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Wednesday, March 05, 2008 

More on the Shannon snobbery, Allison Pearson's despicable hypocrisy and the McCanns' legal action.

Roy Greenslade expands at length on why the Shannon Matthews case hasn't attracted the same amount of coverage as the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, and comes to the same conclusion as I did; that social class is overarching the whole thing.

Reading Greenslade's analysis and the article he links to in the Sindy, you realise just what Shannon's parents are up against. I didn't know that her mother, Karen, has six other children with five of them from different fathers. This is because such facts don't make any difference, or shouldn't make any difference, and haven't been featured in any of the coverage I've read. Just knowing that, it instantly becomes apparent why the Daily Mail for example hasn't gone overboard with its coverage: such a "lifestyle" as that apparently lived by the mother offends against every single sensibility in the Mail handbook. As Nick Davies and Private Eye in the past have outlined, even if you're respectable but black you're unlikely to get anything like the hearing you would if you were white, with numerous sources alleging that stories that were all ready to go were spiked at the last minute because they about those of the "dusky hue". You can imagine the casual prejudice which therefore is informing their coverage of Shannon's disappearance; why do "our people" care about a average-looking little girl unlucky enough to be born to an overweight, promiscuous mother, doubtless bleeding the state for all it's worth?

Unlike some of the posts I write here, this is one that is coming out more as a stream of conciousness. I was going to end the above paragraph with a quote from the Daily Mail columnist Allison Pearson, where she wrote of the McCanns "this kind of thing doesn't usually happen to people like us". She might as well have added, nor is it supposed to. After all, the McCanns were the Daily Mail dream family, except for perhaps Kate McCann working instead of staying at home to look after the children. They hadn't done anything wrong, or weren't a family where what happened to their daughter could be either justified or deemed excusable. Searching Google to see if I could get the exact article where Pearson wrote that, I instead came across a dispatch from Pearson where she writes about Shannon's disappearance, and it's as disgraceful, hypocritical and two-faced as you could ever possibly have imagined:

Poor Shannon was already a lost child

At the time, critics claimed that if the middle-class McCanns had lived on a council estate, they would have been in trouble with the police for neglect.

So where is the outcry over the disappearance of Shannon Matthews?


Four hours is an eternity for a little girl to be out on a dark winter's evening. And Shannon was afraid of the dark. Why did no one walk with her or care where she was?

But Karen insists Shannon was fine and enjoys a good relationship with her current boyfriend, 22-yearold Craig.

"Only on Monday, they were having tickling fights and telly cuddles. She views him as her dad."

Oh really? In that case, why was Shannon so desperate to be reunited with her real father?


But allowing a passing parade of boyfriends to play tickling games with your vulnerable small girl is, at best, naïve.

We must all hope and pray that Shannon is only missing and that her disappearance is not linked to any of the substitute dads who have trooped through her brief life.

But like too many of today's kids, Shannon Matthews was already a victim of a chaotic domestic situation, inflicted by parents on their innocent children, long before she vanished into the chill February night.

Incredible, isn't it? Gobsmackingly offensive, prejudging everything without so much as the slightest insight into the case whatsoever. The reason why there has been no "outcry" is because there is nothing except in Pearson's warped head to outcry about. The McCanns were condemned in some quarters because they had left their children alone in their apartment instead of putting them into a creche while they swanned off to have dinner with their friends. In Shannon's case, what happened was that she simply didn't come home, and doubtless her mother was already deeply worried if not panicking before she raised the alarm four hours after she had left school and failed to return home. In that time she was likely phoning round her friends, asking if she was with them, or even searching herself. Pearson has been one of the McCanns' most ardent supporters, comparing their anguish to both hell and to a Kafkaesque nightmare; that she condemns Matthews' parents simply because of who they are and what she thinks they've done shows the innate snobbery, bordering on class hatred which some who profess to be journalists suffer from, and which has so chequered the coverage so far. There hasn't been an outcry against Matthews' parents; there has however been almost precisely half the coverage given to Madeleine's disappearance, almost certainly because of the attitudes of those in Fleet Street which match Pearson's.

What we saw with the disappearance of Madeleine now also seems to setting in with the disappearance of Shannon. With no real developments to report, the media instead turns to speculation, innuendo, and downright scaremongering. The Sun, which to its credit has given the most coverage to Shannon's disappearance, was already at this on Monday, asking whether Sarah's law was the answer, despite there being no evidence whatsoever that any convicted sex offender is involved in her disappearance. Today it's turned it up a further notch with this fearmongering report, which will have no doubt done nothing to set minds at rest in Dewsbury:

NEARLY 1,400 registered sex offenders live within 25 miles of Shannon Matthews’ home, The Sun can reveal.

Many are based just a five-minute drive away.


And the Home Office statistic showing 1,387 registered sex beasts in the area was a stark reminder of the mountain detectives must climb. A further 400 live just 30 miles away in Manchester.

