This is one post that I think everyone should read, it sums up what many of us know and think. Well done to Jayelles on such a brilliant and so eloquently put post.
Who actually wants to be misinformed?
Clued up or Clueless?
An interesting question came to mind this morning. “Is there anyone among use who actually wants to exist in a fog of misinformation?” Could there be anyone among us wants to have their head filled with lies and be so misinformed that they will draw wrong conclusions, make wrong decisions and could end up making a complete fool of themselves one way or another?
I cannot believe it to be so. We know that it’s not always easy to avoid being conned. Some of us know that only too well. Many of us learn from experience. But who would keep buying a newspaper if they knew that the stories were largely fabricated? Sadly, there appear to be some people who are only too willing to continually overlook a proven records of lies and accept the next lie as gospel truth. This seems especially true if the lies are what they want to hear.
Media and McCann
In 2007, Madeleine McCann went missing in Portugal and there was an unprecedented media frenzy. Portugal has a law of judicial secrecy which makes it an offence for anyone involved in a current case to discuss it. The police weren’t talking (not officially anyway) and the McCanns and their friends would have faced prosecution if they discussed the case. Journalists however were under enormous pressure to provide stories about the case and sadly, we now know that they resorted to making many of these up. These made-up stories spread like wildfire. “The McCanns were swingers”, “Gerry McCann wasn’t Madeleine’s biological father”, “The McCanns were dining 8 miles away from their children”, “body fluids were found in the car”, “The McCanns kept changing their stories” … and so it went on. Every day brought a new sensational story. The following day, the opposite would be reported. Many of us became justifiably cynical about the integrity of the media reporting.
The Rumour Mill
But, as they say, you can’t unring a bell. For a small group of people, these tabloid stories were gospel. It didn’t seem to matter that time and again the tabloids were proven to be telling lies, when a new lie came out, it was seized and spread around internet discussion forums. Not only that, but the tabloid lies were compounded with more lies of case followers’ making. “My hairdresser’s boyfriend’s cousin knows someone who is related to a Portuguese detective and she says…” was sadly all too common. But as with the tabloids, these new malicious rumours were seized and chewed over as case facts.
But dogs don’t lie…
Speculation reached a peak when the McCanns were made arguidos. We saw more (false) stories about Madeleine’s blood and body fluids being found in the apartment and hire car. A cadaver dog “alerted” to this hire car – proof positive of McCann guilt screamed the anti-McCann brigade, “dogs don’t lie”. They didn’t question the fact that the McCanns’ hire car was the only car in the “line-up” to have its windows covered in “Find Madeleine” posters. They didn’t question the fact that the McCanns’ hire car was the only car in the line-up which the dog handler called the dog back to – not just once but twice. “These dogs have a 100% success rate”, cry the anti-McCanns. They ignore the fact that the very same dog “alerted” to a coconut shell resembling a child’s skull at the Jersey Children’s Home.
Money for Madeleine’s Fund
After many months, the McCanns were cleared of their arguido status. The Portuguese Attorney General issued a statement saying that there was no proof that they had done anything wrong. The McCanns were now in a position to sue the worst offenders amongst the tabloids and sue they did, bolstering Madeleine’s search fund with the not insignificant settlements they received. “We won’t give up on Madeleine”, they vowed and four and half years on, they haven’t. Last May, Kate McCann published her personal chronicle “Madeleine”. The instant bestseller further bolstered Madeleine’s fund by an estimated million pounds at least.
At the end of last year, the Leveson Enquiry commenced its investigations into press standards of reporting. Witness after witness has admitted their part in the scandal that was the reporting of the McCann case. Admissions were made of that members of the press had woven stories out of morsels of case information which had been (illegally) obtained from police officers. Worse still, admissions were made that some stories were entirely fabricated in order to satisfy public hunger for news about the case.
Why should anyone believe anything the papers print about the McCann case now? It’s another good question.
The truth will out
The fact is, many of the case facts are now in the public domain. When the McCanns were cleared of their arguido status, Portugal released the case files to them and somehow, parts of them found their way into the public domain. When these were translated and the extent of the false stories became apparent, many who had believed the McCanns were involved in Madeleine’s disappearance slunk away in disgust. Few, like Bren Ryan, apologised publicly and vowed to divert her efforts to supporting their campaign.
If you can’t make the facts fit – build a conspiracy
Sadly, others were too ingrained in their beliefs to back down and despite the police files disproving their anti-McCann claims, they soldiered on. We saw new and more fantastical theories emerging in an effort to circumvent the mountain of evidence which supported the McCanns’ claims of events. “Since the McCanns clearly had no opportunities on the day Madeleine went missing, she must have been killed several days before the 3rd May. Witnesses who’d seen her after that had seen a clone”. The cloned Maddie theory is a popular one on some anti-McCann forums. So to is the theory that the last photographs taken of Madeleine McCann were faked. Some theorists even suggested that Madeleine McCann had never existed and that every single photograph of her is a product of Photoshopping. As with all conspiracy theorists, each debunking of the detail in these ludicrous theories, was rebutted with accusations of “cover-up” until the conspiracy has reached international governmental proportions. Everyone is “in on it”. The McCanns, their friends, the Portuguese government, some of the locals in Praia da Luz, members of the hotel staff, the British government, the British police and now of course Scotland Yard is “in on it”.
