Monday, 19 June 2017

Flames


Flames Are Great

Ten days or so ago I wrote a letter to the once great but now rudderless Spectator magazine following yet another article about President Trump by a BBC nonentity called Greg Woods. It was  the usual sneering, rumour-filled recipe.
 
In the letter – which was not published –  I made no defence of Trump: if it turns out that he was a Russian spy I’d be perfectly happy for him to be shot after a trial or impeachment. When the facts, not the rumours are known. No, I asked whether maybe the MSM here and in the States should consider the consequences of Trump being eased, or forced, out. Do they think the Garden of Eden will be the result? Have they considered that the well-armed American blue-collar workers will suspect a coup? Why, I asked, don’t they try calming things instead of fanning the flames and treating politics as not just show-business but as a breathless, cliché-filled box-set which, being show-business, has to have heroes, victims  and villains?
A few days later a prominent republican and several others were shot by an enemy of Trump, the gunman himself being killed.  
It is the MSM, not social media, which is responsible for the dangerous, crazed, atmosphere in the UK and the States now. And it goes right back to the McCann affair.
US national media heroine Kathy Griffin with Trump head

Flames Are Them

I wrote ten years ago that the MSM did not understand the very complex psychological forces they, like children with matches, were so unthinkingly whipping up in the Affair and which, once unleashed, would be uncontrollable. And so it has proved.
At the time I thought it was temporary, an aberration that would pass as the MSM itself rapidly disintegrated, drew conclusions and found a new model. A decade later their fear-of-the internet Death Ride, as I called it, still runs and is now spreading to every aspect of news and every story. It manipulates people’s emotions - it can't help it. It manufactures hate - it can't stop. And hate kills.
In 2007  the MSM turned a sordid family disaster  into a “fairy story.” Then they perfected the generation of strife by putting factual McCann news items at the front and bribing feature writers to take opposing stances within. The more angry the disagreement the more the MSM loved it and perhaps saw it as a solution to their troubles.  As time has passed  the factual news stories have shrunk away to almost nothing, while the hate-generation pages - print and screen - have swelled like elephantine cancers - all of them pretending to be concerned for "tragic victims" and "justice" against whatever "them" is the target of the moment. Oh yes, overflowing with selfless love is the MSM: everything they do they do it for you.   
Hate in the UK media didn’t start on the net. The MSM pre-empted it by sending the emotional temperature soaring throughout summer 2007 with their “good cop-bad cop” act, just as they are making it soar through summer 2017. Then they turned, like curs, on the McCanns themselves, making more and more revolting inventions about the couple – Hi, Jerry Lawton – than anyone on the net had produced. Then, with everything bubbling nicely,  that disgusting apology for a human being, journalist Tony Parsons, attacked the Portuguese as though they were slime-filled slugs to be trodden into the dirt. It was the original fact-free hate piece, a pure product of the imagination, paid and encouraged. News, you know.   
But then the MSM tried to turn the hate tap off because they suddenly found they weren't in charge of the performance anymore, that they were going to be sued and disgraced - and their fact-free reporting had left them lacking anything to defend themselves with in court. But while you can turn the hate tap on with ease, if you're cynical or sick enough, you can’t turn it off again.  It isn’t under anyone’s control and never has been.

Flames Are What The MSM Do

The internet hate that specifically accompanies the McCann Affair, still with us,   was nothing to do with distrust of the “abduction” story. It began with the MSM trying to do what it does so often – pretending that the immediate past hadn’t occurred. The media have always done it but since 2007, with "opinion" - read imagination - now in control,  it's a hundred times more prevalent. Looking for apologies or reflection from those MSM experts in the supposedly "quality" papers and news magazines who were confidently forecasting the death of Labour  and dripping with admiration for the "greatest political force ever created," the Tories,  just before the election, is like searching empty tombs.
The MSM tried to go amnesiac  about the McCanns in 2008, after the writs had started flying: so much for the searchers after truth. But they couldn't do it, not once the genie was out of the bottle. Much, much worse, than the silence was that most of them swung to writing incredible, fawning, repulsive, arse-licking, armpit-sucking and groin-sniffing stories about the “tragic couple”. Without any explanation for the volte-face.
It was this that changed everything: everyone with knowledge of the case knew that they didn't believe what they were writing, just as many of us are aware that they don't believe what they're writing about the Kensington fire. It was literally impossible for what they wrote to be sincere, for the same journalists, owners and editors who had bestialized the McCanns day after day late in 2007 were still in place when the groin-sniffing began only a few months later. Why were they doing it?
Most of  the active  McCann critics could see only one rational explanation: since it was inconceivable that the entire media could indulge in  such a vile betrayal of their own readers - nobody with any pride could possibly go down on their knees, tongue out,  like that - then it had to be that the MSM was being forced, by government, by “the rich”, by the masons, by somebody, to act in this way. And it is a logical conclusion to draw, given what they'd witnessed. Once you notice that you are being betrayed on a continuing basis  then you feel powerless as well as betrayed.  Once you start feeling powerless then hate warms up.
That expanding mutual hatred was what was behind Brenda Leyland’s death and it was appropriate  - and never to be forgotten - that old dirty-raincoat himself, Martin Brunt, standard bearer for the old MSM, had carried the hate poison right to Brenda’s front door. Nobody who read the “nonentity McCann-hating troll found dead” MSM reports that thudded off the press and the BBC like so much shit being shovelled onto her coffin, can ever forget the MSM fact: only some people's lives matter.
The conspiracy theorists were right that their explanation was the only rational one for the MSM’s actions - but wrong in practice: there is no rational explanation! Because what the MSM did had never been rational or explicable in the first place, even to themselves. As Desmond of the Express group told Leveson, there was no real money in it for them – increases in circulation had been measured and the extra sales brought in not much more than pennies. It was an obsession produced by the  nervousness and fear  in their industry as much as the weaknesses of human psychology  and  obsessions are not rational, by definition.  As the Leveson testimony graphically revealed, the MSM itself was bewildered and unable to explain the way it had behaved: it didn't know. It no longer understood its own actions.

