3. INFLUENTIAL FRIENDS: THE McCANN'S SUPPORT NETWORK. In this episode we return to the issue of neglect. However, focus also turns toward the extent of Team McCann's influence in constraining, or systematically avoiding awkward, 'exasperating', facts and questions regarding Madeleine's care and disappearance.
Questions of Neglect and the McCann's Support Network
OVER THE YEARS since the events of that fateful night 3rd May 2007 the McCann’s have acquired a sizable team of supporters. Support from family and friends is of course to be expected but, unusually, over and above this we have witnessed an uncommon (to say the least) clambering from a great many individuals, as well as a number of organisations and institutions, to provide almost unconditional support for the McCann’s. This is the group that has been loosely and collectively referred to thus far as ‘Team McCann’. Before delving deeper into the question of neglect itself in the Madeleine McCann case we need first to say a little more about what and who ‘Team McCann’ are.
This last point is important because the influence this group has had on public perception of Madeleine’s disappearance is both unique and considerable. It is also true to say that the unusual pressures brought to bear, by elements of Team McCann, upon most media outlets has led to and maintained a sustained, and many would argue intentional, distraction. Whatever the actual intention what now seems evident is that, principally, these pressures led public attention away from the McCann’s and the Tapas 7 (friends of the McCanns on holiday with them at the time of Madeleine's disappearance). Public attention and scrutiny focused, instead, squarely upon what has turned out to be entirely fruitless investigations of all and only (as far as we can tell) aspects of the McCann’s ‘abduction’ theory.
The size and sway wielded by ‘Team McCann’ should not therefore be underestimated or glossed over. In addition to Kate and Gerry McCann it includes at least the following: the rest of the ‘Tapas 9’ (or ‘tapas 7’ excluding Kate and Gerry McCann), the McCann lawyers (Carter-Ruck et al), their PR machine (Clarence Mitchell in particular) their politicians (e.g. David Cameron, the Blairs, Ed Milliband, and Gordon Brown in the past, Theresa May more recently), their religious
supporters (at one time including the Arch Bishop of Canterbury and the Pope), their celebrity supporters (e.g. Richard Branson, Simon Cowell, Oprah Winfrey, and dozens more), their accountants, press office, senior police officers, and myriad online support networks. In other words a whole host of people that make up a large and influential support network.
The size of this McCann collective is actually quite staggering - unparalleled in pretty much any child disappearance/abduction case in history, before it, or since. So extensive and influential is this body of support it has even been suggested that the British establishment itself has been, and still is, involved in some kind of conspiracy aimed at protecting the McCann’s at what seems almost any price1. Frankly why this should be the case is itself a matter of some speculation. Some of the ‘evidence’ for government involvement beyond the typical touting for popular votes is rather difficult to swallow, but that’s a discussion for another time.
The online support network has in the past been found mainly in forums or groups facilitated by social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and others. This sub-group of Team McCann might also be referred to unceremoniously as the ‘McCann Fans’ (intentionally derogatory, a large number of them don’t warrant much else). It's worth noting that, unfortunately, a significant number of these (often the more vocal ones) are actually very poor supporters of the McCann’s. Consistent with a growing trend in online forum groups generally, many of these ‘fans’ appear (because they are) patently clueless as to the very barest facts of the case whilst offering unconditional approval. Typical of the liberal left these days, double standards abound but very little insight or analysis. Not all are like this, by any means, and for those willing to engage in genuine rational discussion apologies are due for appearing to lump you in with those incapable of simple reason.
In a free and democratic society it is of necessity that contrary opinions are freely espoused. In a good debate such opinions would ideally be supported by robust arguments rooted in transparent evidence. The Madeleine case is no exception, and competing theories should be treated with equal respect, at least until they are shown to be indefensible. In other words, it is perfectly reasonable to explore the possibility and entertain the theory that the McCann’s were involved in their daughter’s disappearance, abduction, and/or murder, at least until it is decisively ruled out – it has not been. It is also reasonable to consider even those possibilities that may strike one as odd, bizarre, or plain ridiculous. Even theories as bizarre as satanic ritual murder or alien abduction are not ruled out logically, though their lack of credible evidence or elementary cogency means we don’t need to spend too much time pondering them either.
On the other side of the rational divide, however, some ‘Madeleine’ theories do appear to bear more than a passing relation to the evidence. Such theories are found in those like that put forward by Goncalo Amaral (discussed in Part 2) or indeed in many of the questions raised by solicitor Tony Bennett (see endnote 1). Consequently these theories warrant further and closer scrutiny. What they don’t justify is out of hand dismissal simply because Team McCann find them contrary to the party line or the ‘McLawyers’ (Carter-Ruck – the McCann’s libel lawyers and main media attack dogs) threaten obliteration in the shape and form of yet another money-making lawsuit. Sadly this has been the stock response even with some quite reasonable theories amounting, as it does, to a moral corruption in and of itself with justice, liberty, and freedom of thought becoming the ultimate victims.
