original post fairly distasteful. This is a tragic situation which, if it wasn't kept in the headlines and in public minds through this "yellow campaign", would probably fall off everyone's radar - especially that of the Portuguese police. Already questions have been raised about the competency of the police in this case, so if the British people started to forget about Madeleine then the police could conveniently "forget" her as well.

Hundreds of children go missing each year in the UK and without extensive coverage there can't be as much attention focused on the search. It is vital that we keep talking about rewards and about appropriate vigilance - through this, maybe just maybe, one of the criminals on the periphery of the abduction might shop the others in. Conscience is a powerful weapon and this can be amplified even further when £2.5m comes into the equation.

You seem to rubbish the line of inquiry which suggests that this is a Europe-wide paedophile ring, yet we already suspect that there is a British connection. As the crime occurred in Portugal, and if there is indeed a British connection, then this *is* a Europe-wide paedophile ring. It was planned and executed, quite chillingly, for a specific purpose. And, finally, I don't see what's wrong with "Brits wringing their hands over a missing child" - it shows that as a nation we do care about certain issues, albeit even if we do ignore others for some strange reason. And I'd like to think "an old-fashioned paedophile hunt" is a good thing if it means protecting more children by locking up more criminals who ruin young children's lives and the lives of all those around them.

Posted by: Richard, May 13, 2007 2:25 PM


Richard, you make it sound as if you think the hand-wringers genuinely care about the child, her family and their plight. I’d be willing to bet that the vast majority of them don’t give a stuff and simply enjoy getting worked up about the drama. And as for the amount of media coverage that this event has attracted, frankly I think it can only have a negative effect on the search for the kid, simply causing her to disappear further underground.

One of the news channels (I forget which) featured an interview with a Portuguese family whose son was abducted ten years ago and has yet to be found. Given how little the public and media seemed to care about that particular case, they are understandably more than a little irate about the pathetic display of false emotion surrounding this one.

I sincerely hope that Madeleine McCann is found, however unlikely it might be. However, I think that the way her kidnapping has been reported, and the public reaction to it, represents the absolute worst aspects of the British gutter press and the public.

Posted by: Whiggles, May 13, 2007 2:33 PM


I do believe that the vast majority of those who are involved in these shows of public support genuinely do care for the girl. A large amount of media coverage also means that the child cannot be sold or exchanged without risking significant compromise, thus creating a more preferable situation where the girl must be kept by a select few until the storm dies down. During this time the police can then work their existing lines of inquiry - after all, it will be much easier to follow and find those who abducted her instead of those who may have "bought" Madeleine in an entirely different country.

"Given how little the public and media seemed to care about that particular case, they are understandably more than a little irate about the pathetic display of false emotion surrounding this one." - I think you're making this out to be something that it is not. In actual fact, they are most probably more irate at the fact that the Portuguese police did nothing with their case, yet they are doing a fair amount now. They're also irate because of all the *real* emotion which is being shown in this case, as opposed to the little-to-no emotion shown in their own.

Incidentally, I think the worst aspects of the British gutter press are when they endlessly hound those in the public eye for no real reason. Or when they sensationally report that someone has been arrested on suspicion of committing a crime, only for them to be later acquitted - with their name forever tarnished, however.

Posted by: Richard, May 13, 2007 3:30 PM


Maybe I’m just a complete cynic, but I’d personally have an easier time believing that the public and press reaction was sincere if there was a similar outpouring of grief every time a child was blown to bits in Iraq, or indeed every time a non-British child disappeared. I think there’s a lot of truth in the “Missing Pretty Girl Syndrome” idea Marcus highlighted, and also a certain amount of… well, I don’t want to say racism, but I can’t think of a better word to describe the phenomenon.

And yes, Richard, I absolutely agree with you on your last point. The number of lives that must be destroyed because the press jump the gun and hound the first suspect they come across doesn’t bear thinking about.

Posted by: Whiggles, May 15, 2007 10:36 PM


Perhaps the British public, and this is a sweeping generalisation so do forgive me, cannot relate to the lives of an Iraqi or to some non-British parents/children. But, they certainly can relate to a typical middle-class couple with a smiling young daughter who was abducted when they were holidaying in a resort that a lot of Britons enjoy going to. Yes, you are right that it seems almost racist - and I'm sure things would be very different if the parents were "lower-class" - but that doesn't stop the public being sincere in their grief for Madeleine and in psychological/sociological terms this probably comes around as a result of sheep mentality. After all, you always stick around with and stick up for one of your own.

Posted by: Richard, May 16, 2007 7:44 AM


I would agree about the sickening media circus that has surrounded this event. Sadly now that the police have found a suspect the media are relentlessly hounding him. Whatever happened to innocent before being proved guilty? Every news programe and paper has his name and face splashed over their front page - obviously his rights to anonymity are considered unimportant. I have sympathy with the family but the media has gone insane over this story.

This is just another example of the 'victim culture'. The media casting its net on the look out for abducted, abused or murdered (preferably) children then interviewing anyone who has ever seen the girl (because people have even more sympathy for children if they are female too) in a desperate attempt to fill the running time of their news programmes and, if I'm being cynical, to have the chance of an Ian Huntley-style "we interviewed the killer by accident" exclusive story.

What sickens me is that it forces families pushed to the limit by horrible events into a disgusting game of one-upmanship where each family of each new child to be abducted has to describe how the pain they are feeling and the tragedy of the events they have experienced is much worse and more shocking that anyone elses. And the questions they get asked, or statements they come out with: "'so-and-so' was a beautiful girl, always laughing, she was a great student and well liked". Surely these pat statements are obvious and useless - it is not as if when the media asks for a soundbite the friends and family are going to say "we hated the kid, they had no friends and so probably deserved to get abducted. Frankly, we are glad this happened"(!)

Posted by: colinr, May 16, 2007 6:37 PM


what's happening to the world ! are we going back into the middle ages or something... ? the muslim thing, the pope thing blessing a photo....

what a better world it would be if all this superstitious stuff were put in a parcel and sent off to siberia or something !

Posted by: , May 30, 2007 3:00 PM


what's happening to the world ! are we going back into the middle ages or something... ? the muslim thing, the pope thing blessing a photo....

what a better world it would be if all this superstitious stuff were put in a parcel and sent off to siberia or something !

Posted by: , May 30, 2007 3:00 PM

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