They Don't Know How To Put Them Out

They still don’t know. They are out of control. And the public are in the position of laboratory rats.
Did any of you read the Guardian comments pages in the run-up to the election? The heat and hate that the rag was generating with its very own McCann-template "good cop-bad cop" opinion pieces radiated from the page: May should be “got rid of”; “locked up”; the Tories and their voters were scum, vermin, filth, dirt, trash. And who taught them that language? No, not the internet but Tony Parsons and his like. Note  "their voters" -  voters are the people we all  live and work next to! Thousands and thousands of pages of spitting hate – in the Guardian, “the conscience of the nation”. That’s what they’ve become. 
Do any of you believe that journalists and editors are  grieving and speaking from the heart about the Kensington fire? Or that the BBC correspondents are?
Do you? Have you thought it through? In fact journalists are always boasting about the way they are unimpressed by the human disasters on which they feed like lice, even failed journalists like Clarence Mitchell who was never fazed by burning aircraft. They aren't members of the public - they are paid voyeurs lacking normal feelings. I’ve worked with the BBC  and they turn the emotion and mood taps on and off at will quicker than on a Hollywood set. We are things to be played with, whichever party is in power.  
Everything we are reading and watching now is not mechanised but McAnnised, creating a constant fever of false and hysterical emotion. The Mail website recently had some twenty stories about the fire, one after another, none of them adding to our knowledge, nor designed to. Just as in the McCann case,  helplessness and anger is what they sell. And, of course, most of all, hate.

They Love Flames

Like secret, compulsive  arsonists, fanning the flames is now what they do. No Leveson or other tribunal can ever cure it. The Death Ride I wrote about has to be completed before things might change. I wish the bastards would get it over with before more people get killed. 
 

 

 

 

Friday, 16 June 2017

The Pivot



Options

The long-term rehabilitation of the parents’ reputations depended primarily, of course, on the result of the Portuguese investigation. If, as the UK defence team believed, the evidence to proceed against the couple was lacking, their liberty was guaranteed. From the reputational viewpoint, however, much would depend on the wording of the Attorney-General’s report: a handsome and unequivocal release from their arguido status, together with an apology, would be the ideal while, at the other end of the spectrum, a grudging acceptance that there was merely  insufficient evidence to prosecute would be a disaster. The signals coming out of Portugal from early  2008 were that the report would be somewhere between the two.
Having been warned by the McCanns’ lawyers that libel actions were coming, and still in disarray after discovering the evidence they’d been promised by their PJ sources didn’t exist, the media groups were showing understandable signs of searching for the exit doors. A pre-emptive “shock and awe” response by the Team to the report’s findings could ensure they found them, and very rapidly indeed – by forcibly convincing owners and editors that they had no chance in the courts, then or in the future, and no choice but to leave the parents in peace.
This would amount to the evolution of the “twin-track” criminal defence strategy fronted, but not designed, by Edward Smethurst, for use after the end of the case against them. In Smethurst’s famous if inelegant words on Panorama in November 2007:

“Part of the reason why we're here disclosing evidence to you today…is a recognition that there were two strands to this case, part of it is the criminal case, but part of it is the media speculation and the media perception, and we see it as incumbent upon us to portray the truth to the media and in particular to try and expunge any ill-founded theories about Gerry and Kate's involvement...” 

In other words, if the criminal case ended with the defeat of the Portuguese prosecutors, as now seemed likely, the “expunging” of “any ill-founded theories about Gerry and Kate's involvement” could be extended into the distant future with the tools available – a now pliant media and the civil law – and targeted at the complete recovery of the pair’s reputation rather than just getting them out of trouble. Reputation by amnesia.
This exceptionally ambitious scheme, which developed, rather than being created from a blueprint, depended on a belief in the couple’s innocence by those financing and leading it: the reason for that is obvious - in the absence of innocence the entire scheme of Reputation Repair could be torpedoed at any time by the emergence of damning evidence which might wreck the reputations of the saviours themselves. Personally I find no reason to doubt the sincerity of their beliefs between 2007 and the eventual high point of “the project” in 2010/11, when Kate McCann’s still-available acknowledgements section in Madeleine – a vital part of the rehabilitation plan – ran to some 850 words. But most of those names are quieter now.
Despite all the good wishes, finance and expertise two further intractable obstacles apart from the Attorney-General's report lay ahead of the project for erasing doubts  so the couple  could lead a “normal” life one day. One, in the shape of the fearsomely unpredictable Goncalo Amaral, lay in the future; the other concerned September 6 2007.
The former we shall deal with elsewhere. The latter, less well-known except to readers of the Bureau, its implications still not widely understood outside the family circle, has always posed a single lethal question: how do you permanently “expunge ill-founded theories of involvement” about a couple who are known to have discussed, in depth and detail, admitting to the authorities that the child was dead and one of them had disposed of the body – and asking their lawyer for his opinion on the merits of doing so? 

Memories Are Made Of This

 

