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Witch-hunt

There are plenty of appalling things in the world, but the amount of media coverage is far from a reliable guide to what’s important or even real. Really bad things get scant notice if there’s no populist hook (“who now remembers the Armenians?” And see my last post, the story of which featured once in the most serious UK media and then disappeared).

Meanwhile non-stories, virtual risks, and popular panics are underwritten by massive investment in sensational coverage. If you have not read any coverage of horror stories surrounding a former Jersey children’s home, then read this first. If you have but now wonder why it has all gone quiet, I recommend this article on Spiked. I am left wanting to know more about what happened, when, in the investigation team itself.

10 comments to Witch-hunt

  • Dave Hampson

    I’ve had doubts about the way this case has been handled since the police started giving the media tours round the house they’re excavating. Surely not the way to preserve an alleged crime scene, no matter how good for telly ratings.

  • Ian B

    Well, pretty much as soon as this story broke I was saying to anyone who’d listen (that’s nobody, then :) that this bore all the hallmarks of another flare-up of the SRA (Satanic Ritual Abuse) panic. As soon as it started on about children dragged into cellars and murdered and secret places and this massive organised ring with apparently everybody on Jersey involved I was like, uh oh, here we go again. It’s one of those hysterias that is useful to too many special interests (police, social workers, feminist campaigners, childrens’ campaigners, people looking for a compensation payout, the meeja, etc). We should all be profoundly sceptical about all such stories, especially now that the police’s first job with any such crime is to call a press conference and announce the Crime Of The Century (evidence pending), but we never are. Well, except me. Heh.

    Probably, as with most institutions, some kids at some time were abused by individual members of staff; others may have been punished in harsh or unusual ways (especially by todays’ standards). But ultimately the great ring of organised satanists will fade into the mist. But that doesn’t matter to the campaigners, because people in general will remember the story and incorporate it into their worldview. Let’s hope fewer lives are ruined by this than by previous SRA flaps.

  • Amazing how the media creates such a false impression of the world. It’s still going on: no mention here that the teeth were milk teeth.

    I remember a BBC report about how, as a result of this tragedy, Jersey would have to rethink the way it is governed — with the implication being that it should be less like Jersey and more like Britain (i.e. more taxes and regulations and oversight).

  • Fraser

    On the subject of things disappearing from the media. The BBC has a magazine piece on the “extreme pornography” ban: here.

    When I read it earlier, it had a number of reader comments; the majority were against the ban. Now, all the comments have vanished. How odd.

  • Charles

    I live in Jersey, and I learnt a lot from that Spiked article.

    The suggestion that the States Police are manipulating the investigation for media gain I find, unfortunately, plausible. To be honest, not a lot happens over here, and in some minor inicidents you get the impression there’s an over-eagerness to do things they don’t often get to do (the use of CS sprays come to mind). The opportunity to justify the major-incidents unit and all the off-island courses must be welcome.

    It can also honestly be stated that Lenny Harper does not enjoy the status of “widely respected in the community”. For reasons I never worked out, his name was one of the most common searches that brought people to my (now-defunct) blog.

    I suspect, though, that this may be the entirely human flaw of wanting one’s work to be more important than it really is.

    On the BBC, one of the (how many?) reporters they sent over was John Kay who found my blog and e-mailed me saying he was keen to hear my thoughts, and that he is “hoping to do a piece about how the investigation is making the island look at itself and the way it operates”. Based on the pages of my blog he’d looked at (according to sitemeter) it looked to me like a fishing expedition for someone willing to publically criticise the States of Jersey. That’s not something I’m normally shy of doing, but I was not interested in being someone else’s tool.

  • Brian

    Those of us who recall the de Menedes affair and the McCann investigation will know: when there is a lot of public interest in a case, the police must be assumed to be lying until proven otherwise.

  • Thanks for that link, Fraser. That issue could do with a lot more coverage. It seems like the Ministry of Justice is ignoring everyone and doing whatever it wants:

    But the Ministry of Justice is unrepentant, saying the sort of images it is seeking to outlaw are out of place in modern-day Britain.

    “Pornographic material which depicts necrophilia, bestiality or violence that is life threatening or likely to result in serious injury to the anus, breasts or genitals has no place in a modern society and should not be tolerated,” says a spokeswoman for the ministry.

    Depicts? Likely? Bestiality?

  • Ian B

    That issue could do with a lot more coverage.

    But it won’t get it, because increasing or maintaining personal freedom is not advantageous to any faction of the dictatocracy.

  • Ian B: it wouldn’t entirely surprise me if the legislation includes *drawings*, too.

  • Ian B

    Rob-

    Not surprisingly, they’re working on it.

    Sigh.