In the IoS article the local rector spoke of "helplessness... not hopelessness but anger, certainly". The Sun seems to be wilfully fanning the flames rather than making any effort towards keeping the calm.

P.S. Today's Private Eye (1205) reports that the McCanns are suing Richard "Dirty" Desmond's newspapers through Carter-Fuck, and are demanding a cool £1 million from each of his four newspapers for the incessant suggestions that they might have had something to do with the disappearance of Madeleine. A couple of thoughts: firstly, hiring Carter-Fuck doesn't come cheaply, which must mean that even more of the money donated to the McCanns is going on things other than directly finding Madeleine, although seeing as so far they've spent the most on the useless Metodo 3 private investigation agency which said that "Madeleine would be home by Christmas" they might as well be pouring that down the drain too. Secondly, if they do get suitably high damages, and Desmond has already apparently offered £250,000, will all of this be put back into the fund, or will some of it instead end up lining the McCanns' own pockets? The Madeleine fund's objectives are that only if she is apparently found will anything left over be given over to charity. As that seems ever more unlikely, questions will undoubtedly be asked about will be done with any eventual surplus.

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Secondly, if they do get suitably high damages, and Desmond has already apparently offered £250,000, will all of this be put back into the fund, or will some of it instead end up lining the McCanns' own pockets?

Come on now, that is more than a touch unfair! That's a phrase that wouldn't look out of place in the Sun!

The McCanns have been the victims of the very tabloid tactics you (rightly) condemn everyday. And not just the tabloids, it has to be said -e.g. see Jailhouselawyer.

The McCanns are being personally villified in a mass publication newspaper which is, in the process, making money directly from their anguish. Whatever payment they are awarded will be for them personally and fully justified.

It won't need to go BACK in the fund because all costs involved will be covered by the payout.

How they choose to spend it will be a matter for them, but should they choose to keep it for their personal needs they will be fully justified in doing so and to call that 'lining their pockets' is, it pains me to say, rather beneath you.

The Pearson article is one of the most disgusting things I've ever read in my life. Single mother = evil = maybe a stepdad's been abusing the kid and that's why she's missing? Yuck.

But does the Matthews mother have a huge pot of donations to splurge on Carter-Fuck to get herself a tidy little windfall out of the libel fruit machine? No. She just has to suffer like all the other poor victims of the tabs.

Plus, of course, there's the whole thing about a seaside resort in Portugal in late Spring-Summer being decidedly nicer than a council estate in the less pretty part of Yorkshire in late Winter. Hacks like jaunts out to civilised places where they can top up their tans. Plus, of course, Kate McCann takes a nice photo - especially when strolling along the beach looking a bit sad... Pretty upset people sell more papers.

I think I should point out that 'Carter-Fuck' are one of the very few practices that will take on libel cases on a no-win, no-fee basis so their involvement suggests that they're confident they've got a slam dunk - which is hardly surprising as the most notable thing in the whole McCann case is its wholesale lack of any reliable evidence for anything.


Should have finished that last sentence with...

'other that the fact the kiddy's still missing'

the story did manage to make a full appearance on GMTV this morning, they even sent John Stapleford out to stand in the street plus he got an exclusive interview with the parents.

Mike: Yes, you're quite right, I didn't word that anywhere near as delicately as I should have done.

My wider point was, and would have been, somewhat undermined now by Unity, was that was another example of the disparity between the McCanns and the Matthews is that the McCanns are able because of the fund to pursue a libel case, for which there is no legal aid and which as Unity points out hardly any firms will pursue on a no-win no-fee basis simply because of the fund and/or the wealthy benefactors they've attracted. I don't think anyone would begrudge the McCanns a £250,000 payout or anywhere up to a £1 million for the smears they've endured; if however it is not on a no-win no-fee basis and is being funded through the donations of individuals who thought their money was going to be spent on helping to find Madeleine and find Madeleine only, then I think that's a breach of the good faith in which people sent in their cash. I don't expect for a moment that the McCanns will get anywhere near the £4 million they're demanding if Private Eye's report is accurate, but I expect any settlement will be highly substantial if they're successful. It's still just another example of how the well-off can pursue their cases through the courts or arbitration while the rest of us have to rely on the toothless PCC if we're smeared: just look at Colin Stagg, highly unlikely to get anywhere near the sort of money the McCanns will get, and he was attacked and demonised for well over a decade, even after he had been found not guilty.

The question has to be: if the attention towards the Matthews themselves turns the same way as it did towards the McCanns, will they be able to seek redress in a similar way, potential no-win no-fee case or not? I somehow doubt it.

Nosemonkey: Yes, that is of course another factor, one I mentioned in my original post.

Unity: Again, if the report in Private Eye is right, Desmond's own lawyers are telling him that he's about to be fucked by Carter-Fuck.

