Saturday, March 15, 2008

The 'People Like Us' Phenomenon

Last night on Sky News we briefly discussed why the media gave a much higher profile to the Madeleine McCann case than the Shannon Matthews disappearance. There are, I'm sure lots of factors, but one was the fact that for the media, the McCanns were very much "people like us", or should I say, people like them. The Matthews family were nothing like the media classes in appearance, lifestyle and outlook. I really think there is something in this. Let's take the analogy further.

My fellow panelist, Peter Whittle, asserted that the reason David Cameron was given more or less a free ride by the media in his first eighteen months was because he belonged to the "people like us" class. Was this part of the reason the media were so keen to promote him, and do down David Davis after his conference speech? Not consciously, but I do wonder if there was something subconcious about it.

Why was the coverage of the New Orleans floods slightly underdone by the US media? It might it have been different if it had happened in Manhatten, where "people like us" live?

Harriet Harman was given a comparatively easy ride by the media when she sent her kids to a selective school. Could it have been because many media people were facing the same dilemma?

I could go on, but you see my point. That's where the internet comes into its own. It's more difficult in the blogosphere to go along with 'people like us' stories, because the truth is that there are millions of people out there who will expose the phenomenon's hypocrisy.

There is one positive effect of the "people like us" phenomenon. In Dewsbury it brought a whole community together. The people on the estate where Shannon Matthews lived came together as one to try to help find her. It gave their community a spirit which it patently hadn't had before. Why did they come together like that? Because Shannon Matthews came from a "family like us".


ChrisC said...

A "family like us".

7 kids; 5 different dads.

hatfield girl said...

'People like us'.

Three infants abandoned in an unlocked ground floor apartment in a foreign country while their parents went out drinking and eating with parents who had similarly left their infant children.

Anonymous said...

What a choice: either some folk who are unsettlingly media-hugging, creepy in way that is difficult to vocalise; or as chrisc implies - not exactly an exemplar of monogamy.

Anonymous said...

Well said Chris C. You could add to that the community's first reaction to get pissed out of their minds. How in keeping with modern Britain!!!

Was Ian's conclusion supposed to be ironic?

Anonymous said...

Iain, that seems to me a powerful point of view.

Assuming there is something in the 'people like us' idea one wonders what would be defining factors in 'like us' . I would argue that beliefs and values are key elements.

In my opinion this is why multiculturalism is doomed to failure and why integration is essential.

If this concept is applied to the EU it makes federalism a nonsense. The beliefs and values of the peoples of, say, Southern Italy are miles apart from those of Northern Italy let alone Northern Ireland.

Bring back the Nation State say I.

Anonymous said...

I don't think so, Iain, although you're close (in my opinion). I think we don't expect dreadful events to happen to people who live well-organised, productive lives. The McCanns are doctors, responsible, settled, achieving (Jerry McCann's from a slum in Glasgow),leading orderly lives and donating to help others and contribute to their communities.

Shannon's mother, and Scarlett who-was-murdered-in-Goa's mother, live shambolic, disorderly, out of control lives which are driven by self-indulgence and no regard for the morrow; and they don't seem to have any sense of responsibility even to themselves, never mind others.

I think that's the key. Not that they're "people like us". David Cameron, after all, really is not like most of us. Nor is that freak Tony Blair.

Anonymous said...

Just watch the media turn on this family to highlight Britain today, it will end up putting that whole community in a bad light. The media will not concentrate on the fact that this whole community came together and tried so hard to find Shannon.
There is still a underlying sense of community in area's throughout the UK, they just needed a common purpose.
The media were slow to pick up on this missing girl and even quicker to drift away as the days went by without any news.
It compares badly with the coverage of the Madeline McCann disappearance, which turned into a battle of the press over here vs the Portuguese media.
The McCanns knew right from the start that they needed to get Maddy's disappearance as much coverage as possible, look at what happens in America now. The media failed Shannon in that first week, so their criticism of the police (who never gave up and gave this missing child first priority), as noted on a least one front page was hypocritical and journalism at its worst.
As for the David Davis vs David Cameron leadership contest, sorry Iain, but your man did not do enough right from the start of that campaign and he rather than the media can take much of the blame. Cameron had a message the Conservative party were ready to hear and the rest of the country simple reflected that.