These are people who have invested too much of themselves to walk away. For them, logging on each afternoon and spewing hate about the McCanns till the wee small hours of the morning has become their life.
The McCann industry
Indeed, it is another sad fact that an entire industry has grown out of hating the McCanns. The demand is there (albeit small) for anti-McCann books and meet ups. It’s something that most of us find impossible to comprehend having witnessed the overwhelming grief and agony of Kate McCann. Who can begin to imagine the devastation and torment at losing an adored child and of not knowing where she is or what she has endured? Yet since May 2007, there are people who have virtually devoted their lives to hating the McCanns. They spend hours each day posting hateful comments about the McCanns on specially dedicated forums as well as on social networking sites. Some of them have literally clocked up hundreds of thousands of comments in the space of a year – which when you think about it, leaves little time for anything else in their lives.
Wishing bad thoughts on the McCanns
When they aren’t attacking the McCanns, they attack those who support the McCanns in their search for their missing child. Some of them have formed a “club” and meet up for “conferences” once or twice a year. They create agendas and make presentations to each other and plan ways in which they can create inconvenience and additional hurt to the couple. “Let’s hope 2012 is going to be the annus horribilis for the McCanns!” posted one earlier this week. It doesn’t seem to enter her head that the McCanns’ annus horribilis was 2007.
Whilst we know that their numbers are in low double figures, if hate could be measured in people, they’d fill a football stadium for certain.
Freedom to express violent thoughts?
Sometimes, the McCann supporters fight back, but in truth it’s kind of like watching a charity worker politely telling a drunken vandal that his behaviour is appalling. The thug hurls abuse and his mates will inevitably join in to condemn the charity worker’s vile and “libellous” behaviour towards their pal. Throughout, they will rage about their right to freedom of expression. Anti-social drunkennous and violence included.
Newspaper websites – readers comments
Some of these people take their hatred into real life activities. We know the McCanns have been subjected to alarming incidents in their own home. We know that the perpetrators of the online hate campaign have written poison pen letters to the McCanns because they haven’t been able to resist boasting about it on their forums. If a newspaper publishes an article about the case and allows “readers comments”, it will be reported to the group and they will orchestrate a hit on the site using an assortment of pseudonyms. Afterwards, they will crow “see the general public HATE the McCanns.” Their hate campaign doesn’t just stop at the McCanns either. Any identifiable person who supports the McCanns can expect a sample of their vitriol. Workplaces will be contacted. Threats will be made.
Mostly, these people behave anonymously. They believe that “freedom of speech” means freedom to say exactly what they like, about whom they like and to do it anonymously and without penalty. However, a small number have identified themselves. Tony Bennett is one. In 2007, Bennett set up the “Madeleine Foundation” – an organisation whose initial aims were more general, but which has almost exclusively focused on disseminating anti-McCann propaganda – most of which has been proven to be false and/or misleading. An attempt by Tony Bennett to bring about a private prosecution against the McCanns for neglect failed at the first hurdle. Since then he has written “books” about the McCanns demanding answers to questions which invariable turn out to be pointless and based upon misinformation. For example, demanding to know “why?” the McCanns had said something when in fact they ‘d said no such thing in the first place. It is significant that none of the “publications” created by the Madeleine Foundation contain proper sources or references.
For a long time, the McCanns tried to ignore the activities of Tony Bennett and his Madeleine Foundation because for them finding Madeleine has always been their only priority. They refused to be sidetracked. But when the Foundation visited their home town of Rothley, lunching at Madeleine’s pony riding centre and distributing hate leaflets to their neighbours, the McCanns felt they had no alternative but to take legal action. Like any missing person case, public awareness and support is vital. If people are convinced that Madeleine is dead, they will stop looking for a live child. The outcome of the lawsuit was that Tony Bennett made an undertaking to a High Court that he would stop accusing the McCanns of involvement in their daughter’s disappearance. Sadly, he continued and is currently defending himself on a contempt of court charge. Tony Bennett posts on Twitter as Zampos.
Another person who has openly attacked the McCanns is celebrity biographer David Bret. Bret runs a blog on which he mainly attacks supporters of the McCanns using oddly veiled names and references. His blog justifiably carried a content warning as his articles are often crude and laden with innuendo. Case followers on both sides of the debate have speculated that Huntter8 on Twitter is Bret. Bret denies this.
A third person who has openly acted against the McCanns is Debbie Butler. Butler was Chairman of the Madeleine Foundation until she and Bennett fell out amidst accusations of fund mishandling. Butler made front page of the newspapers where she was described as the McCanns’ “stalker”. She has also appeared on a TV documentary about the case where she contradicted Tony Bennett’s account of the Rothley leafletting event. In 2010, Butler complained to the organisers about Gerry McCann’s participation in the charity cycling event “Etape Caledonia” and during the same summer, she claimed to have done a sponsored walk from Spain to Portugal. However, there has been considerable debate as to whether this walk took place exactly as claimed and the promised photographic proof has never emerged. Butler posts on Twitter as IWILLNOTGOAWAY.
