Raoul Moat and the state of the media and government

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The 2010 Northumbria Police manhunt was a major police operation in North East England in which armed police officers under the command of the Northumbria Police force attempted to apprehend Raoul Moat, a 37-year-old man from Newcastle upon Tyne who had recently been released from Durham Prison. Moat, armed with a sawn-off shotgun, was believed to have shot three people: his ex-girlfriend Samantha Stobbart, her new partner Chris Brown, and police officer David Rathband. Brown was killed, while Stobbart and Rathband remain hospitalised, seriously injured. After six days on the run, on 9 July Moat was recognised by police and contained in the open, leading to a standoff in Rothbury. After nearly six hours of negotiation, Moat shot himself in the early hours of 10 July.

Required background here.

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I have to admit that I didn’t pay much attention to the pursuit during the first few days. I read the random headline here and there, but it wasn’t anything that directly concerned me and the updates came fast and plenty that pretty much planned to just wait until the situation was resolved to read a recap. This changed last Friday when a vast majority of my Twitter stream suddenly contained references to Moat and bad media coverage.

Here are a couple of tweets, tumblr posts and links I posted that evening and the following days:

  • Now watching BBC news as I didn’t believe Twitter how bad the coverage of #Moat is. Bad, awful, atrocious don’t quite sum it up.. – @carocat
  • “Extraordinary evening with extraordinary, fast unfolding events” #BBCNews #moatwatch What events? Talking to someone on the phone?! – @carocat
  • “She could actually see what she believed to be Moat with what she thought to be police negotiators.” – cat on tumbler
  • “Gascoigne’s agent, Kenny Shepherd, said: “He’s doing what? I am sitting having an evening meal in Majorca. I’m speechless.” – cat on tumblr
  • Raoul Moat’s family: why did police reject our offers of help? – Guardian.co.uk

The coverage was atrocious. For hours the BBC news team stood in very close proximity to Moat filming the police, trying to zoom into Moat lying on the ground and, most bizarrely, phoned up completely random people that may or may not at some point have lived in Rothbury. In fact, @disgraceUK summed it up very well:

I have a friend of a friend whose uncle’s sister’s friend once drove through Rothbury. Shall I go get interviewed? #

I have written about sensationalist media reporting before; last March after a shooting in Germany. Media that is so hellbent on getting the best angle that they aren’t afraid to climb into trees or interviewing the daughter of a woman who is locked into a house near to Moat. Media that happily creates a liveblog for every day. Bad media is bad.

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Moving on the big topic today seems to be just who is at fault and how the general British public should act. A Facebook page was set up for people showing sympathy for Moat and it quickly reached 30k members though I assume a large number of that was due to the media coverage which included this:

David Cameron condemned public sympathy for Moat today and described the gunman as a “callous murderer”. The prime minister said he could not understand “any wave of public sympathy for this man”. Any sympathy should be directed towards Moat’s victims, he said.

Chris Heaton-Harris, Conservative MP for Daventry, suggested Cameron should contact Facebook to ask it to remove the RIP Raoul Moat page. Heaton-Harris said the page contained anti-police statements, which should be taken down. Cameron said he was making a “very good point”

Guardian.co.uk

This was also brought up in last night’s Question Time:

Second question – Is it acceptable for Facebook to have allowed a page worshipping Raoul Moat as a hero? #

From what I saw of it was most of the panelists agreeing that free speech is important yet also disagreeing harshly with the page’s existence with some saying it should be removed as it criticises the police and that it’s disgusting.

I completely disagree.

Raoul Moat asked for therapy whilst still in prison. He mentioned the media in several of his letters to the police. Yes, shooting and killing someone is a horrible crime, but the police and media were not helpful in the last hours of his life. He died because the police fired two tazer shots at him and he pulled the trigger of his gun probably due to reflex. Having sympathy for what he went through is not only ok, but should be given and there is no way the government should step in to remove something that doesn’t break any laws purely because they don’t like it.

I didn’t become a member of the group. Whilst I agree with its existence, I don’t think the members themselves went about it the right way. @Bluraven summed this up:

Wow. The comments feel like something you’d find on a Youtube video. LOL. #

The group was later removed by its creator.

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Freedom of speech should be paramount. The press needs to be investigated about their actions, as does the police. And, just like @mariepercival said in an unrelated post, “we have entered into some sort of political limbo land” and need to actively get engaged with our government.

2 Comments

  1. Posted July 17, 2010 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Great Blog. I do agree of course that the government should not step in.

  2. Posted July 20, 2010 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    Thanks!


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