On the miserable flight back to the UK ahead of their first meeting with   lawyers Caplan and McBride that afternoon (!)  the chances of ever escaping their troubles, let alone recovering their reputations, must have seemed almost zero. But the McCanns are special people, with a talent for repeatedly getting out of tight corners that amounts to something approaching genius, at least in the shorter term. No sketch of these events in the McCann Affair makes any sense without briefly considering the personalities of the couple, in particular their acute impenetrability to outsiders, their closed self-sufficiency  and the iron bonds that join them.
As I wrote in the Cracked Mirror seven years ago, “nobody knows the McCanns” and it remains as true now as it was then.  Everyone who encounters them seems to see a different couple, often, though not exclusively, with similar attributes to themselves. Some, those  who have watched them disappearing into the distance, real or metaphorical,   from Mathew Oldfield to Goncalo Amaral to the News of the World editor Colin Mylor, must  have been left wondering – what did I miss?  But most remain favourably disposed to the pair or at least stay silent, still convinced that they have seen the Real McCann.
The origins of their extreme self-sufficiency are unknown. Perhaps it was their separate early struggles in two of the most poor and violent cities in the UK – cities where at that time your religion could determine which streets were safe to use on the way to  school and where the future was something to be fought, not embraced – that brought them so close together, but in the end we are left guessing. My own feeling is that there is  another key element to their relationship, perhaps  deriving from their eventually successful struggle with infertility, a conviction, steadily growing since 2007, that while each is alone and vulnerable separately, there is almost nothing they cannot accomplish together. 
The media began hunting for “what the McCanns are really like” stories within weeks of the disappearance and ten years on they still haven’t got any.  Recollections of the pair by non-family members then were sparse, banal and numbingly uninformative; those who liked them seemed to be describing minor television personalities rather than real acquaintances: about Kate McCann oh she’s lovely was a common response from those supposed to be her friends but they seemed quite unable to point to the simple, easily recognized, qualities which make someone a friend. Nobody from their past seemed to have any really strong feelings about them, pro or con, but then, whether in New Zealand, the Netherlands or elsewhere, they always seem to have been just out of view, on the other side of the street, often leaving no memories whatever.
This impenetrability-beyond-appearances, the latter themselves mask-like and mutable, is like an unspoken background theme  in the testimonies of their Lisbon witnesses, Loach, Trickey and Pike, for example, as well as in the famous newspaper portrait of the couple by Alex Woolfall in 2007.
All four believed themselves to be exceptionally sharp observers of the human personality:  Pike and Trickey as trained professionals in its disorders, Woolfall as a practised and cynical survivor of the PR snake-pit, Loach, well, because she’s Emma Loach. Yet their supposedly objective witness evidence is packed with wilful discipleship and gullibility well beyond any possible professional brief, an unquestioning, almost submissive, loyalty that was clinically exposed under legal examination and ultimately demonstrated as being in conflict with the facts in the judgement. How could professionals, or in Loach’s case, “professionals”, have allowed themselves to wander so far from their areas of expertise and so far from the facts?
Each of them seems to have encountered a different mask: Pike, the self-described “trauma counsellor”, saw them as, yes, terribly traumatised and in dire need of counselling by people, preferably people  like him; Trickey, the child psychologist, and the most objective of this quartet – which really isn’t saying much –  encountered a dutiful, self-possessed couple concerned above all for their children, not themselves, and conscientiously seeking the best advice from specialists, preferably specialists  like him. Loach, for what it’s worth, was simply besotted by Kate McCann. Readers will not be surprised that she was the trusted literary coach behind the execrable prose of Madeleine.
Listening to these well-meaning – except when it came to describing opponents of the couple – witnesses it was sometimes as though we were not in a court at all but in the audience watching the deluded victims of the con-artists in American Hustle – but the feel-good warmth and humanity of that fine film were quite absent: the screen that we were watching, despite the all-too-frequent mantra of suffering and compassion, portrayed an unremittingly stark, ice-cold world of people being ruthlessly used by those in need of them.
Woolfall, who was meant to be keeping an acute eye on the pair for Mark Warner, seems to have lost control of his senses when observing them, describing a series of masks – not his description, naturally – that nobody else has ever encountered.  “Their early [week-long] assumption,” he insists bizarrely, “was that she had wandered off and had an accident or been taken in by a well-meaning stranger.”
Speaking of a later period and criticism of the pair’s TV appearances (by mere viewers, not experts like him) as rigid, controlled  and “not quite right”, Woolfall was dismissive.  “They were not at all controlled,” he says, of the most controlled pair in the history of UK television interviewing, “When I was with them, [my italics] they were between being completely distraught and trying to do what they felt was the right thing." Ah, that conscientiousness again.
Just as when he was with them they never mentioned the possibility of an abduction – the abduction that one of the Kate McCann masks had been literally screaming to everyone else about since 10.10PM on May 3.  
 
So much for the presentation. And behind the masks? Perhaps one day we will get a better idea. There are hints, at least, of the  dark, secret and hidden depths of their relationship in their performances under examination: in their first police interviews Gerry McCann somehow found a way of being present during the formal questioning of his wife – and not just present but sitting closely behind her, in firm physical contact; in  television interviews  they can be seen bound together as one, literally grasping, clutching  and hanging on to each other throughout, as if they might drown separately. That isn’t, needless to say, wicked Gerry McCann cueing his wife with secret nudges: it’s something much, much deeper than that.
 
 

The Pivot

September 6 2007 is increasingly the “pivot”, as it were, of the entire McCann Affair to this day and Kate and Gerry McCann know better than anyone else how crucial it is. Three years later, when the subject was no longer too hot to touch, they tried to get themselves out of trouble in Madeleine by tackling the issue head on and, for once, apparently levelling with Kate’s readers, warts, tears, despair and all.

 
They failed. They will always fail because it’s on the record elsewhere, they know it’s on the record, they can’t unsay what was said in front of witnesses and they know that others involved, police and lawyers, have kept their own silence all too well – a silence that bodes ill. In attempting to single-handedly re-write history to evade these realities Kate McCann only entangled  herself more deeply. 
The precise issue is this: the Kate McCann answer to our question above – why would any truly innocent couple have discussed a plan formally admitting that their child was indeed dead, after claiming for months that she’d been abducted? – is that they were forced  towards making such a desperate  admission not because it was true but because the only alternative was a life sentence for murder in a foreign, worse, Portuguese, hellhole of a prison. And the life-sentence would be doubly wicked in its effects  – not to her, for she could bear it, proud, innocent wounded creature that she was, devoid of any self-pity –  but with her slowly rotting behind bars who would search for Madeleine? Tell me, sweet God, who?  
The police claimed to possess, she writes, and had told her lawyer they possessed, “overwhelming” evidence that would bring about that fate unless she did a “deal”, in which case she would get a minor sentence.  Faced with such a terrifying and inhuman threat, already in shock at even being suspected, surely  any innocent person might at least consider briefly  the lesser of two vile alternatives before rising to the occasion and proudly rejecting any deal, come what may.
The resemblance to third-rate hack literature and a thousand Hollywood B-weepies of Kate McCann's  overblown tale of tragedy and heroism is no coincidence – because it too is bad fiction, poorly executed: it is a demonstrable invention from beginning to end.   
The Indisputable Facts
The evidence that it is all, without exception, lies is openly available and much more "overwhelming" than anything the police might have possessed, as any reader can easily establish for themselves.
Let’s take the details one by one. First, the foundation of all the claims, the offered "deal”. There never was an offered deal. Not only is there no documentary or witnessed evidence of one, not even Kate McCann claims any actual knowledge of one, partly perhaps for the same reason that she has always kept very quiet indeed about her own direct experiences with the police that day. Her claim that a deal was offered, is based, she says, on nothing but hearsay: what her lawyer, Abreu, told her suggested that such must be the plan.
But there has never been any confirmation, independent or otherwise, that Abreu did this. The police have denied the existence of a deal repeatedly and vehemently, the prosecutors have dismissed it as not only untrue but impossible under the Portuguese legal system and guaranteed to cause the failure of any prosecution; no-one else has ever heard of it before or since and, finally Abreu himself,  who supposedly started it all, has said in his only recorded comment on the matter that no such deal was ever offered and that Kate McCann’s suggestion of one was “based on a misunderstanding”. A misunderstanding! Lawyers have a way with words, haven’t they?
But it gets worse. Not only did the deal not exist but the terms of the deal that Kate McCann invents are hopelessly confused, contradictory and, in the strict sense of the words, make no sense. The “overwhelming” evidence that would supposedly guarantee a murder charge and the hellhole unless she did a “deal” for a lesser sentence had already been spelled out to her by Abreu. What did it amount to?
The video of the sniffing dogs, a crumpled page from  a Bible referring to a missing child, her request for a priest on the night of the disappearance and a claim that they had been carrying a “big black bag” on the same night. But that was not at all a shock and certainly not "overwhelming". At the very worst, if the dog stuff was confirmed,  it was putative evidence that, as Amaral maintains to this day, the child had somehow died in the apartment and the parents had concealed the fact, not that anyone had harmed anyone, let alone intentionally.  None of that was new to the McCanns  since their August PJ interviews had made essentially the same accusations. If Abreu really said, “If you were Portuguese, this would be enough to put you in prison,” then he should have been despatched back to law school that night, not retained for years to come, for none of it amounted to a row of beans.
So the “deal” as described by Kate McCann was “in exchange for you admitting the death of the child you’ll only get two years, and if you don’t agree to the deal then with the evidence we’ve got you will also get about two years!" – which is palpable nonsense.  