Daily Referendum said...

It could also be that the McCann case looked dodgy from the start. That David Cameron gave a great speech at the conference and looked like a leader (and Brown has been proved a ditherer). Coverage of the New Orleans flood was swamped by the media, in fact it was the media saying "where are the government". Harriet Harman was not the first to send her kids to a selective school.

If the media smell dirt or weakness they go after it, I don't think class comes into it.

Anonymous said...

Some tried to attribute the difference in media coverage to the difference between the two families but I think it was perhaps more the difference in the two police forces.

I don't think many people have much faith in the Portuguese police who seem pretty incompetent. The British police might have their problems but I think most people know that they will do everything possible in the case of a missing child.

magpiejem said...

Amazing - Iain discovers an previously unnoticed phenomenon - maybe we could call it 'class'. We might even use this crazy new idea to analyse other elements of our society; who knows, it might help us understand even more than the prejudices of the media...

Scipio said...

Interesting hypothesis.

But the MCanns are wealthy, well connected and were able to work the media to the advantage of their efforts.

I suspect that the community of Dewsbury is a little less 'sophisticated', and have no idea how to work the media, let alone the funds the run an expensive campaign.

I don;t think theefore it is the media clubbing togther with their own class of people, but simply the individuals concerned knowing the right people and doing the right things.

JuliaM said...

"The people on the estate where Shannon Matthews lived came together as one to try to help find her."

Really..? This man (one of the numerous 'uncles' in this childs life) was a known loner, no-one had spoken to him since the disappearance, yet no-one pointed the police his way.

In one report, the neighbour heard 'child's footsteps' in the house when he was known to be out - yet never raised a concern until the police actually knocked on the door!

I suspect the answers to this case lie as much in the 'community' as anywhere else.

" the media turn on this family to highlight Britain today, it will end up putting that whole community in a bad light."

A worse light than we've already seen..?

Anonymous said...

Iain, you don't know all the facts yet about the Shannon case. It might not be as straight forward as it seems. By the way it's Manhattan.

Anonymous said...

magpiejem: s/he said it best. I have no idea if the media will turn on this family. Given the pleasure with which some commenters here have done so, I think they might as well not bother, given that the job has been done for them.

Note, the mother with three kids by one father did as bad a job as the mother with seven kids with five fathers. I imagine they were also as equally terrified, if that matters to anyone here.

There is a wider point I take from this. Those of us not like career politicians or the journalists that feed off them are the ones whose interests are being ignored or deliberately eroded by same. It will be to your benefit, though, Iain. Those of us 'not like you' are going to bring down those that have betrayed us and give that nice young Cameron chap a chance. Maybe he'll remember us.

Anonymous said...

As far as I could tell, the Shannon Matthews story has been in the news since she first went missing - but of course her mum doesn't have a contact at no 10, so maybe it wasn't as intense as for the McCanns.

I'm glad the child was found, but are Social Services going to have a quiet word with her mother?

Anonymous said...

Canvas - I see the wheels are coming off Obama's bandwagon and rolling all over the road.

I said right from the start that there was something wrong about that "church", and how odd, that out of all the churches in America, he chose that one.

simon said...

Class/PLU is a part of it wth the McCanns to be sure bt there are other factors. hte fact it took place abroad played into certain atavistic fears, as did the fact that Madeleine was so young and photogenic and that there was video of her that cold be used on news programmes. Also, it was clear from the outset that there had been an abduction whereas in the Shannon case the circmstances were less clear. And, of course, as middle class professionals, the McCanns were a little more savvy when it came to dealing wih the media.

I think the wider point is interesting though. The appeal that Cameron holds for many London-based journalists who know him and people like him may not transfer quite as readily to other parts of the country.

Anonymous said...

On a related point, I have noticed that editors give disproportionate coverage to stories about journalists. I have lost count of the number of stories I have read about Tina Brown, a person to whose very existence 99.9% of the population (apart from journalists) are completely indifferent.

Anonymous said...

This made me think about the vexed school issue. Its assumed to be obvious that it's best for society if very different people go to school together. Might there not be some virtue in schools where people have a similar background/culture where there might be a greater sense of community. After all getting along with people who are different is what we have to do all our lives - might it not be good to have one place and period where we have the opportunity to meet others more similar to ourselves?

