Summer Fun

The media have had a good summer full of serial killers. Hot weather and violence go hand in hand. No sooner had Stephen Griffiths, more widely known as The Crossbow Cannibal, stepped into the dock with his World Wrestling Federation persona (I’m wondering if when the case starts in the Autumn if he’ll appear in a spandex costume, complete with a cape. I’m seeing orange and yellow) than unhinged cabbie Derek Bird wiped out half of Cumbria on a whim. And then came the hunt for jealous psycho killer, convicted child-beater and hero to thirty-five thousand Facebook users, Raoul ‘the legend’ Moat.


The media saturated the nation with coverage of the Moat hunt. We had Kay Burley kitted out by the wardrobe department in her approved fell walking waterproof gear, up in the Northumbria wilds, where she interviewed any body she could lay her hands on. There was the endless speculation from so-called experts. Something that happens with almost every news story there is now, whether it be the Shock and Awe raid on Baghdad (so tell me, how will the people be feeling now…?) or some Royal visit (and what will the Queen do if she needs a shit?). Be sure that no matter what the topic there is an expert somewhere prepared to talk for hours about fuck all. But Sky scraped the bottom of the barrel on this one. We had authorities on woodcraft who’d once been camping in the Lakes rambling on about moss and the nourishment to be had from acorns. Retired firearms bobbies who’d never pulled a trigger in anger and who’d retired while the police were still using Lee Enfield .303s and calling for assistance using whistles, talking us through hard stops and the ensuing Post Traumatic Stress. Fuck me they were all useless. Why didn’t Sky get their hands in their pockets if they were going to do this thing right? Where was Ray Mears showing how Moat might be able to fashion a shelter from discarded Tesco carrier bags and a broken golf club shaft? Where was Andy McNab discussing how Moat might garrotte ramblers using little more than some braided dock leaves. Where was Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall showing how Moat might then cook those rambler’s like road kill, garnishing the dish with some Basil and a few stinging nettles? And if she’s such a pioneering journalist why wasn’t Kay Burley on her knees, commando style through the sewerage below Rothbury to bag an interview with Moat? Luring him out of the shitty water with a hot Gregg’s pasty and a bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale. Why didn’t they have Sly Stallone talking via satellite link from Hollywood about how Moat must be feeling as a Johnny Rambo-wannabe Urgh, yeah, I bet the guy’s feelin’ pretty kinda isolated right now. I sure hope the cops shoot him; because I bet you a Swiss Army Knife to a fully automatic Heckler and Koch MR762 assault rifle that somewhere in the hundreds of pages of journal and hours of Dictaphone tape Moat apparently left for the police he said at some point, ‘you drew first blood’. I betchya. Go on, I fucking betchya!


Instead of this high quality, high brow approach, we had Sky and the BBC eliciting responses from traumatized people by the use of closed leading questions. Chasing crying people down the streets in Rothbury. You say your Mam’s been trapped in her house by the police? What can your Mam see? Tell your Mam the police have no right to trap her in he house, tell her to get out there and bag a picture of Moat!!! Wringing emotion out of them for the cameras like the last wank of a dying man. But half the problem is that you can see the people they grab hold of enjoying themselves. Wanting their Big Brother moment. Their fifteen minutes of fame. You see the feverish gleam of excitement on their faces, the sickness in the eyes. It’s like the virus from 28 Days Later. They quickly get turned into media zombies, slavering at the mouth with stereotypical sound-bites and baseless opinion. It’s like a throwback to The Word with Terry Christian and the slot where people would do anything to get on TV. What next Sian Phillips tempting some rail crash victim into pulling off their bandages just to get a ten second slot on BBC News 24? And look at this severed foot… do you think that’s the result of poor track maintenance…? Back to Huw in the studio… Huw. Thanks, Sian, now here’s Tom with the weather…