Ask The Dogs

No, the elaborate web of lies that Kate McCann, after three years preparation and brooding, has spun has simply enmeshed her in a  highly coloured but incoherent mass of contradictions, much more damaging than the original  “green light” to claim a deal that she gave the benighted McGuinness and her terrified family to spin the next morning.
There is, after all that, a much simpler and much more truthful explanation of the night of September 6. It  is that, given their interviews and given that their lawyer believed there was some sort of evidence  against them, enough at least to constitute them as arguidos,  they had to explore, like all criminal suspects, the least painful way to get out of the jam they were in, particularly given the presence of the dogs.  And that is what they did, that is what they were discussing with their lawyer. But admitting that is to admit that they knew the child was dead, something that Kate McCann can never do.
Next time we conclude with the impact of the Archiving Summary, then and now, and the actions of Goncalo Amaral. Together with the issues of September 6 they guarantee that the McCanns, despite all the efforts and all the money, can never, ever, sleep easy.
 

Friday, 21 April 2017

Part Four - The Great Exception

AJS writes: When Team McCann acted on behalf of Madeleine McCann in 2007, using funds provided explicitly for that purpose, it was an unmitigated  failure. A failure to such an extent that when the McCanns suddenly found pressing reasons to go home in September, thus leaving the “search” and “campaign” headless and in suspension, nobody noticed! Since not even one lead had ever been started, let alone pursued, there was, in fact, nothing to suspend. There never had been. 
Exactly the same applied to the post-2008 “Search”, except that the farce level now escalated to stratospheric levels of buffoonery with private “investigators” busy releasing pictures and descriptions of people who had literally never – never – existed and libelling paedophiles too near death’s door to defend themselves (the tabloids  and the McCann supporters loved that one). Meanwhile a host of crooks and hustlers descended on Madeleine McCann’s infinitely sad and inadequately protected  legacy and cleaned it out of several hundred thousand quid.
Straight out of Central Casting? 
Nobody cared; nobody was prosecuted, nobody was pursued: not only could the Fund and its “guardians” not find an abductor, they couldn’t even find the people who’d robbed their fund  blind. More important things to do, you know.
Or the kids'sticker book?
Meanwhile the McCanns were embarked on the Great Dom Pedro Hotel Search Expedition: money originally donated by the public for the child was again being used to pay luxury hotel bills for the parents – just writing this makes me want to vomit – as long as they could claim to the famously "independent" Fund directors that their luxury stays were part of “searching for Mudlin”, as when Gerry searched for Mudlin in Lisbon in early 2009, funnily enough without finding her there.  Until the whole farce came more or less to an end, dribbling away, like dirty, greasy  water in the gutter, around 2013, when the Grange investigation started to give the couple something new to fret about. 

This One's For Real

But in between these completely shameless, disgusting,  episodes  that few of us have yet  confronted because of their scarcely believable nature, we have the period September 2007 – Summer 2008. That was when, for the first and only time, the supposed interests of the child were ruthlessly set aside and the assembled might of the Team – that circle of City professionals surrounding the couple and the pile of readies – acted for a single purpose, one that, you might say, the funds and facilities could almost have been designed for: saving the arses of Kate and Gerry McCann.
 
As the pictures of the shrunken couple at this time show, they had temporarily lost the aura of breezy invincibility and “we spoke to Gordon Brown last week” confidence that had carried them along above the clouds to Washington, Madrid and the other Dom Pedro type venues, there to chit-chat as equals with government ministers about the Grave Problems  of Child Abduction. That fantasy voyage, so reminiscent of Preston Sturges's 1930s immortal black comedies about liars entrapped by their own dreams,  lasted until the PJ coldly reminded them of reality by turning up and seizing their car, clothes and possessions.  Now a chastened Gerry McCann allowed others to direct this latest  project and did what the professionals told him to do. 
The Team, under the overall direction of Ed Smethurst and Brian Kennedy, rapidly designed a twin-track  plan in which a powerful legal group under Michael Caplan  concentrated on the strengths and weaknesses of the Portuguese case while a reputational strategy under the direction of Smethhurst himself and media lawyer Angus McBride was put in place to  reinforce the McCanns’ greatest long-term weapon –  apart from their total and complete innocence, of course –  public support. If Track One failed to expose the weaknesses in the PJ case and kill it off  then Track Two would concentrate on enhancing public support.