It can be argued that Bennett, Bret and Butler, whilst actively feeling and spreading anti-McCann sentiments, have not sought to make money from Madeleine McCann’s disappearance.
However, a fourth person who devotes considerable time and effort to attacking the McCanns as well as making money from the case is US “media criminal profiler” Pat Brown. She is referred to as a “media criminal profiler” because she is self-trained and makes her living from giving opinions about current criminal cases on TV shows. Brown has no background in law enforcement and has had no FBI training or experience. She claims that she studied at the “Pat Brown School of Criminal Profiling” – choosing her own reading materials and deciding when she’d read enough. Pat Brown posts on Twitter as profilerpatb
Brown admits that she has had no access to the McCann files and has not interviewed any of the witnessed. As a disclaimer to her opinions she says:-
“I only can theorize based on the “facts” outlined by the media. “
Although we know that in the McCann case, the media was largely wrong, this did not stop Brown from writing an ebook about the case in which she fingered Gerry McCann as the main perpetrator in covering up his daughter’s “death” and of his wife and friends as being complicit in subsequently staging an abduction. Case followers on both sides of the debate agree that her ebook is full of misinformation about the case and her extremely far-fetched and indeed physically impossible theory requires that many witness statements are disregarded. Regardless of this, she has followers who live in hope that her activities will be a thorn in the side of the McCanns.
Withdrawn from Amazon
Five weeks after her ebook went on sale on Amazon, it was withdrawn for “legal reasons”. Seemingly, Amazon had received a letter from Carter Ruck, the McCanns’ lawyers stating that the ebook was defamatory. It would remain withdrawn until the “issues” were sorted out. Brown immediately reuploaded her book to Amazon Germany but within hours, that too was withdrawn. Since then, it has been on sale at Barnes and Noble and Smashwords and in November, she reported that she had made more than $2,000 from sales but that she was suing the McCanns for “libel* and tortious interference with business”. In other words, she was suing the McCanns for saying that her allegations against them were defamatory and that their actions in defending themselves was damaging her ability to make money! She said that US attorney Anne Bremner (of Amanda Knox fame) would be acting for her.
*This was despite the fact that the McCanns have never acknowledged Pat brown not mentioned her name!
Lawsuit or no lawsuit
For several months, interested enquiries about the lawsuit on Facebook and Twitter were met with the response that Brown and Bremner were “still working out the details” of the lawsuit. Last week these details emerged in the form of a “press release” containing a “cease and desist” letter from Anne Bremner to the McCanns asking them to drop their objections to her clients accusations against them. There was no mention of the words cease and desist in the letter and no threat of legal action. The letter also went through several rather interesting online incarnations during its first 24 hours. This is discussedhere.
Brown’s “Maddie Search”
Meanwhile Brown announced that she was going to travel to Portugal to search for Madeleine herself. At the time of writing, she is there having met up with Tony Bennett for a “McCann talk” during her flight connection wait in London.
Throughout her anti-McCann blogging, social networking and ebook writing, Brown has made continuous pleas for the media to interview her. In the summer of 2011, she achieved two blog radio interviews and a third on the Jim Bohannon Show. Coverage of her search and lawsuit has extended no further than Facebook and anti-McCann blogs. Brown says that only “pressure” will move the case forward. Sadly, it seems this pressure is to be on the McCanns. Perhaps she feels that if they are pressurised enough, they will confess to a heinous crime that makes absolutely no sense – either logistically or evidentially.
Bennett, Butler, Bret and Brown may all have gone about their anti-McCann activities in different ways, however they all have one thing in common (apart from the curious coincidence of their names starting with B). In some sense or another, they all accuse the media of being overly intimidated by the McCanns. Brown suggests that the reason the media aren’t interviewing her is because the McCanns are too influential. Together with their small group of friends and supporters, they see themselves as crusaders for the right to express an opinion, no matter how ill-conceived or damaging that opinion may be. They tell anyone who will listen that the McCanns are silencing anyone who doesn’t believe them – another falsehood. The McCanns have only ever taken legal action the search for Madeleine has been threatened.
Vicious online behaviour – indicative of what?
It’s a distasteful matter, but it’s something that should concern us all. For years, psychologists have been warning about the danger of violent computer games and how they desensitise out children. To many, it seems that the internet has had a desensitising effect on certain people too. Certainly, the way the anti-McCann brigade discuss the McCanns and their families suggests and alarming degree of detachment and lack of human compassion. Kate McCann has expressed concern that someday, one of the hate campaigners will act out on the fantasies they express online putting them and their family in grave danger.
One would have thought that even a self-taught criminal profiler would be be sensitive to this possibility and would refrain from adding to the mine of misinformation which whips some anti-McCann obsessives into a frenzy of hatred. Alas Pat Brown seems woefully oblivious to the fact that having suffered four years of false and malicious reporting, the very last thing the McCann case needs is more of the same.