And now the Pope prays for Madeleine

Forgive me for sounding churlish, but if Madeleine McCann’s parents were not both doctors, were not white – say if they were both black, from Bradford, both employed in menial, low-waged jobs – would the European media give a toss? I very much doubt it. Would they have been granted an audience with the Pope. Like shite! Its a fair bet both would have been arrested and interrogated for hours, with the British gutter press launching an investigation into their private lives, venting their spleen on the parents for being so uncaring and self-seeking as to leave their kids home alone.

Since Madeleine’s disappearance on May 3rd, as well as the Pope, the British ambassador has become involved, along with British cabinet ministers and the Portuguese Judicial Police, with the assistance of other police forces, has launched a search and investigation operation of a scale never before seen in Portugal, with 130 senior officers and 800 beat officers apparently consigned to the case.

The case has since sparked a media feeding frenzy that has escalated into a worldwide cause. Criminologists, doctors and psychologists have all offered their professional opinions and all manner of scenarios as to Madeleine’s disappearance have been mooted on blogsites. Anyone who can articulate a verbal response to the story has been interviewed by the press, radio and TV.

If the story of Madeleine’s disappearance has been blown out of all proportion, then so has the response of celebrities. JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, and Richard Branson, have offered £multi-million rewards for information leading to Madeleine’s safe return. Journalists from all over the world have flocked to that small Portuguese resort, from where the child disappeared, to cover the story.

Meanwhile, according to UNICEF (the U.N. children's fund) last week, 1.2 million children are trafficked every year around the world. Where the front page coverage in The Sun, or the first item, of news on News at Ten reporting this story? Child trafficking by slavers and the child sex industry is big business, most of it taking place in South and South East Asia as well as Africa.
In the tiny West African nation of Togo, according to UNICEF, one child in eight is snatched, never to be seen again. Indeed, in some instances the parents are complicit in their disappearance, their crushing poverty invariably the sole reason.

In Portugal, 31 children disappeared last year and neither has the combined media coverage of those 31 missing kids equalled that afforded the disappearance of Madeleine. The sniffer dogs were not called out and the search helicopters were grounded.

But just divide those 1.2 million disappearances by 365 and work out how many kids go missing every 24 hours!! The figure is roughly 3286 vanished kids every day; almost 137 every hour. And how many of them white and of well-to-do parents?

Does the news hungry press turn up en masse at the homes of these 1.2 million children? Do foreign ambassadors get involved? Do celebrities offer huge fortunes for their safe return? Does the Pope offer prayers to the big man in the sky? No way!!

As a father to four and a grandfather to another 3, I can well imagine the anxiety the McCann’s are going through and sincerely hope she is returned soon and unharmed. But as a socialist I have to ask just what the fuck is going on here. Does this pathetic media circus suggest that a white child is worth 1,200,000 coloured children, or that the seemingly perpetual problems of Africa and Asia are no longer newsworthy? Have people in the West become desensitised as to the suffering of non-whites or is it that impoverished African parents grieve the loss of a child far less than their counterparts in affluent Europe. The race element cannot be denied here.

And for the press, there is the heart-yanking human interest story . This saga sells papers and thus increases the attractiveness to advertisers. At the end of the day the job of newspapers is not to report news, but to sell us to advertisers. And its the same with networked TV which is propped up by advertising and where a high interest news item means commercial breaks attract the big spenders. The message is clear – if you’re gonna lose your kid, just make sure they’re not Asian or African

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