Nearly one year since it was first published, another chance to read my most popular post ever.
Journalism in Britain, impartial investigative journalism, ended on May 3rd 2007, the day our media began saturation coverage of an event that occurred in Portugal. A little girl named Madeleine McCann, aged three, had disappeared from her holiday apartment.
– So what do I recall of that event? Non-stop coverage on TV with a maddening lack of any real information. A woman with chiselled features making a televised appeal. “Please give our little girl back.” Funny, no tears, not even the watering of an eye, and your little ‘princess’ stolen from under your nose! They’d left the children every night whilst dining with friends. “It was like dining in your back garden.” But it’s OK, they were doing ‘regular checks.’ As if! Stories of shutters smashed, doors broken, the little girl taken out of a window. These being reports given by the parents to close friends and broadcast within the first 24 hours. Hearing the Portuguese police say there was NO break-in, that the window sill was unmarked and the girl couldn’t have been taken out of it! Then an appeal. Hundreds of thousands of pounds donated to ‘find Maddie.’ Maybe millions. Support of the rich and famous. Appeals by famous footballers. David Beckham. “If you’ve seen this little girl …,” holding up a picture. The father talking about his little girl being ‘abducted.’ Strange, why not use the word ‘kidnapped’? Maybe because that involves a ransom and he knew one wouldn’t be forthcoming?
– Four months later, shock, horror! – the parents declared arguidos – suspects! Cadaver dogs hitting upon the scent of human remains in their apartment, the garden below, on their clothes and in their car! Top Portuguese detective on Panorama saying the statements of the parents and their friends ‘didn’t add up.’ The father, asked about sightings of his daughter, trying to hide a smirk. Then, very strangely, our journalists made a volte-face. Articles appeared slagging off the Portuguese police. ‘Bunglers, fat sardine-munchers.’ On and on.
– Ten years later, regular newspaper articles still tell of the ‘brave, anguished parents’ and their ‘fury’ over a book written by the lead detective. Panorama and Crimewatch on the telly, now portraying the parents, never cleared, as saints. The mother an ambassador for Missing People charity! Funny, what about the cadaver dogs? Never happened! History rewritten. So who or what is orchestrating this? Well, their spokesman ‘left’ his highly paid job as head of the government’s Media Monitoring department to work for them. So affected by their plight was he. Allegedly. What did that department do? It ‘controls what comes out in the media’ according to the man himself. But why would the government want to plant regular pro-McCann stories in our newspapers and bias towards them in TV programs? Why set up a huge police investigation, Operation Grange, to find Madeleine, still running six years later, where the ‘cop’ in charge stated that ‘neither the McCanns nor their friends are suspects nor persons of interest’?
That’s the $64,000 question.