Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Madeleine McCann: three-year-old child becomes icon of the decade.


From Esther Addley of the Guardian, an article that takes an unusually objective look at the media campaign that transformed a little three-year-old girl into an icon. I say 'unusually objective,' compared to the usual sycophantic rubbish churned out by the UK media, wherein Kate and Gerry McCann attain the status of sainthood and become the self-pitying martyrs of the decade.

"It's the unsettling mix of the incredibly intimate and the coolly tactical that has made the mystery of Madeleine McCann the biggest and most extraordinary child abduction story in history."

Yes, the '
coolly tactical.' In an interview for Vanity Fair magazine, Gerry McCann referred to Madeleine's distinctive eye feature:

"Late in 2007, Gerry McCann gave an interview to an American magazine and talked about the decision to publicise the eye defect. "Certainly we thought it was possible that [the publicity] could possibly hurt her or her abductor might do something to her eye . . . But in terms of marketing, it was a good ploy."

The McCanns' daughter became something to be marketed. Their web site was selling wristbands and cheap T shirts at an inflated price that sought to play on the sympathy of the general public to pay through the nose to further what was, in effect, in Gerry's own words, '

"Had Madeleine been snatched in Britain, the McCanns would have been assigned a police family liaison officer and the full, slammed-door stonewalling of a police press office. In Portugal, their advisers were PRs. In October 2007 Clarence Mitchell, by then working as the couple's full-time media adviser, addressed students at Coventry University about the case. The title of his talk? "Missing Madeleine McCann: The perfect PR campaign".

Madeleine McCann became a media career for Clarence Mitchell, ex-director of the UK government's Media Monitoring Unit, '
The perfect PR campaign.' And that perfect campaign has given Clarence a spin-off career as itinerant speaker-for-hire, his latest outing having been at a PR conference in Dubai, where Madeleine McCann was the subject of a slick Power Point presentation on PR campaigns. In 10 years time, please God, don't let Clarence Mitchell be doing the after dinner speaker circuit with his Power Point presentation on how he successfully marketed Madeleine McCann.

In one of Gerry McCann's Christmas interviews this year, he said that the search for Madeleine was driven by '
facts and evidence.' What facts? What evidence?

"Most remarkable of all is that despite the many thousands of articles, the millions of words, written about Madeleine McCann, there remains more than two and a half years later just one solitary fact that we know for sure. In the early hours of 3 May 2007, she vanished without trace from her parents' holiday apartment."

One solitary fact and that is that Madeleine disappeared without a trace: no trace of intrusion into the holiday apartment by a phantom abductor; no fingerprints other than those of Kate McCann on Madeleine's bedroom window; no sightings of a possible abductor apart from Jane Tanner's endlessly changing story and description; no one coming forward with any real information about Madeleine's whereabouts in spite of millions being offered in reward money.

"A beautiful toddler gone missing will always be catnip to newspaper editors, but Kate and Gerry McCann also chose to make themselves active characters in the story, and though their motives were laudable, their relentless drive for publicity unsettled many."

In this '
relentless drive' the McCann's oft repeated mantra has been that there was no evidence that Madeleine was dead or that any serious harm had come to her, even while they were actively, through their hired detectives, pursuing the idea of her having been taken by paedophiles. Gerry McCann labeled the work of Eddie and Keela, dogs used by police forces around the world, as 'unreliable' in spite of their acknowledged success in helping to solve hundreds of cases.

In the McCanns' relentless drive to provoke universal acceptance of the abduction theory, they have also been relentless in their attempts to silence anyone who disagreed. In addition to using PR representatives in the UK and in Portugal, the McCanns have engaged the mega expensive libel lawyers, Carter Ruck, to bully blog owners and other web site owners, such as the Madeleine Foundation, into submission with threats of financially crippling legal action.

The McCanns clearly want freedom of expression for themselves in churning out their relentless campaign, but not for anyone else, including Dr Gonçalo Amaral, the Portuguese police officer who initially led the investigation into Madeleine's disappearance. They have sought to ban Dr Amaral's book, '
The Truth Of The Lie,' but only when it looked as though it was about to be published in English. Unlike UK journals, like the Daily Express, Dr Amaral has not rolled over and complied with the McCanns' bullying tactics. The court process concerning the book resumes in January, with several witnesses, including senior police officers who were closely involved with the investigation, speaking on Sr Amaral's behalf. Please, God, let this be an end and a new beginning: an end to the McCanns' power over the press and the judiciary and the beginning of the real fight for truth and justice for a little three-year-old child who went on what was supposed to be a family holiday, was left in the crèche all day and left on her own with two-year-old siblings in an unlocked apartment every evening.

God bless Gonçalo Amaral and his relentless campaign for justice for that little girl, not the icon, but the real little girl.