The behaviour of the McCann supporters recently has been, as Martin Grime might say, suggestive. First there was the flagging of a book that was written by “real journalists” and was going to make McCann sceptics writhe – all based on pre-publication junk publicity; next the loud unanimity that the book was headed for huge sales; then the gloating at the serialization and the television interviews, all apparent confirmation of public support for the parents.
High tide was reached with those contemptuous and “hateful” Amazon reviews by the critics – the latter all driven, naturally, by envy and malice.
And then came the horrible reality – the manifestly second-rate quality of the book’s research, the absence of anything new, the crippling admission by the authors that they’d given undertakings to the parents in advance. And then the fact of those humiliating sales figures. It takes some doing not to make money out of Madeleine McCann.
On the other side we have box-office delight: the sheer fun of it all, starting with the hunted reaction of the authors to the derision heaped on them.And what about that stinky abductor with the pot-belly and feet wrapped in giant cloth Swiss-rolls who’ll surely become the abiding image of the book? He shuffles alongside the Evil HairyBert’s man-with-the-seven-foot-arms as a cartoon marker of the impact of events on Gerry McCann’s mental powers. The gallery of suspects put out by the team was always an extended Rorschach blot, a free creation of Gerry McCann’s diseased mind in different guises, all imposed on the nominal eyewitnesses – as well as millions of others – by his extraordinary will. But the flesh-eating, pockmarked terror-paedos he once conjured are gone, replaced now by surreal comic buffoons, symbols of an imagination that has lost its hold over others and a story that is slowly being laughed to death.
Gerry McCann’s two appearances in Lisbon are telling. In 2010 the media crowds were visibly cowed by his vein-bursting outbursts of aggression. By 2014 he was numb and deflated, almost resigned, incapable now of even holding the attention of the mob, let alone intimidating it. Instead, as on the night of September 6 2007, he wilted while his common bruiser of a wife did the ranting. Game’s up.
Time running out
Enter the Innocents
Into these exceptionally murky waters splashed Summers and Swann, latest in a long line of people from Alex Woolfall onwards to underestimate Kate and Gerry McCann and the strength of the forces that swirl around them. Sapped as they are, the parents still know how to get much of what they want from people and, as Woolfall and Colin Mylor, for example, illustrate the more hard-bitten and worldly the victims think they are the easier it is. Summers and Swan now sound as though they can’t quite believe what is happening to them. Welcome to McCann land, chums. You really thought you could get away rewarded but unscathed? Now you know.
So what of those supporters?
Can you think of another example where people accepted a PR version of events without qualms and instantly believed that “real journalists” had got it right? That, having soaked up the tale like brainless sponges, became evangelists for it? That gloated at the discomfiture of people with a different view? And, at the first signs that the PR version might be wanting, put their hands over their eyes, kept them there and started shouting abuse? People, finally, who in the face of unanswerable facts (like sales figures) have only two settings, insult and a refusal to engage with the evidence?
What Do You Think, Jack?
That’s right. The Digging for Madeleine affair is a microcosm of the entire McCann case, a real-life demonstration of how the parents’ supporters have behaved since they were first suckered back in May 2007. To paraphrase Jack Nicholson, “if you’re so f*****g clever, how come you’re always so f*****g wrong?”