“Fightback” is the title of episode 5, but I think “Popularity Contest” is more apt. In a scenario where their daughter is missing, and a criminal investigation is underway, you’d think the fight back would involve fighting for more police resources, getting more detectives working the case, or getting out there themselves and searching, or making Madeleine’s DNA available to the authorities in Portugal using DNA from her clothing or bed or soft toys in Portugal, or investigating for themselves the possibility that Madeleine had died [had the abductor killed her]?
Instead, the fightback is a popularity contest fought in the media. And the prize is nothing more or less than the McCanns’ rehabilitating their own image. Of course there’s also a cash incentive to this. When they’re considered suspects, the “income” of the fund drops, when they’re able to court public sympathy, they “income” of the fund shoots up again. And this income isn’t to be sniffed at, it eventually balloons to millions upon millions of pounds. With this war chest the McCanns can invest in even more media coverage, reputation management, legal representation, legal suits and expert advice, more PR, merchandising and all the rest.
During one spiel in episode 5 Kate McCann emphasises that 99% of people support them, and only 1% are trolls. There’s also a nice scene where they show large boxes labelled “Support” compared to a small battered, mostly empty little box where “hate” mail is kept. What the McCanns seem to be saying is they’re winning the fightback because they have popular support. Far more people love them and support them compared to a tiny minority of detractors.
In a recent poll conducted on twitter, over 90% of over 3000 people who voted sided against the McCanns, blaming them either directly or indirectly for Madeleine’s death.
Then it’s Gerry’s turn to make the case against those who have “nasty” attitudes to them.
Gerry looks bemused here, rather than hurt or stung, doesn’t he? One might even say he looks a little smug.
He’s still smiling as he places the solitary smidgen of hate mail in its sad, sorry, mostly empty box.
For all their bravado, one of very, very few instances where Kate McCann appears emotional and vulnerable, even slightly tearful, is when she talks about “what people out there” say about whether or not she loved or cared for her eldest daughter.
The docuseries then spends a little time dealing with the notion – which came from the public – that Kate McCann especially didn’t appear to be grieving, and didn’t appear very emotional after the loss of her daughter. The image below, of a shirtless Gerry McCann jogging beside Kate was taken on May 16, 2007, less than two weeks after Madeleine’s disappearance.
In DOUBT I’ve made the case that running plays more than an incidental role to the McCann case, and as it happens, to solving it.
Watch at 2:21 in the video clip below, as Kate McCann addresses the camera, begging and pleading for the safe return of her daughter.
Unfortunately the most damning “evidence” against the McCanns – certainly in the court of public opinion – is the least damning in an actual court. As so often happens, the public cotton on to what they regard as inappropriate affect. They did with Chris Watts [and were proved right]. They did with Burke Ramsey [and the jury is still out, and probably will be till the cows come home]. And they did the same with Amanda Knox [and were apparently proved wrong].
The fact is, emotional affect is a powerful indicator in true crime, but it’s not necessarily evidence. One thing we can say, as human beings, is when we care about a victim more than the suspect [or imputed suspect], and when we feel grief more than we see them grieving [if at all], it’s only right that we raise our hands and ask about it.
It’s very difficult to cover up [which is a contrivance, and a way of masking authentic motives and feelings] and show genuine emotion at the same time. Covering up requires careful thinking and anticipating what the next question or move might be. It often happens in true crime that the suspect feels the best “face” to show to the crowd is nonchalance. They imagine grief will appear as guilt, but only a guilty person would think that way.
I love the way the docuseries has the McCanns PR person explain that the McCanns were “advised” not to show emotion, as this might be detrimental to their daughter. So imagine the abductor is sitting somewhere, with Madeleine in a cage, and he sees the parents looking unemotional. Is this going to encourage him to…do…what?
On the other hand, if the McCanns appear distraught and upset, this is going to make the abductor NOT want to return the child?
The reality is, whether the McCanns were instructed to be emotional or unemotional, there is a lot of inappropriate smiling going on, especially when they’re asked about whether she might be dead or not.
For all their posturing about the support, it’s clear the online vitriol [which continues today] is so severe, even newspaper editors felt they had to shut down the interactivity [the comments] of their coverage of the McCann case.
The docuseries neglects to mention that the McCanns felt so agitated and imperiled by negativity directed towards them, they elected to threaten British bloggers and social media users with lawsuits.
Kate McCann is poised to SUE social media users – Daily Mail
Madeleine McCann’s parents urge vile trolls to stop posting ‘awful abuse’ on their website as they back new rules BANNING criticism of their decision to leave the girl alone in an apartment – Daily Mail
Troll Who Harassed Madeleine McCann’s Family Found Dead – Psychology Today
It’s also more than a little disingenuous of the Leicester Mercury to cry “neutrality” and editorial standards after the fact, when anyone who dared to criticize or accuse the McCanns were sued.
Of the first five episodes, I found the fifth the most troubling and upsetting by far. Probably the worst moment was when the Portuguese journalist Sandra Felgueiras expressed her feelings of disdain to the Portuguese cops for lying to her about DNA evidence.
The DNA narrative was a HUGE PR and legal victory for the McCanns, and turned the tide of popular, investigative and legal opinion back in their favor, and as result, this remains the official status quo today.