Expunge it!

You get what you pay for: the lawyers’ bills, according to Gerry McCann/Vanity Fair,  were paid  by Kennedy, Branson and Stephen Winyard, and they were sizeable indeed. While   Caplan probed the official Portuguese position and evidence through conventional legal channels, McBride used the gopher Mitchell, one of the few people that Gerry McCann almost trusted, to engage the PJ  in a long-range propaganda war.
The Portuguese, in disarray following the loss of Amaral, never knew what hit them. Mitchell’s feline lies, pre-emptively exploiting the weaknesses in the latest PJ theories at every turn, shocked them with their shameless and populist   boldness (Gerry McCann’s “retrieved memories” appropriately derived from a May 3 act of urination) as well as with Mitchell’s apparent inside knowledge – courtesy of Caplan’s discoveries during his negotiations.
The Dignity of the Law - the Portuguese Supreme Court
Criminal cases, in the conservative Portuguese culture, were meant to be conducted with the gravity and respect accorded to Roman/Napoleonic law. And to them this was a case, if ever one existed, that deserved true respect –  the appalling disappearance and  possible death of a child. Yet the supposedly  oh-so-stuffy British, using the tabloids and television to lethal effect,  appeared to be treating it like a national  attempt to win the Eurovision song contest by smearing the judges, whipping up racist aggression among the audience   and letting off shit-smelling stink-bombs at the back of the studio.

A British Approach to the Law's Majesty

At least in Portugal the McCanns had intrigued against the PJ and prosecutors silently  through third party journalists, thus preserving a semblance of legal dignity: now that the pair was beyond reach their agents seemed to be openly and contemptuously mocking them through Mitchell and the tabloids. Arguidos just don’t behave that way, just as, on the Algarve, people don’t display their burnt-raw paunches or their flabby, oversized tits in the way that the British inferior  classes, beer-cans in hand,  do –  hence the apoplectic, almost strangled, outrage from people such as  Carlos (“Mitchell  lies with all the teeth in his mouth”) Anjos of the police federation.
That's the price you pay for looking at fictional national characteristics rather than modern realities. While the Portuguese are still, to this day, searching for the languid White's club intelligence agents and all-powerful perfidious Albion diplomats who subverted the case from the beginning - actions that fit in with their own world view and which, in a weird kind of way, they find comprehensible - they've somehow missed the fact that a dynamic, ruthless  and essentially classless collection of professionals from the most powerful city in the world blew them out of the water - legally and  openly.  Because they didn't have a case.

Nothing Personal

The public needling of the PJ in the British media was all quite deliberate, of course – Reputation Management on this scale often involves Reputation Destruction and, one by one, key figures like Anjos, Amaral and  Ribeiro, were targeted and put through the media mincer with  brutal, single-minded professionalism, while other Portuguese  thought to be keen on treating the McCanns like unpleasant and unwanted viruses  just get rid  of them! – like Paolo Rebelo, were treated with flattering respect and restraint. It was nothing personal and the McCanns themselves were not directing this effort: it was just a job to be done by clever professionals for enormous rewards. Welcome to the way the modern  City of London works, Mr Anjos.
As we now know the Portuguese prosecutors were in fact in a hopeless position.  In many ways Goncalo Amaral was like the detective in yet other Hollywood movies, those in which freaked-out superiors thrust their heads into their hands and mutter, all right I’ll give you another three days to crack this but then that’s it.  In the movies they keep getting another three days until the credits roll and the tears of gratitude flow but, as so often, real life was different: the killer pieces of evidence never turned up, Ribeiro, who’d loyally granted the extra days, went down with Amaral instead of ending up a national hero, the couple  were allowed to walk and without the missing pieces they could never be forced back. You win some, you lose some. The Portuguese  had done their best to serve the child's interests and had acted decently and with characteristic Portuguese mercy in letting the couple leave; but the evidence to  get them back again just wasn't there.  
 
It was the interviewer Sandra Felgueiras who best expressed the sense of baffled shock at the revealed weakness of the Portuguese position, weakness that even today people there and in the UK are in denial about. The only way the McCanns could be brought back – they were never going to return voluntarily – was via European extradition proceedings and these depended absolutely on the presentation of clear prima facie evidence of potential wrong-doing before removal could be granted.
That is the “no fishing expeditions” rule: you cannot extradite suspects in order to get them to talk, or to carry out a reconstruction or to examine the contradictions in their evidence. But that was exactly what the Portuguese needed to do  because the evidence hadn't been found.
Sinister Superbrain and Dancer - Home Secretary J. Smith with Male Chorus
In its absence  the case  remained purely circumstantial. No guiding hand from above was needed to protect the McCanns: they had democratic law completely on their side. It didn’t matter whether the offensively ungifted  Home Secretary Jacqui Smith or the brooding Big Brother fan, Gordon "incapability" Brown wanted to protect the McCanns or not – the judges would decide the law, not they, and if the judges decided it wrongly then the well-resourced Team would appeal until it was applied correctly.
The City was doing what it always does: ensuring that those who could afford the fees gained the full protection of the law, national or international, criminal or civil. And the public, including Winyard, Kennedy and Branson, whose motives are not known to be any different from those of the pensioners and their cash envelopes, had given them the money to pay the fees, just as the public has given them the money to pay the McCann-Amaral legal costs. Strange, isn't it, that no donor has ever sued for the return of their gift on the grounds that the Fund retrospectively broadened the number of beneficiaries without consent or consultation? But then people who've been suckered are notoriously reluctant to admit it publicly.
In the concluding part: the final  long-term rehabilitation plan for the McCanns following their “exoneration” – and the fate that has befallen it.
 

 

 

 

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Part Three - What a Coincidence!


