Madeleine McCann: The Making Of Our Maddie – A Media Commodity
The Sunday Times (front page): “KATE McCANN: ‘I REELED. THEY THOUGHT I HAD KILLED MADELEINE’”
The child’s face peers out from the cover of the paper’s News Review – section 4 of the swollen paper.
“THEY SAID I KILLED HER”
In the weeks after Madeleine McCann was abducted, her parents were beset by vicious rumour and bizarre offers of help. Worse was to come.
To take another angle, they were also offered lots of support and cash by those who wanted to help find the missing girl who might have been abducted.
Kate McCann tells of her terror as police declared her a suspect and offered her a deal to confess.
We’ve been here before. Kate McCann’s book has nothing new to add. The Times’s India Knight also has a few words that add nothign to the case:
India Knight: Smug parents enjoy punishing Kate and Gerry McCann
How so? Isn’t Madeleine McCann “every parent’s worst nightmare”? As Cassandra Jardine told Telegraph readers back in 2007: “”There but for the grace of…”
Jeremy Vine told us in his interview with the McCanns last week that it was “every parent’s worst nightmare”. He told us the parents were in a “state of purgatory”. The situation in Praia da Luz was compared to sitting in your garden with you children asleep upstairs. The Portuguese police were once more bashed.
It’s all nonsense. In four years, we have come no nearer to knowing what happened on that fateful evening.
Tim Black puts it thus:
Not that the absence of anything beyond hypothesis has inhibited the front page speculation. Indeed, the absence of hard evidence at the heart of the Maddie phenomenon has been its lifeblood. With nothing known beyond the barest of facts, anything, no matter how macabre, can be guessed at.
While the resurrected coverage of Our Maddie still features the same unfounded speculation, the same snidey attitude towards the Portuguese police, and the same half-baked commentaries on the parenting skills of Gerry and Kate McCann, the simple truth is that it no longer really resonates with the public at large.
At the story’s apogee, Ron Greenslade wrote:
“The media has overextended its critical faculties – it has become hypercritical.”
Now the pendulum has swung. The lack of facts that drove the media to speculate on anything from Kate’s tears to the blonde slave trade, searches for a new angle by lowering its voice and marvelling at the McCanns’ endurance and stoicism. Piers Morgan interviews the McCanns and tells them what good parents they are.
The media, not known for its love of the PR industry, is happy to feature the McCanns’ campaign. So long as it’s sentimental, the PR is ok to relay it to the masses.
The no news – the void where a plot might be – is filled with sentiment, theory and bilge. This invites us to take part, to create our own plot. So we get the Our Maddie phenomenon, a game of armchair detetctive in which David Cameron, Gordon Brown, the Pope, ribbon-wearing MPs and celebrities get involved; supporters stick posters of the child in their windows and buy a book to experience the event. None of that has anything to do with the official case. It is born of a desire to feel connected to the big story and join the debate.
On the date of Maddie’s fourth birthday, the Sun’s front-page headline declared:
“We share your pain.”
We didn’t. We just watched as voyeurs at the circus. The Sun was just filling in gaps by showing that the British care about missing kids – and a darn site more than those Portuguese. Sure we felt sorry for the child, but the Sun was orchestrating us in a collective grief, tapping into the Princess Diana theme to make a private story a public event. The Express took another view and libelled the McCanns. But it wasn’t about the people; it was about the media competing for ownership of the story. Do you agree with the Sun or with the Express. Buy the paper. Take a view.
This guessing was in part a reaction to the Portuguese conducting the case in secrecy. The British press could not stand to be omitted. So desperate were the papers to become part of the story they were vorciously feeeding off that Lori Campbell, working for the Mirror, expressed her concerns over Robert Murat to local police. She then told the media and her readers about it. Camilla Cavendish nailed her:
She [Campbell] was absolutely right to tell police of her suspicions. But she was surely wrong to publicise them. Even if Mr Murat does turn out to be guilty, it does not help the investigation one jot for you and me to know his name right now. If he is innocent, he has been damaged for life. I think he meant it literally when he said that “the only way I will survive is if they catch Madeleine’s abductor”. In the twisted way of these things his denial, too, has become a story.
The story soon went global. The McCanns said their YouTube channel was good because “the internet reaches the whole world”. But finding the child does involve the whole world. The result of the global drive is sightings all over the world, which more than likely hamper any investigation, either private or official, by spreading resources thinly.
India Knight has taken a position on the news void:
Nowhere is the confusion between prurience and “our right to know” more brutally and revoltingly on display than in the abuse directed at Kate McCann, whose daughter Madeleine has now been missing for four years. McCann’s sin is to be beautiful and articulate, which means — obviously — that she and her husband played a sinister part in their child’s disappearance.
This is one of the default positions in a story short on facts and plot. The McCanns are not people but reduced to symbols of victimhood. It’s something that gives them a high moral authority. They are hailed as examples of goodness being tested by God. Knight adds:
I wrote at the time of Madeleine’s disappearance about the torrent of bile all over the internet from people, usually anonymous, who disapproved of the McCanns having had dinner a hundred yards from where their daughter was sleeping. It was only a small step from this to the wildest, most offensive conspiracy theories, directed at a woman whose child had been stolen. Incredibly, much of the abuse came from women claiming to be parents.
We must assume that none of these anonymous freaks ever let their own children out of their sight for one moment: that they didn’t allow them to walk to school, for instance, or to the shops; that their impeccable lives never involved going on holiday with a group of friends and having a few drinks; that they had never known the brief panic of losing a child in a supermarket or playground. And now, the hatred is back.
Knight touches on the other view of the McCanns, as symbols of suspect parenthood. And there is no bigger story for parents than other parent’s apparent failings. They argue that the presence of paedos should have alerted the McCanns to the dangers of leaving their children alone. Decent parents would have known from the media that predatory paedos are everywhere and anywhere, poised to strike as soon as your back is turned.
Others may argue that a society that focusedson the rare crimes of child abduction and sexual abuse, that focuses on the dark side of life, is sick.
Of course, the bile and the support say more about the person giving it than it does about the McCanns. And it does not help one jot to find what happened to the missing child…