Why won’t they just shut up? Or, to put it more delicately, why are they just as intent now on getting stories into the media as they were, say, in the far off days of November 2007? What’s going on?
Yes, absolutely. Not the diary nonsense—that wasn’t part of any plan, only Mitchell aiming a fire extinguisher at the flames ignited in the Leveson inquiry. For the rest, just look at the evidence.
The McCann stories over the last month have been invented and offered to the media, not sought out by them, and they are all linked. Equally they haven’t been provided transparently in the normal manner—by media conferences or press releases—but by a news management team using the usual tricks: anonymity, source material restrictions, contact with favoured journalists, “false dialogues” (in which one of the media team pretends to be responding to a story which they have in fact provided) and a definite “line”. All the kind of stuff which isn’t far from phone hacking in its conscious duplicity and which has helped to land the press in its present miserable state.
The material about Scotland Yard, about Metodo and about the latest “abduction” claim has all been provided using these tricks and the parents are clearly the source. Ah, the supporters of the parents might say, this is all part of the never-ending “search for Maddie”.
No. The first Scotland Yard story speculating about the Barcelona sighting does not appeal for further information but actively misleads; the second Scotland Yard-related piece about Metodo does not seek information about the child;the latest story about “police accept abduction theory” is concerned only with the veracity of the parents’ version of events and does not involve Madeleine McCann at all.
So it’s not about the child. What is it about? The obvious answer is ask the parents. But it says something about their weird and unassailable place in society that the mere idea of asking them such a question, let alone getting an answer, is literally incredible. In the absence of any openness from the pair we can only say that it looks like they are seeking somehow to influence the news.
As in November 2007? But they were suspects then! Skulking in Rothley while their agents looked to thwart a European Arrest Warrant by “expunging” doubt and cementing vital public support. Now they’ve been exonerated. They have their review. There isn’t a word of criticism in the media and their privacy is respected. They have their own detectives checking for any possible sightings of the child. They are, by dint of the fund which directly benefits them, rich. And they have the ear of virtually anyone they wish to meet, from the archbishop of Canterbury to the home secretary. Left alone to get on with their work the British and Portuguese police may even find their daughter. So what’s wrong?
Given the circumstances there can only be two answers. The first is that the parents have lost it. There is the darkness surrounding the disappearance of their daughter, a darkness that can never be shared; and their subsequent fame brought with it the threat to identity chronicled in numberless celebrity break-downs and suicides. Kate McCann, indeed, that veteran of the Oprah Winfrey show, can remind one of the grotesque star of Sunset Boulevard in her consuming need for public approbation and belief. And Gerry McCann seems quite unable to communicate without simultaneously, perhaps unconsciously, burnishing the image which he believes that same public have of him. Perhaps their compulsive leaking and spinning is a symptom, not a vice.
The only other interpretation that would fit all the facts is that, while both may be unwell, their latest campaign has a certain rationality: just as in November 2007 they are attempting to use the media, and therefore the public, as a human shield. Only this time we cannot yet see the threat which they fear will engulf them.