I’m getting increasingly suspicious about the media management of the Madeleine McCann story. Something tells me that there is something quite significant that we aren’t being told and that the family has had professional help in ensuring that only a carefully crafted and sympathetic narrative is recounted by the mass media.
Firstly, there is the fact that on the morning after the abduction, the suggestion that the family were in any way neglectful (remember: the abduction happened at a time when the child was in a hotel room and the parents were eating at a restaurant) had already been carefully pre-butted. That in itself is fair enough: I doubt any parents haven’t, from time to time, taken a calculated risk like that.
Recently though, we’ve had an increasing number of articles that reinforce the Daily Mail-esque prejudice that the police force of any country other than our own are clunking incompetents and living proof of the superiority of the British species. These are the Portuguese for Pete’s sake – they used to own the bits of the world we didn’t. This isn’t exactly a backward nation, yet it has been presented as such. The worst incident I can recall was John Humphries lambasting the Portuguese Ambassador on the Today programme when he was patiently attempting to explain that in a country that is part of the Schengen Agreement can’t exactly set up strict border controls within minutes every time a child is reported as going missing.
Now we’re being told that a businessman, Stephen Winyard, is putting up a Â£1m reward. Why? Does he do this every time a child gets abducted? Is it just because she is blonde, white and pretty with ‘decent’ middle class parents, or is there some other reason?
Finally, there are those photos. Loads of them. A new one in a different newspaper every day. Usually in cases such as these, you get a single photo which quickly becomes iconic as the media reproduces it ad infinitum. This time, the family have generously given up all their photo albums. For a couple that are said to be distraught, they are being remarkably co-operative with the media.
I’m not saying they’ve done anything wrong, or that this isn’t a tragedy. But these things happen. Stories like this usually go off on all sorts of tangents until the media settle on a narrative; not this time. I know I risk pariah status for pointing this out, but we are being spun, and I would like to know why.