The Name of the Game

Reputation Management, broadly, is the defence of a business against  intangible threat rather than   material hazards such as accidents, internal fraud, acts of violence and so on. Reputational  threats can be derivatives or second derivatives of such disasters - such as investors’  fears that a company’s reserves might not survive a similar blow in the future, or they can be independent of any material origins, as rumours, founded or unfounded, often are.In all cases the company is forced to deal with degrees of belief and confidence – psychological, not physical matters, demanding specialist skills.
Note that, unlike Crisis Management, which reacts to events, Reputation Management is pre-emptive and activist at all times, penetrating national media on a continuing  basis to influence public and political perceptions of the client. It stinks but it's necessary. It is rarely used  by individuals, however rich. 
The subject is too vast to deal with in detail here and interested readers should look up its origins and development on the net, preferably going further than Wikipedia. What matters to us is that the RM industry exists by systematically  exploiting  the mass media  Gerry McCann had been using, amateurishly but effectively, for his own purposes since May 4. And now here was nice Mr Woolfall to provide him with a crash course on its inner workings for a whole fortnight. Of one thing we can be quite sure – Dr McCann got a great deal more out of  Woolfall than the latter got out of him.

So Very Helpful

It was obviously from Woolfall that  Gerry McCann learned about the absolute necessity for  supposed "spokespeople" to make Reputation Management work.  Without one, or a dozen, such people, RM simply  cannot exist: there has to be a human mechanism that anonymises the source of  "information" - “spin” - being put forward, that distances the client from the propaganda and disguises its real motivation. The mechanism is the  “cut-out valve” spokesperson, whose words can ultimately be disowned  by the client and who can be blamed and paid off if exposed.
The "McCann narrative" often speaks of McCann spokespeople as “taking the load of dealing with the media from the parents’ shoulders”. If you believe that, you'll believe anything. 
Instead, with the exception of Sheree Dodds, the spokespeople were reputation managers – for the McCanns.  Both Mitchell and McGuinness stepped far over the line separating speaking for the couple from identifying with their interests; both got too close to the PJ investigation. McGuinness, so lightweight a personality that she probably needed to avoid strong winds, remains  notorious for her coquettish meddling with the September police interviews. Less publicly noted has been Mitchell’s contributions on like lines – in his first meetings with the McCanns he pushed for the release by the PJ of pictures of the non-existent “bundleman”, for example. That really helped Madeleine, didn't it?
 
Summarily removed from spokesman's role after only three weeks
That was one of the reasons, along with the Papal visit and similar stunts, why he  – the supposed “powerful cover up agent from  the government” – was warned by the Civil Service and then, after only three weeks in the job,  summarily ordered back to London  and never permitted to work with the McCanns again. Only three weeks - it seems he was there much longer, doesn’t it? Yes, because Mitchell, as always, inflated both his contribution, his significance, his value and his role.

So What Were They Doing

According to the McCanns the “fight” and “search” for Madeleine, in which their PR experts joined, was the absolute priority. If that was the case it was a grotesque failure. But is it a credible description of what they were actually doing?
 
Forgotten featherweight
 
The first problem in deciding that question  is the nature of our sources. Gerry McCann provenly   and deliberately misled the British public in his blogs about the police investigation; Kate McCann is a self-confessed liar about it; Clarence Mitchell and Woolfall are hopelessly compromised as people who lie (“spin”) to order and for a living. Going on that record we’re not going to get transparency, are we?
Still, the narrative runs like this: we were overwhelmed by the media, offers of help and advice; we did our best to do what the experts advised us* to and we made up for deficiencies in the PJ investigation with our own innocent attempts to campaign and search for the child.  Then, months later, we found, to our amazement and horror that the PJ might have come to suspect us, the parents of the victim! We were treated like common criminals and made arguidos.  By early September it was obvious that we could do no more for Madeleine in Portugal and we returned to Britain.
Now Kate McCann may be many things but she is not an idiot. Can she possibly  be telling the truth with these claims of total ignorance about the PJ's suspicions until the 8 August?
We have the words of her own book to contradict her.** There is quite another interpretation of those three months - that the aim was always to bypass, find out the details of, attack or attempt to influence the Portuguese police investigation, while protecting their reputation in the UK. And the Fund, the “Campaign”, the “Search”, the financial backing from multi-millionaires, the Control Risk initiative, the employment of a campaign manager and RM person – all these original pillars of the save-the-missing-tot edifice just happened to fit exactly into that  plan. What a coincidence!   

From Small Seeds...

That structure of support for the parents was, by the time of their departure for the UK, ready to be put into practice at an international level: the two celebrated criminal lawyers from Kingsley Napley that Rachael Oldfield had “found” would be meeting them almost as soon as they got off the plane – perhaps to discuss the question of who would be paying their £600+ per hour fees, for it certainly wouldn’t be the McCanns. The power, professionalism and resources first put in place in the name of Madeleine McCann in early May  were now driving a Team McCann capable of  defeating the Portuguese authorities and preparing the way for an eventual grand rehabilitation, as well as the ambush on the investigating detective - to save the parents, not the child. We will deal with the result in the next article.
One of the most famous documents in the whole McCann Affair dealt in its own sweet way with  the return of the couple - the Hanover Communications press release, of which that company were once so proud:
"We helped the McCann family [the parents]deal with the media storm which surrounded them on their return from Portugal in September 2007. From scratch, we created a comprehensive media handling package within six hours which enabled us to handle 850 media calls in the first week. By giving journalists positive stories to report, coverage turned from hostility to the McCanns to sympathy about their ordeal. This campaign won the crisis communication category at the 2008 CIPR awards."

