Saturday, 15 September 2007

the strange case of the mccanns and the disappearance of the witness.

Many of us have followed the stories about the couple whose child was abducted in Portugal. If you have been on the planet in the past two weeks, you will also have noticed that the stories are now turning into fables of unprecedented betrayal.

I read an article by Viv Groskop (http://www.newstate the New Statesman recently about this strangely inevitable turn of events.

“It is possible to meet many people at the moment who claim to "know" the truth about what happened (whether sympathetic to the McCanns or not) - and to have "known" it from the beginning. They stick to their story irrespective of anything reported in the media, only choosing to believe reports that confirm what their initial instincts already told them. There is almost a sense that any real conclusion might be disappointing: they may still hope for the best or fear the worst, but really they just don't want to know that they guessed wrong”.

The article goes on to note that when people have a hunger for a story, they want to know the "truth" about what happened. And when the truth is not forthcoming - or is heavily delayed - they can't stand it and impose their own narrative, which once it is repeated often enough becomes the story in itself.

The McCann situation is an interesting example of our attachment to story, our attachment to the notion of ‘real’. It illustrates how, as a society, we impose frameworks of meaning making onto situations and stay attached to these stories about stories.

Here is a classic case of unfiction rapidly unfolding with no apparently clear designer or producer. Baudrillard would be weeping with joy at the material generated in this situation. Conspiracy theories abound. Stories are made up about stories as in the article cited above. Even the protagonist/villains are feeding off themselves… David McCann apparently has his own blog for goodness sake?!

And amongst all of this there is witness missing. Not the witness who really saw what happened to Madeleine. But the witness who talks about the mess around this mess. The UK print and online media have gone a little way toward reflexively examining their role in this situation. But this seems to be more than a wiff of snooty detachment in all of this. The ‘its not us..its them’ syndrome.

Where is the bigger Witness? The level of consciousness that asks how the media is feeding this frenzy? How is this part of the current bigger debate about the integrity of media? Television has been embroiled in discussions about ethics for months as a result of the Channel 4 and BBC debacle. But is this not part of the same bigger issue?

Relating this back to hybrid media. It is all very well to critisice traditional media forms…but what degree of reflexivity exists within hybrid storying? Is there a level of witness involved? Of personal awareness?

And where are issues of integrity and ethics discussed and debated? That is my one of my next threads of inquiry.

No comments: