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Wearing your yellow ribbon for missing toddler Madeleine McCann yet? Laurence Inman isn't. He deplores the whole manufactured outpouring of grief that surrounds her disappearance and argues that it's the sign of a sick society.

This week I’ve been forced to remember a couple of things from the distant which I would much sooner have forgotten.

The first was the way certain unscrupulous members of the press tried to contrive what they thought might be a good ‘angle’ on the Aberfan story in 1966. (As if the deaths of over 100 children needed dramatising.)

A couple of Daily Express photographers were found trying to arrange two bits of smashed wood into a rough cross at the disaster site. They made the mistake of asking a passing resident to help. Being a well-built miner, he helped them out of the village instead.

The second was after the disappearance of the two girls from Soham, but before their bodies were found, when the TV news showed some half-drunk lummox who’d come all the way from London ‘to show support.’

He’d dragged his wife and kids along too and they looked on uncomfortably while he snuffled ‘I just felt I had to be here,’ and tried to cry. He couldn’t, of course.

Two films have also come to mind: Ace In The Hole, directed by the great Billy Wilder, and Wag The Dog. Watch them, and then consider how reporters on the scene have treated perfectly innocent people, because they ‘looked strange,’ in their quest for increased sales.

Matthew Parris, the ex-Tory MP, has been criticised for saying that the spectacle of all sorts of public figures displaying yellow ribbons is ‘disgusting.’

But I am inclined to agree with him.

There is no way that any of this show of ‘grief’ can possibly make any difference to the outcome of the terrible case in Portugal. The only way you can do any good is if you are a material witness to something or if you are a member of the actual police investigating team.

Why should anyone feel it necessary to say this ? When did we, as a nation, start behaving like silly children ? When did we start tying bunches of flowers to lamp-posts, even when we didn’t know what for, like people joining a queue just because it’s there ?

When did fat grown men start blubbering at football matches ?

We should be holding these morons up to ridicule, not holding their hands and murmuring ‘There, there.’ They should be pinned down and told that they are not experiencing real emotions; they are pseudo-emotions, brought out for specially the occasion and because they have been told that others will approve, and which will be completely forgotten as soon as they’re alone again.

They should be reminded that ‘outpouring’ is a derogatory term, not something to be proud of for crying out loud.

You can’t switch the telly on these days without seeing someone’s face crumple up like a soggy hankie because they’re fat, or their nose is the ‘wrong’ shape, or they only won £20,000 on Deal Or No Deal instead of hanging on to win a little more. What are these idiots going to do when something really tragic happens ? Explode ?

Children disappear, or are attacked, or killed, with depressing regularity. Often they are not pretty, or blond-haired, or white. Their parents can be shabbily-dressed, inarticulate and feckless. They go missing without the whole nation pretending to be upset about them. Kids are horribly injured by careless prats driving 4X4’s with bull-bars. We shrug our shoulders and turn to the racing page.

Madeleine McCann may turn up safe and well. She may not. In either case, we and the papers will soon forget the whole business. I refuse to pretend that I will feel anything like her parents’ joy or pain at the outcome.

And I will continue to warn anyone who will listen that this kind of madness is, contrary to what we are being told, a very bad sign for the way our society is going. The most ruthless, violent and savage societies have nearly always also been the most sentimental and mawkish.

Has Laurence said what you've been thinking but hadn't dared to say? Or is he just a heartless bastard? Leave a comment on our Message Board



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