Tuesday, November 16, 2010

'Madeleine' to be etched in Stone by her parents

A brave decision?

It is good news that the McCanns are going to write a book.
If the parents wish to earn money to search for the child, what harm can it do? No, it won’t assist the search, we all know that: three and a half years have shown that any private investigators  with a bit of nous familiarise themselves with the evidence, note where it’s pointing and either turn the job down or ruthlessly exploit the parent’s vulnerabilities. The others, the lowly ex-cops who are willing to accept the way the wind blows from Camp McCann, have found nothing. So it will continue.

They are going to find it very tough indeed to write, but that’s their problem, not ours. At the end of it, after the serializations which, like their version of the archiving report, will be the spin, not the reality, we, and the reviewers, will have their book before us, the words fixed for ever.

The blog specifically avoided the whole question of truthfulness, for “operational reasons” and the needs of judicial secrecy; the introduction of spokespeople guaranteed that they could not be held to account for their words because spokespeople are always “deniable”; the interviews they have given, all rigidly structured beforehand, tell us literally nothing except about their demeanour.

Now they will be heard in their own words and it is Mission Impossible. Every sentence will be picked over within weeks to compare it with the police evidence, from both Portugal and Leicester, and with the court record from Lisbon. For the first time any untruths they tell will be on record -  not “misunderstood” or  “out of context” - and admissible in court. And what they leave out will be as significant as what they put in.

The McCanns still mean money. The decline in their personal value results from them having nothing new or interesting to say, only tired repetition, giving the media nothing to spin a new story round. But the readership for descriptions of the case from beyond the parents’ ambit remains potentially huge.

Thus it won’t just be internet critics doing the picking over. The book finally offers a killer  opportunity  for agents, writers and publishers, for there is all the difference in the (libel) world between introducing a controversial theory about living people,  such as Goncalo Amaral’s interpretation of the facts, and responding to  untrue written claims.

Without claims, and plenty of them, the book can’t sell. And the number of true claims made by the parents in the past is pretty limited, isn’t it? So it’s a brave decision.

Or is it?

For there is something about their decision-taking over recent months that makes one pause. They are acting, well, weirdly.

The shrill and excessively unwise criticisms of the government and particularly the extremely level-headed Theresa May; the curious muffled goings-on at the fund, prefigured by a Kate McCann blog entry; their chest-puffing support for the child-sex obsessed misfit Gamble and his thwarted empire-building; and then the strange folie de grandeur note of hurt surprise that their pronouncements haven’t been acted upon, as though they have lost touch with what is actually possible.

Their supporters, in the media and elsewhere, greet their initiatives with applause but also mild bewilderment, as if the parents’ aims, once so apparently straightforward, have become private and unpredictable. The pursuit of Amaral looks increasingly obsessive, as well as doomed, and the fund raising – brazen, now, in a way it hasn’t been since August 2007 – of which the book forms a part, appears more and more to be an end in itself.

The words “unstable” and “reckless” spring to mind. Three and a half years in the sinister and  murky limbo which they have chosen to inhabit is a long time, enough to weaken anyone’s grasp on reality. Others – their critics, the lawyers, the conmen, the whole mad gallery which surrounds them - can turn away from the case at any time but for the parents there is no escape. And more and more they want to get at “what else is in the police files”. “Support” - synthesised by the media monster – remains; privately they are frighteningly alone.