If you are now thinking that this seems like an exaggeration, that the McCann’s and their team of merry men and women couldn’t really be like this then think again. Carter-Ruck and the rest of this motley crew have gagged one after another national newspaper with lawsuits netting the McCann’s ‘Madeleine Fund’ pot of gold a substantial fortune. At the same time, of course, these media attack dogs have syphoned off for themselves hundreds of thousands of pounds in undisclosed fees, all in the name of ‘the search for Madeleine’. This unsavoury fact is naturally not one that Team McCann are likely to publicise or discuss.
Worryingly, and as we have seen earlier, on this account the McCann’s (and their McLawyers) are willing to go to just about any lengths imaginable to shut down all and every alternative to their favoured abduction theory. The war they continue to wage against Goncalo Amaral, as discussed earlier, is a prime example of this. Amaral’s book The Truth of the Lie, it will be recalled, rejects the McCann’s abduction theory and sets out his own case for implicating them in the death of their daughter, including removal and disposal of her body no less.
These are strong accusations, by any measure, and it’s not a theory many find particularly convincing. It is, however, for the reader to judge Amaral’s ‘truth’ for themselves. We ban books at our peril, and though there are instances where this might be necessary it not something we should contemplate except in the most dire of circumstances. And this is the crux, it is the reader’s right to judge these issues for themselves that is of paramount importance. It is assuredly not the McCann’s right or place to dictate what other adults discuss, think, or theorise about the disappearance of their daughter.
The underlying issue is, once again, a matter of principle rights to freedom of speech, opinion, and expression. What the McCann’s, and Team McCann generally, seem to assume is that being the parents of this truly tragic little girl somehow bestowed upon them special rights of censorship of others, rights to be free from accusation, and to be treated as immune from criticism, question, or scrutiny. The unfortunate truth (for them) is that the personal nature of this tragedy bestows upon them no such rights whatsoever. On the contrary, rights to freedom of speech are, by comparison, relatively sacrosanct and entirely trump any immunity rights they seem to think they have. On this account one can be forgiven for detecting more than a hint of class-based entitlement and superiority. The same has been noted regarding the ‘Tapas nine’ generally and what is not commonly known here (in the UK) is that it was precisely the McCann’s air of entitlement and righteous indignation that set the Portuguese public to view them with increasing suspicion in the first place.
In fact the McCann’s made few friends in Portugal and one can only wonder to what extent their ‘attitude’, towards both the investigation and their own culpability, paid into that state of affairs. What we do know is that the pair returned to the UK fairly promptly. Moreover, despite what they said regarding staying until Madeleine was found, they subsequently showed little interest in actually leading the ‘search for Madeleine’ themselves, at least in Portugal where she actually went missing. Their preference at the time appeared to be for fund raising via searching the tabloids for potential libel cases – it was, and still is, important to the McCann’s that no one disagrees with their version of events.
The essential point to keep in mind is that we all have, as a fundamental freedom, the right to opinions and views contrary to what others (like the McCann’s) might think, claim, or try to deny.
This brings us quite neatly to issues regarding the question of neglect, And the extent of the McCann’s responsibility in this respect. Any mention of parental neglect appears to be treated by Team McCann (here we are referring mainly, of course, not to the parents but the ‘McCann Fans’) as absolute anathema - to be avoided at all costs - when, in fact, it’s a perfectly reasonable issue to raise, especially given the circumstances in which Madeleine vanished.
One might be of the opinion that the McCann’s were neglectful in regards the care of their children on that fateful night, perhaps even wilfully and criminally so. It could also be quite untrue, and you may be of this opinion too. The point is these are not prima facie unreasonable things to consider given the evidence, including testimony from the ‘Tapas 9’ themselves (this will be further explained later). Simply dismissing these issues as valid topics for debate, and perhaps even as charges to be answered (against the McCann’s) is, itself, an affront to reason, liberty, and freedom. This is where a certain tyranny rules over rational dialogue for no better purpose than to impose upon those that dissent the will of others (still these days we see so much cowering at the merest mention of the Madeleine McCann case - indeed a tragic sight).
In the next section we will focus further on the accusations of child neglect levelled directly at Kate and Gerry McCann, and the extent to which they may or may not be considered culpable in this singular respect.
The intention here is not so much to determine actual culpability regarding the issue of neglect but, as already stated, to further validate the discussion and debate itself of both the charge of neglect (against the parents) and its rejection, if warranted. Again, it is the fundamental right to freedoms of thought and speech that are ultimately at stake here. This is to say, your right to have, express, discuss, and debate, your opinion about the disappearance of Madeleine McCann without hindrance or harassment from manipulative authorities or bigoted, dictatorial, liberal extremists.
1 A prominent character here has been lawyer and McCann investigator Tony Bennett, previously of the Madeleine Foundation. Bennett has been instrumental in the past in raising the (mainly online) profile of the unanswered ‘questions’ and ‘facts’ of the case. Bennett’s focus, though, has been aimed mostly at the ‘disappearance’ branch of this case and the assumption, it seems, that high level government conspiracies are involved in covering up the truth regarding Madeleine’s fate. Whether or not any of this holds water, however, what also emerges is some question regarding Bennett’s own motives and credibility. Much of his writing is verbose, noisy, overly complicated and over-egged – unnecessarily so – and detracts from some otherwise very useful and telling observations. Bennett’s crusade, noble as it might have begun, seems to transform in the end into a somewhat personal onslaught against the McCann’s that is ultimately counter-productive in terms of his own project.