A different perspective: Shannon Matthews was certainly no Maddie
News today that English schoolgirl Shannon Matthews has been miraculously found alive more than three weeks after she went missing.
I am slightly ashamed to say that I had forgotten all about Shannon but the shame dissipated somewhat as soon as I was able to rationalise my waning attention. It’s hard to be attentive to a story that the media has forgotten.Today’s reminder got me thinking about the contrasting media responses between Shannon’s disappearance and that of Madeleine McCann almost a year ago.
A couple of week’s after Madeleine went missing you couldn’t escape the story if you were buried six feet under wet cement in the middle of the Saraha. Footballers everywhere were bowing heads in silence before matches, famous people were offering hundreds of thousands of pounds as reward, the Prime Minister was speaking to the McCanns by phone and the Pope was granting them a private audience.
The British historian Simon Schama had this to say about the media’s sensational and unprecedented response to Madeleine’s disappearance.
“If Madeleine had been the daughter of a black single parent from South London, and the occurrence had taken place at Butlins, would there be the same level of media interest?”
At the time people were shocked that he could be so heartless but less than a year later we have the answer - a resounding not on your nelly.
The McCann’s, it has been noted, were reasonably attractive white, upper-middle class professionals. Personally, I thought Ms McCann was about as attractive as Nurse Ratched. The McCann’s were both articulate, they were doctors, they dressed fashionably, they lived in a nice house and they could afford to take summer holidays overseas. Madeleine McCann was angelic and while it’s difficult to use the word ugly when talking about a young child, Shannon was no oil painting. She looked a bit like she might well be the love child of Wayne Rooney. She had a chav name and she was not affectionately dubbed ‘Shannie’ by the press.
Even when news stories were run about Shannon’s disappearance it was often the McCann’s who made the headline, with their faces gracing the story.
The outpouring of sympathy for Maddie was Niagarran in volume and it took several months of multiple daily updates before a sizable sub-group of people started to voice their frustrations in the comments sections of newspapers. After six months the press were still running headlines like “Maddie McCann Loved Shrek”.
Compare this to Shannon Matthews. Three weeks into her disappearance and the story is dead in the water. Her mother Karen is not a doctor with a media-friendly appearance. She has seven children from five different fathers ("slut" goes the public). Her current partner (referred to simply as a “boyfriend” in some press reports) is, at twenty-two years of age, ten years younger than she is ("dirty slut").
Public sympathy was not forthcoming. Rumours of problems in the family began to surface. Karen Matthews told the media she thought that it was someone she knew who had taken Shannon, “to get back at her”, and if it weren’t for the silence you might have heard people sneering something like, “that’d be right: those sort of people bring this sort of thing onto themselves.”
The public donated over £1million to the Find Madeleine fund and the McCanns subsequently used the money to finance the mortgage repayments on their million-dollar mansion in Leicestershire. There was suprisingly little outrage expressed among those who had donated money. If it were Karen Matthews using Fund money to repay her mortgage the public response would probably be quite different ("those sort of people can’t keep their hands out of the till") but Karen never got the chance. A church in Dewsbury raised £1,000 for the Find Shannon fund, and while the McCann’s offered Karen Matthews “their prayers”, they did not donate any of their own sizable purse to assist in the search for Shannon the chav-child.
No wealthy businessmen, entertainment celebrities or sport’s stars came forward to offer millions of pounds and now that Shannon has been found Richard Branson won’t be offering £100,000 to Ms Matthews to help her defend any charges she might have faced for her daughter’s disappearance.I mean, it’s all a bit sickening isn’t it? I can tell you one thing, if your child is kidnapped you better pray you’re not non-white, working class or ugly.