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Saturday, May 19, 2007 

In search of hysteria.


Are there really no depths to which these internet users will sink? Could you possibly believe that there are people evil enough to be trying to cash in on the disappearance of Madeleine McCann by setting up phony websites which rather than trying to help find her are instead full of adverts?

Sorry, I entered Daily Mail-land for a second. Let me rephrase while mocking myself.

Are there really no depths to which these newspapers will sink? Could you possibly believe there are journalists, editors and proprietors trying to cash in on the disappearance of Madeleine McCann by filling their newspapers with photographs of the McCann's other children hugging soft toys even though there hasn't been any new developments since earlier in the week?

Here's what "internet expert" Colin Sweetman told the Mail:

"When it's the misspelling of something like Google, that's one thing, but to capitalise on the disappearance of a little girl is a despicable practice."

Quite. But did you know that you can help widen the search for "Maddie" if you're going on holiday by wearing one of the Sun's Where's Maddie t-shirts?


Meanwhile, the Express, which earlier in the week compared the only "suspect" so far named to Ian Huntley, has much more important speculation news. Robert Murat has apparently asked a number of people for alibis; somehow, the Express takes this attempt by Murat to clear his name through showing he could not possibly have taken Madeleine as further evidence of his abundant, obvious guilt.

Angela Philips, writing on CiF, attacks the naysayers by saying this isn't prurient media barons taking advantage of a great opportunity to sell some newspapers by indulging in emotional blackmail, but rather pure empathy from journalists and the population of Britain towards the McCann family. Such pure empathy can be seen on MyScum, where the coverage seems to have driven several of those commenting close to despair:

this is to much!! i cant bear to see Maddie┬┤s sister and her parents faces anymore. this is breaking my heart. i cry all the time, someone, somebody MUST know something !! i think about Maddie all the time, and i cant sleep. i pray for you Maddie all the time, and i know you will be home soon with your mum and dad, and your sister and brother. whoever did this crime must be a very disturped person !!! i pray to God to talk with this person heart and let Maddie go. even this is affecting me daily, because i simply cant forget about Maddie and her family, i can never compare my sadness and frustration with Kate and Gerry. i just thank God that He gives them strenght to carry on with the search for Maddie, Becauses i know for sure that she will be found. i bless the woman who saw Maddie in Maroco and God help her to identify the man who was with Maddie.

I can't believe someone would do this to a little girl!! every time it comes on the news it makes me want to cry my heart goes out to her family!! I'll be praying for her safe return!!!!! ino she'll come home soon and safe.

Hi i think they should try and use a spitulist,clairvoyant or pysicic.it must be worth a try....that Poor little girl..It wasn't her fault all this happened to her..And her parents must be so distrant..They are a beautiful family and i do hope this is going out all around the world...someone MUST KNOW SOMETHING!!!It tearing my hair out with it and soon this story will disappear...something Must be done fast.thankyou and good luck

Their apparent breakdowns doubtless have nothing to do with the specialised section the Sun has set-up, which has almost as many reports as the whole normal news page has.

It is however easy to quote statistics regarding how many other children will have gone missing in the 16 days since Madeleine went missing and glibly remark how many children in Iraq, Darfur or wherever else will have died in that time period. This is slightly unfair, both on the media and on the McCann family. There was always going to be immense public interest in the story, whether it had happened to a respectable middle-class religious couple or a godless working class family, although the coverage may have been different as some have more than convincingly alleged. The main problem with the coverage from the beginning hasn't been that it has been all-out to find Madeleine: it's rather that it's geared towards serving the own interests of those who are so kindly helping to spread the message, whether it's British Airways, the News of the Screws or "Sir" Philip Green, while at the same time indulging in the kind of mawkishness and synthetic, manufactured grief that is making ordinary people around the country feel almost in some way responsible and personally involved, even though there's nothing whatsoever that they can do. For papers like the Daily Mail to be outraged when some companies and individuals take advantage of the situation in the exact same way that MP's wearing yellow ribbons were and the press itself is isn't surprising, it's just classic Street of Shame humbug. And neither is going to get Madeleine back.

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