The transformation was complete: that was what the "Campaign for a Missing Child" had become. 
Anyway, here's the  City balance sheet for the period May 3 - September 10.  
____________________________________________________________________________________
1) The IFLG and McCann established “Fighting Fund” founded in early May, no doubt with the best intentions.  
What did it achieve in this period for the child?
Nothing. Nothing at all. The money and effort, the consciousness-raising and campaigning   produced zilch. No trace of the child or her remains was ever found.
What did it achieve in this period for the parents?
Resources from the fund were used for the benefit of the parents, in travel expenses, for example, and to finance the parents’ reputation management by paying for a full-time employee to act, campaign and, in September, text illicitly from Portimao PJ police headquarters.
The claim by the McCanns that they were “searching” – something they couldn’t have done from their own resources – using fund money provided them with all-embracing cover for anything they wished to do and continues to do so: stay in five star hotels? Yes. Fly around in private jets? Yes. Sue those "damaging the search?" Yes. And so on.
____________________________________________________________________________________
2) The legal incorporation of the Find Madeleine Fund  by Messrs BWB.
What did this structuring achieve  for the child?
Nothing, nothing at all.
What did it achieve for the parents?
It made it easier for payments to be made by the public and therefore increased the pool of money available.It enabled the fund to be structured in a way that would and did benefit the McCanns financially -  and not just for mortgage payments.
_____________________________________________________________________________________
3) The arrival and employment of Control Risks, the security specialists.
What did their arrival achieve for the child?
Nothing, nothing at all. There was nobody for them to track, no kidnapper to negotiate with, no traces to follow. They could have stayed in the UK.
What did they achieve for the parents?
Within days the company was being used by the parents to take down and go through their police statements, for reasons not yet satisfactorily explained. These were, of course, strictly confidential to the PJ investigation. It is no use saying that the McCanns did not provide written copies of their statements to the police. They did it from recollection which is a clear breach of confidentiality.
A donor, who had offered to pay for Control Risks to help locate the child, ended up paying for these so far unexplained  activities concerning the PJ investigation. Given the secrecy which, when it suits them, the McCanns so delight in, we do not know what else they did for the parents while they were in Portugal.
___________________________________________________________________________________
4) The establishment of, and training in, media handling methods and structures, enabled initially by Alex Woolfall.  
What did these media efforts achieve for the child?
Nothing, nothing at all. The media campaign, the “search” campaign, produced no results of any kind, ever.  By interfering in the investigation – see Clarence Mitchell and KM pushing the PJ over the non-existent “bundleman” sighting, see Justine McGuinness giving fictional and anti-police accounts of the arguido interviews – these two PR operators helped affect the outcome of the investigation and overshadowed it. 
What did they achieve for the parents?
Enormous benefits. The McCanns were, for example,  given carte blanche to ration information under the excuse of using a spokesperson to “handle the media load” - see what we described as the "cut-out mechanism" above. During the period when the McCanns claimed not to know that they were suspected by the PJ the media management techniques were used on the broadest scale to feed information to selected journalists in their favour, to smother criticism, to deny facts and to deceive the British public – see the admitted KM lying.
 

___________________________________________________________________________________
 
Notes for those interested:  *Doing what they were told?
The claim that the important decisions were usually taken by others and the pair went along with them is not perhaps the wisest line to adopt.
“IFLG “told us” to set up a [the] Fund”; “Alex Woolfall  told us we would have to engage with the media”; “Woolfall told us we would need to engage a spokesperson.”; “…whatever the case, it was suggested to Gerry that we should use Madeleine’s Fund to employ someone to replace Clarence”.
“Hugh  had been brought in by a firm called Control Risks, which was primed to help…”; “By the Sunday evening, we found ourselves [my italics]giving our statements again, this time to a couple of detectives from Control Risks.”
Many other examples of this affected passivity can be found throughout the book, sometimes blurring the lines of responsibility, as in the examples above, at others acting as pre-emptive alibis for actions which the public might question ( “Responsible parenting”, accepting private jet offers, being told to look emotionally blank on TV and all the rest.)
None of these are particularly reprehensible, yet taken together, as any reader of the blog or Madeleine can easily ascertain, they add up to show an intense, obsessional and uninterrupted  awareness of public perception and reputation management –  “Sir Philip Green kindly offered us the use of his private jet. But what would people say?” –  a highly dubious faux naiveté, and, most important, their profound unreliability as witnesses of their own actions. 
** We never dreamed...
Madeleine was generously seeded with Kate McCann’s obliviousness – to the point of idiocy – of the threat from the PJ, just  in case any reader might not be aware that she was reely, reely, shocked to find that they were under suspicion. Examples:
“If 18 July was the date I now identify as a turning point, the following Monday, 23 July, was the day when the warning sirens should have started to sound”[meaning they still hadn’t]; “With hindsight it is clear to me something was going on in Portimão I would never at that time have anticipated”; “Apart from finding little things like this slightly puzzling or exasperating, I hadn’t sensed any profound change in the behaviour of the PJ, or in the direction their investigation was taking”;  “Our attention was focused on the search, and on campaign plans... By 2 August, however, those sirens were wailing so loudly I cannot understand how I missed them. And yet I did. [my italics]
Leaving aside any speculation and the fact that we know that the PJ suspected them early on, we have, first of all, KM’s statement that after thirteen hours (!) questioning at PJ headquarters as early as  May 10 Gerry McCann  had heard Oldfield “shouting and crying” under accusations of complicity in the disappearance.
 
Kate McCann never mentions this again. Are readers supposed to believe that neither she nor Gerry wanted to find out more and never asked Oldfield about it? Not even to ask Oldfield why he was being accused? Not even to say to each other, Jesus Christ, you don’t think it could be Matt, do you? Matt?
We’re expected to believe that when Gerry told her about this nightmare scene KM droned, “that’s interesting dear, now do you want chips or beans?”
Three weeks or so later the German lady at a media conference mentioned gossip that the McCanns were involved. Gerry answered: "I have never heard before that anyone considers us suspects in this. And the Portuguese police certainly don’t."
KM adds “…we were so totally dumbfounded when the tide turned against us two months later. We knew we were innocent, and we believed the PJ knew that too”
She writes “On the evening of 17 June, the Portuguese police were quoted on Sky News as having stated that the crime scene at apartment 5A had been contaminated by us and our friends, and that as a consequence vital evidence had been lost. I was livid.”
So livid that she contacted everyone she could think of with any influence to interfere in the investigation and get the PJ to withdraw and apologise. But not so livid that she thought  that she and the group were under suspicion.
“On Saturday 30 June,” KM writes, “a piece entitled ‘Pact of Silence’, written by journalists Felícia Cabrita and Margarida Davim, appeared in a Portuguese newspaper.” But the penny supposedly still didn’t drop.
“It was on Monday 6 August that the atmosphere changed.” That was after the car had been impounded. She writes, “Again we assumed, at least initially, that this was a procedural measure recommended to the PJ by the British experts.[!] ”
 

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Part Two - Following the Money


JB writes: It wasn’t long before expert assistance to the McCanns began to arrive, especially, it might be said, once it became common knowledge that money was being hurled at the parents on a giddying scale. 
Kate McCann, in Madeleine,  describes meetings with the IFLG – lawyers specializing in international custody battle cases who, she says, “told us that we needed to set up a ‘fighting fund’, whose objectives they would devise” and  a “security consultant” who brought the interesting news that “an anonymous…donor had set aside a considerable sum of money for us to put towards the cost of hiring a private-investigation company if we wished.” Finally, the London charity accounts specialists, Bates, Wells and Braithwaite, would be instructed by the IFLG to draw up the relevant articles of association for the Fund.
 
