Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Code Madeleine

Madeleine McCann has frequently been the subject of posts on
this blog and, as we pass the milestone of 100 days since
she disappeared, it's only right that the issue should be
revisited. I've not always been the most sympathetic to the
McCann's cause and, while I continue to understand their
pain, that's not something that's about to change anytime
soon.

The News of the World's Code Madeleine - what to do if your
child is abducted - is, for a start, an enormous cause of
annoyance and disbelief for me. Again, it's something that's
been oft discussed before, but it surely needs revisiting if
things like this continue to appear in the press. You can
never prevent every abduction, I grant you. You can't watch
your children every second of the day; there's always the
chance that, just when you turn your back in their bedroom,
a twisted, evil psychopath will hatch up the window and
snatch them before you've noticed the slightest thing's
wrong. But there's a clear distinction to be made between
that and blatant neglect. This isn't something I'm going to
step down on, either - leaving your children unaccompanied
in a holiday apartment while you go out for a good time over
tapas with friends is, unequivocally, neglect. So you don't
need Code Madeleine, you don't need six steps to take in the
event that your child is abducted; at least not if this is
formed on the basis that you're not around at the time
anyway. Parents take on responsibilities at conception -
those responsibilities don't shrivel away because your child
is asleep, or doesn't need to be winded after a feed. If you
want to avoid an abduction (and again I stress avoid,
because you'll never eradicate every single one), there's a
simple answer - provide appropriate supervision, and don't
shirk your responsibilities as their only hope of being
safe.

Just a short note, too, on the presence of presumably
British tourists outside the church where the McCanns and
others said prayers for Madeleine on the 100th day of her
disappearance. I've heard condemnation of this by a certain
radio presenter and several call-in listeners and, to be
honest, I agree. Applauding and photographing Gerry and Kate
McCann as they leave church probably isn't the best way of
being sympathetic to their cause, if that's what you're
going to do. Though usually I'd seek to criticise
shaven-headed, tattoo-laden, beer-bellied chav-tastic
British tourists at every opportunity, here the issue lies
with the media - and the McCanns. It's entirely
understandable that they should want Madeleine's face on
every newspaper, TV station and web site in Europe as often
as possible (though why their faces need to accompany it is
beyond me), but the rough comes with the smooth. Public
interest isn't something you can switch on and off at whim -
if you're to manipulate (quite justly) the media in such a
way as the McCanns have, then you need to accept that
individuals and the press will want to keep themselves in on
developments all the time.

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