Written by News

The Response to Tragedy

Now this could be seen as quite contentious. Am I alone in thinking that the tragic events in Soham have been blown totally out of all proportion?

The events are outdoubtedly sad, and one hopes that the guilty people will be prosecuted and imprisoned. But from the moment the girls were announced as missing, right up until this moment, there have been some very disturbing side effects.

1. The newspaper rewards were grossly misjudged. Newspaper rewards are rarely paid out, and unfortunately can attract timewasters and “DIY detectives”. And the publicity they garner seems more likely to be for the papers’ benefit than social responsibility.

2. The possibility that those arrested may be unable to be fairly tried. Within hours of arrests being made the Mail on Sunday had published big articles with ex-boyfriends and girlfriends. Cue the usual, “but he was strange” type comments that always come with 20-20 hindsight.

3. The wrong paths that we were led down including the internet, and cars going to Newmarket (witnesses giving press conferences within hours of speaking to the police must surely be viewed with suspsion).

4. The minute’s silence at just about every sporting event this weekend. The BBC News on Saturday night began with footage of Premiership footballers, golfers, and even shoppers at Sainsburys, pausing for a moment’s silence. Not having been shopping at the supermarket on Saturday afternoon, I would hope that the supermarket concerned was a local Cambridgeshire one, and not across the whole coutry. Sport should pay its respects only when truly relevent. Arguably Man Utd since the girls were so obviously Man Utd fans, but this minute’s silence was akin to that paid after Sept 11. Sadly children are murdered far too frequently, but we cannot pay them all these respects repeatedly. I truly believe that sport should really pay it’s respects to deaths of beloved colleagues and former players, and also national tragedies. This was a personal tragedy – not a national one.

5. The rearrangement of TV schedules. We learn today that ITV are not going ahead with a Lorraine Kelly series in which the children of single mothers pick men for their mothers to go dates with. It’s inappropriate in light of recent events we are told. Was it any more appropriate before? When does it become appropriate again? The BBC postponed it’s heavily publicised mini series Messiah 2. It’s a grissly (if the first part was anything to go by) psychological thriller. But why is it now inappropriate? Will it be more so in the Autumn? I can fully understand it, if there are child murders or other elements of the story are too close to real-life, but otherwise, should all murder-mysteries be pulled? Today the BBC is reporting the sentencing of a couple of children who murdered a third over �10. Will this make the Six O’Clock News tonight, or even the local London news? Probably the latter, but most of the country will know nothing about it.

Is all this down the essentially irreligious nature of today’s society. In times gone by, people would have gone to church on Sunday and said prayers at the appropriate point in the service. We know that the Church is still important and many went to local services. But for the public at large, they have no opportunity to grieve, so they need their minute’s silence, even if the context is inappropriate.

And we mustn’t forget that this happened in August – a traditionally slow news period. Undoubtedly there was always going to be significant coverage in a case like this. But should Bush The Fool have attacked Iraq over this time, then I can’t help but think things would be different.