Kate McCann is very careful indeed in her description of who exactly was offering to do what and for how much money, covering these essentially cold-blooded financial discussions in a warm blanket of mild emotionalism and Scouse  naiveté (note the “told us” phrase above), but three of the essential City roles were thus already being put in play: maximising income (the “fighting fund”), security and risk protection (Control Risks)  and capital structuring (good old BWB). All, of course, done for the benefit of Madeleine McCann.
 

Beyond Imagination

Every time I try and picture these discussions and negotiations, images refuse to come into focus, so weird and bizarre, so Breaking Bad  does this series of meetings seem. Was Kate McCann rushing out of the room to weep about her child, wipe her eyes and adjust her make-up every few minutes? Did everyone take regular five minute breaks while Gerry McCann stress-and-grief-vomited heavily in the loo? Did Gerry break off a detailed question and answer session about relative financial advantage with one of the assembled  experts by suddenly throwing himself onto the carpet, howling like a dog and shouting  “f*****g paedophiles” for five minutes? Did an IFLG expert kneel by his side, murmur “there, there” and attempt to fan him back into normal consciousness with a large folded spreadsheet?
How, how, could a couple sit there discussing and deciding  the labyrinthine ways wealth can be channelled and juggled a week after real life had demonstrated the truth that most of us have learnt through its shocks  – the absurd irrelevance and uselessness of money compared with the things that matter: love, loss, parenthood, family, suffering, helplessness, potential evil? How could they bear even to think about money at that time?
 
Kate McCann doesn’t tell us and I don’t know. So let’s take a deep breath and confine ourselves to noting, then,  the  arrival of  fee-charging professionals, the innocent beginning of a process that eventually led to the emergence of a McCann group not just independent of the national criminal investigating force (as KM points out the McCanns immediately began giving alternative versions of their police statements to Control Risks detectives) but eventually in outright opposition to it.
 
One other pointer to the future should be observed: the reference to  “an anonymous…donor” having set aside “a considerable sum of money”. It wasn’t just tearful pensioners, sticking a fiver in an envelope and sending it to Praia da Luz, who helped make the real  Team McCann a serious rival to the PJ in terms of resources. Most people were supportive of the McCanns and those that both believed in them and were wealthy enough to put up more than piggy-bank fivers made contributions that nowhere show in the Fund’s financial reports. The rich, it hardly needs saying, share the same virtues and vices as the poor, including, thank God, the inchoate desire to help in some way.
Raising consciousness the Big Phil way
 
Notwithstanding the arrival of the professionals, in these early weeks the team, such as it was, was dominated by the McCann family and their activities  – the indirect approach to Gordon Brown, the direct approach to the Foreign Office, the hidden intrigues – already! – against the PJ, coupled with public espousals of support for the same force from the unlikely but expansive figure of Philomina McCann, the marvellous creation of the website by precocious Scottish waifs no doubt  sipping Bovril in their ragged pyjamas while they slaved over their volunteer keyboards.

Grey Figure Enters Left


Woolfall, left, keeping a friendly eye on the stricken McCanns
Meanwhile the media continued to make the running and hold out the cheque books amid the chaos they had created, with a certain  Alex Woolfall, a PR man for the Bell Pottinger agency, coaching the parents on the right way to handle the “press pack”.
Woolfalls’ appearance and role is replete with irony, though not for reasons that Woolfall himself, who does neither irony, information (as against spin), personality (as against ego)  nor self-insight, would recognize. A middle-aged, successful but somewhat colourless media man, Woolfall was sent out to protect the  Mark Warner group against the huge potential threat that the McCann affair represented.
The interests of the parents and  Mark Warner were potentially in conflict, whereas many students of the case with a bent for the dark eccentric are convinced that Woolfall was despatched to protect the pair. Forgetting, as we can at this distance in time, the ritual verbal treacle  about tragedy, missing tot, hope, “we all want her back”  and so forth expressed by everybody involved, Woolfall’s job was to stay out in Praia da Luz to counter publicity that might damage future  business and profits and, secondly, to establish whether the McCanns might take them to the cleaners through the courts for negligence. He did his job well.
That is not quite the way that Gerry McCann and his media adviser describe their relationship but who’s surprised by that? One of them has the reputation for being not merely economical but positively miserly with the truth, as we know from that 2007 “Blog” which, thanks to the determined resistance of  the database keeper Pamalam, Gerry has been unable to retrieve and consign to legal quarantine; the other has spent a lifetime being paid to design, polish and present manipulated versions of the truth. No wonder the two got on so well.

The Final Piece of the Jigsaw

Both the McCanns have been effusive in their praise for Woolfall and his tuition in how to handle the media. In return Woolfall has expressed his profound belief in their innocence, based, as he notes, on a great deal of “close observation” of the couple’s behaviour in Praia da Luz. He can say that again – close observation was what he was sent out to do. Oh, and to help, of course.
Woolfall himself, despite his richly comic potential, is not an important figure in the case. The reason he’s mentioned is because  he was the first emissary to the McCanns of that now-vital corporate component,  Reputation Management.
Maximising income; security and risk protection; capital structuring. What’s missing from the McCanns’ nascent City package? Why, managing reputation, of course. The fourth limb of the whole deal. To which we’ll turn in the next part.
But the reader might have a question first, connected with that phrase “corporate component”. We’re talking here about a “team” of dedicated family, volunteers and  helpers looking for a missing child, aren't we? The stuff of weepy feature columns across the land, a narrative of simple people acting selflessly - lapped up and amplified by every gooey tabloid world-wide.  So how come that before our eyes this sweet little grouping is beginning, in mid-May 2007,  to equip itself with “corporate” weapons, i.e. those designed and sold primarily for the development and protection of multi-million finance and business organizations, not individuals. They’re just a couple of NHS doctors with a missing kid, for f***s sake. What’s going on?
Quite.  
Next: Reputation Management and the final establishment of the real Team.