Flip: Yep, the story does seem to be getting slightly more attention now, on the front page of the Mirror again today, even if it a fucking ridiculous and idiotic story about a lying, cash-raking cunt of a "clairvoyant" telling the Matthews she knows who's got Shannon. Perhaps some of the backlash online is having an effect?

Septicisle, I knew, of course,that it was a matter of ill chosen words and not malice of any kind on your part but I wanted to point out how easy it can be, even for someone so finely tuned to the language of tabloids as you, to slip into their sort of phraseology. There are some bloggers out there, and we know who they are, who have made the tabloids look positively reserved when it comes to libeling the McCanns - and it stinks.

As for the action itself. The McCanns would have been advised (like all clients) by Carter Ruck only to sue if they had a very strong case. Therefore if any donated monies are being used it is very unlikely that they are at serious risk.

I would have thought that anything that punishes the appalling behaviour of the tabloids and claws back some of the profit they have made from the misfortunes and sufferings of innocent people is to be welcomed, regardless of the class of the victims.

Yes, people with money can sue whereas poor people cannot. That doesn't mean that those who can shouldn't but it might mean that maybe some people out there with resources who also profess to be supporters and defenders of the poor and downtrodden put their money where their mouths are and enable people like Stagg and others to use the full offices of the law.

Whatever happened to pro bono? (or Bono, come to that!)
Whatever happened to philanthropy?
What happened to solidarity?

Oh, hang on, they're alive and well and funding the McCanns.

If the same can't be done for others in similar situations I fear it says a lot more about us than it does about the tabloid press. Rather depressing, don't you think?

Of course, in a civilised society we would have a system which was not dependent on the resources of the victim at all. But in the meantime perhaps we should be prepared to put our hands in our pockets and do something.

Yes, as you can see from the link below this post, as much as I sympathise on occasion with John Hirst, he's been inflammatory at best and completely despicable at worst on his allegations towards the McCanns.

I completely accept your points about claiming back from those that make their money out of misery, but the fact is that so few of us who do care enough about certain individuals and how get they smeared ourselves have anything that we could possibly contribute towards fighting funds. I certainly don't, although that said, I for instance pay my membership fees for Liberty without a second thought when that could go elsewhere.

The sort of campaign that has been building since the Usmanov case, towards rebalancing the ludicrous libel laws in this country could help to a certain extent, but again it's hard enough to get ISPs themselves to care, and they're the ones that are affected, let alone politicians beholden to those with the greatest interest in scuppering any such change. I'm a natural pessimist, but I'm afraid on this occasion that however much some of us push, nothing whatsoever will change.

I'm not exactly loaded myself! :)

Yes I'm as pessimistic as you (as I said in my previous comment, it's all rather depressing) but what happened to left wing philanthropists? They now seem too busy channeling their money into causes which are most likely to lead to honours of some sort.

It seems to me that, whatever else might be going on - attempting to change the libel laws etc - at the moment this is an issue of resources and the way to begin to tackle it is for resources to be made available somehow. I'm not suggesting that the answer lies with skint bloggers, but surely some of those actors, musicians, artists and media-heads who are so quick to wrap themselves in the flag of the poor and downtrodden could divert some of their coke cash to actually achieving something a little more worthwhile than a perforated septum? Just a thought.

Incredible, isn't it? Gobsmackingly offensive, prejudging everything without so much as the slightest insight into the case whatsoever.

That's an understatement. What an ... hell I'll go as far as to say it.. what an absolutely evil thing to write. It's not a case of suggesting possibilities, Allison is almost implying it must have happened. And then the Sun as well.

Imagine being the mind of Wade and Dacre/Pearson. "Right this poor woman has lost her daughter, could be dead or alive. How can we help? I know, we'll suggest it was an ex boyfriend, or maybe a peadophile. That'll make her feel better." Fuck me there's sinking low and there's sinking low.

However it doesn't come as a surprise from Pearson. That is the same woman who suggested (said) that anyone who doesn't get an A+ (or is it A*) in their exams is both obviously very stupid, and taking drugs, since the exams are too easy.

People like you and me pull the mail apart often, and it's easy to think they're exaggerating, lying, and making stuff up just to flog papers. But sometimes you read something and you see just how nasty these columnists can be. And the sad fact is that they get paid shedloads to be so.
Mail readers whine about tax a lot, perhaps they should really look at these journalists and columnists that they are voluntarily paying the wages of.

Guess every word Allison Pearson wrote has been proven true now, eh?

The silly self-righteousness of this post and following comments have been exposed by Ms Matthews own exposure. The amoral and parasitic underclass has been nurtured and justified by sentiments such as yours.

How bankrupt of understanding this leftish posing has become. Until the scales fall from your eyes you will be trapped by a false class analysis every time.

There's a lot to be said for time-limiting comments :)


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