And then we finally had Moat cornered and Rothbury got the bunting out and had a party in the street. The community hadn’t been brought together this much since the 1977 Silver Jubilee or when Hartlepool hung a monkey. I expected to hear ‘Agadoo’ and ‘Build me up buttercup’ kicking out as the town came out to relish the drama of it all and have a bit of a knees up. The circus had truly come to town. The news helicopters buzzing around, dog-fighting each other, desperate to get footage of Moat as the police tried to negotiate with him. Even when the police were trying to get people back, the Sky News reporter was promising the viewers with tears in his eyes and outrage in his throat that Sky would get them the story they had the right to have. And too fucking right. OK so you have a man who’s cornered by police, he’s not going anywhere, he no longer poses a danger to the community, but obviously it’s in the public interest to intrude on the negotiations. Any fucking idiot can see that! Fucking interfering woodentops! So you might argue that maybe it is a bit of salacious voyeurism and putting the negotiations at risk, but surely we have a right to be entertained! Come on! This is the news as a spectacle. This is reality TV on the rolling news. I can see Sky News at Tyburn in the 1700s, pushing cameras into the faces of those about to be bereaved. So your husband is going to be hung, you must be feeling terrible… Catching HD images as the cart is pulled away, shit and piss falling through the bowels and bladder. Kay Burley shaking her head at the barbarity of it all, urging viewers press the RED button now to get inside the hood cam to see the death look and hear the executed man’s final groan and then nudging the cameraman to get a close up of the kicking legs of the corpse, pushing a relative forward – exclusive rights to an interview – to pull on the legs… Go on, Kylie, finish him off, chuck you’re weight on his ankles… How does it feel having dragged all your weight down on your Dad’s legs and snapped his neck? What are your thoughts on capital punishment…? The media are in the enviable position of being able to constantly criticise other people. To change their view like a chameleon. And so desperate were they to fill the screens with something that it got morally confusing. Why aren’t the police letting the family through to negotiate with Moat? How could the police put the family at risk by taking them through to negotiate with self-confessed killer Moat? They hammered on and on and on about it all in obvious and irrelevant detail as the ‘tense standoff’ continued and it got to the point where I was thinking when are the police going to see sense and let Gazza through the cordon with some Wispas and a few cold tins? Fair dos, he’d be like a slightly pissed up Samuel L. Jackson in ‘The Negotiator’ but the public have a right! THE PUBLIC HAVE A FUCKING RIGHT TO THIS MADMAN. WE’VE FUCKING MADE HIM, HE’S OURS. The public took him from being a kid-slapping, steroid-fuelled knuckle-dragger and turned him into a national obsession. Raoul Moat was like Susan Boyle with a pair of nostrils to do the singing. The lad had the X-Factor. So let fucking Gazza in there NOW. ‘Reet, av talked to Rowl, we want a barrel of Newcastle Brown Ale, a couple of kebabs, an ‘elicopter and Cheryl…’


And then, to the dramatic images of the night vision camera showing a parked up Land Rover and the microphones turned up to full gain, Moat saved the taxpayer a fortune and blew his big pumpkin head off. And a legend was born. Because suddenly the media showed more sympathy for Moat than they did his victims. Turning jealous psycho killer and convicted child-beater Moat into some kind of folk hero and victim of police over-zealous desire to protect the public. Obviously changing tack keeps the circus running. More debate on the police tactics, more closed leading questions to get the family of Moat or so-called experts to waffle on inconclusively and spitefully for hours and hours and fucking hours on the rolling loop. Chucking blame about like monkey’s throw shit. But why all this debate? Fair enough, the Health and Safety executive gets in on every aspect of British life and our liberalism has taken us to the point where we give a home to those that want to blow us up, but perhaps this was pushing things a bit too far? Say what you want about the Americans, and I often have, but they would have riddled self-confessed murderer and self-proclaimed ‘I’m going to shoot any fucker who comes near me’ Moat with more holes than a Tetley’s teabag on first sight; plus probably a few passing hill walkers daft enough to wander into the background (collateral damage). And apart from a cursory ‘FREEZE, MOTHERFUCKER!’ and maybe ‘pass me another clip, Waylon,’ would have said next to nothing. Nothing that you’d have heard above the teaming rounds of high velocity fire, at any rate. It’d have been job done, hand the guys a six pack of Bud and let’s argue about which of us Steven Segal is going to play in the film.


We used to sniff at the American tabloids and the American news channels. We used to laugh at their shallow sentimentality. Ha-ha-ha, hee-hee-hee… Ambulance chasing and celebrity obsessed. But it’s like drugs and crime and obesity and mullet haircuts, ten, fifteen years later and we absorb their culture. Except we’ve put our own holier-than-thou, hypocritical spin on it. Like we did the no win no claim shit that we took up from the Yanks – I got £20,000 and the slippery floor is now cleaned an inch at a time and surrounded by high-viz barriers. Yeah, right, because you really gave a shit about anyone else ever slipping, you false, sanctimonious cunt. The media is the tail that wags the dog. The public gets what the public wants. And what the public seems to want is more dirt. More sensation. More reality soap opera with lives that don’t really count. The lid has come off Panadora’s Box and we may never get it back on again. We are appealing to the lowest common denominator. This is Thick Britain.


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