Unexpectedly, I’ve written to the PM. Ah well.

Mr Cameron,

Where do you get off lecturing people about feelings of sympathy, towards a murderer or not? Poorly expressed or not? Where on earth did you dig up the moral right as Prime Minister to condemn instinctive human kindness towards anyone? Worse, what gives you the right to use a human tragedy, such as these brutal shootings and then the suicide of Raoul Moat, to further your own political leanings by attacking a social networking site while ignoring the far greater sins of the mainstream press reporting of the same incident? You perpetuate a moral myth that is in fact itself deeply immoral?

Party politics aside, this outburst is one of the most offensive things I have ever heard from someone in a position of responsibility in our country. Now you are ‘contacting Facebook’ because you’re ‘concerned’ about online groups people have set up. Yet you have made absolutely no parallel comment on the way the mainstream media handled the coverage of Moat, when those few corporations were in a position of hugely greater privilege and power when commenting on events. Those few corporations whose owners you consort with, giving preferential treatment and access that no normal people could ever hope for.

The media both aggrandised and mythologised Moat to the public, while at the same time aggravating him personally behind the scenes and contributing to his state of mind at the point where he decided to kill himself. The same British press gave almost no comparable space or human dimension in their coverage to the victims.

No, none of that – especially none of the appalling voyeuristic, bullying, community invading coverage from Sky or The Sun, for example, owned by a man you’re still desperate to keep on-side – was worthy of a word of criticism. If any body encouraged normal British people to feel empathy for Moat and disdain for the Police, or the victims, or the local community who bore the brunt of this tragedy, it was that very media.

Nor was it worth your opprobrium when one paper decided to use an image of Moat in drag after his death, to make him seem more ‘alien’ or ‘twisted’. The homophobic undertones were clear; despite many thuggish or bullish looking photos of him available, the one chosen for the front cover involved eye-shadow.

While I don’t condone for a second those who’ve overlooked the tragedy of the victims in their expressions of sympathy for Moat, you know full well that in fact they were a tiny minority compared to millions of good people who expressed sympathy and empathy for everyone involved. You also know full well that people joining those groups were only responding to the story as it had been presented to them.

Of course the victims deserve attention and sympathy first and foremost. But I repeat, it was your chums in the mainstream media who locked them out of the public’s mind, who created the sense of empathy with Moat himself. Facebook did not do this. And even those online groups you’re pretending to be so offended by would never have gone beyond the social networking site without the intervention of the mainstream media: by its very nature a Facebook group only spreads by word-of-mouth organically and will only be joined by people who want to – nobody is paying for advertising.

Mr Cameron, your comments in the House of Commons (our House of Commons) this week were reprehensible for two reasons:

First, you used this tragedy to perpetuate an agenda, with a pretense of outrage.

Secondly, you made an argument against human sympathy that nobody should ever make. And this is the most important point of all. Because yes Mr Cameron, Raoul Moat DOES deserve sympathy, from all with spare to give. Sympathy is not only for the innocent, you fool. Sympathy is for all. You claim him to be entirely callous, yet he took his own life at the end. Nobody commits suicide from a position of cold callousness. Further, audio recordings from when he was in prison make it clear that Moat himself was concerned while in prison about how he might behave when released and requested professional counselling.

To make such an appalling, regressive statement in the House of Commons was utterly shameful. It was an shoddy way to treat all the people involved.

Regards,

Chris T-T, Brighton

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7 responses to “Unexpectedly, I’ve written to the PM. Ah well.

  1. Well put. Clear distinction between hero-worship (bad) and sympathy, and also between social-media/tradit-media. Now that I’ve seen your feelings expanded from tweet form I don’t think I have any real disagreements. Although I think your piece puts slightly too much emphasis on the mainstream media in creating this obsession. I think unfortunately it is partly stimulated by morbid obsessions on the part of readers (though arguably this obsession could in turn, chicken and egg style, be laid [sorry for the pun] at the door of those same media outlets). I’m not being highminded here – I didn’t exactly avert my eyes, but it’s a slightly disturbing aspect of our society that this stuff engrosses us. I think a repeat of that Charlie Brooker Newswipe bit on the incorrect way for the media to report on murderers would be perfect here: anyone got a link?

  2. wow, seriously powerful. Still, you made a rookie error with “that very media”. Those, Chris, those. 😉

  3. I pity the fool who doesn’t know sympathy isn’t only for the innocent.

  4. Of course, yet again, Charlie Brooker gets it spot on. Thanks Alex a brilliant clip, which I’d forgotten – what resonance for this tragedy.

  5. Barry Mañana

    The difference between reporting and rubbernecking once more narrows.
    I am constantly amazed that some idiot hasn’t gone into the offices of the NoW or Sky TV and gone postal for the way report stories like this.
    I did a stint for the NoW a few years back, and frankly the way they conduct themselves is more akin to the Stasi than a newspaper.

  6. yo, i saw you play last weekend at 2000 trees and thought you were brilliant, ive just read this and now know it.

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