Anonymous said...

The most obvious examples of the media reporting on "people like us" must be the wildly disproportionate coverage given by the BBC to the kidnapping of Alan Johnston and the murder of Jill Dando.

Anonymous said...

Your spot on here Iain.

The BBC in particular makes so much effort to hide its complete and utter contempt it has for ordinary people. It fails almost hourly but still they bust a gut trying their best.

The rest of the media are often just as bad and sometimes worse. But no one is forced by pain of imprisonment, to pay for the Sun news-paper.

In the old days ordinary people never even made it onto the box except in comedy soaps such as Cory and Crossroads. Maybe this was just as well.


Now days they only get on to have the collective piss taken out of them. Like they would all be better in a Zoo. With the BBC selecting which ones go for the early shower so to speak, and which ones go for re programming courses.

It makes me sick to the very deaths of my being. If ordinary people were ever allowed to run their own TV channel, I can promise you all this. It would be the best and most popular TV channel ever in the history of broadcasting.

There is of course not a cat in hells chance of this ever happening, under any conditions imaginable.

If it were not for the hard work, skills, and talent of the ordinary aspiring working classes. Which is the vast majority of British people. This WHOLE COUNTRY would shut down within a few hours.

Most if not all of the countless amounts of plainly otherwise useless middle and upper class talking head, self proclaimed intellectual, Oxbridge university brainwashed, fascist socialist New World Order worshiping rubbish that inhabit the BBC. Could not even change the fuses in the BBC hair dyers, if their very lives depended on it.

If our lives depended on their hair dryers working. Virtually none of the nasty, greedy, superiority complex suffering, bastards would even try to change the fuse.

Atlas shrugged

Anonymous said...

The Mccanns had to work hard to keep the story alive because the useless incompetent bungling corrupt Portugese police could not give a toss.

Thus the media went out of their way to help them. They needed to.

Not quite the same in Britain.

As for your lefty friends theory about Cameron somehow being given an easy time - this is a load of bunkum and rot as well with no evidence or justification.

A typical tendy lefty house of cards, a self justifying excuse for failure.

Its good news that this child has been found. It has though given the trendy lefties a look into life on the sink estates they have created and the subclass they nurture. No wonder the TV media do not know what hook to hang this story on and the lefties are desperate for a sleight of hand to move our gaze somewhere else.

Anonymous said...

nick said...
"The most obvious examples of the media reporting on "people like us" must be the wildly disproportionate coverage given by the BBC to the kidnapping of Alan Johnston and the murder of Jill Dando."

Nonsense. The extensive coverage of the Jill Dando murder was appropriate because she was admired by millions of people.

Anonymous said...

I found myself appalled by some of the people in Dewsbury and Batley who were on TV yesterday. I was born in the very early 1950s when my father worked in a small mining village, we moved a few years later to a non-council property on the fringe of the worst council estate in a small town (pop 27,000), then to a similar house in the middle of a Council Estate in a larger town. At that time my father's occupation could be described a C2- he retired some twenty years later after promotions clearly socio-economic group B

I cannot recall Charles Wilson's underclass being so predominant in the Council Estates in the early 1950s as they are now. Men (and it was men in those days) worked in the pit, in the bus factory, in the foundries or the docks in the adjacent town. Yes the pit and the Foundry have gone from those towns. But new employment is there such as being midway between two large cities, commuting is way away of life. There is now a University and some seriously major tourist attractions- even the canal junction has been turned into a must see visit for tourists
OK I now live some 250 miles to the South of that area and am a director of a small company

The people they interviewed in Dewsbury and Batley yesterday would not been out of place in Royston Vasey. Yes I'm genuinely delighted the little girl is alive and well but I despair about the future she has.

Politics has not only failed these people-it has forgotten them. Education has no value, the Church has lost its way.

Like thousands of others, I've moved on from a council estate with pebbledashed houses and green doors.But those who are left, I despair.

I can identify with the McCann's more than with the "family" in Dewsbury because yes, they are more like us but we should be concerned about the Shannon Mathews of Britain because in her fifteen minutes of fame, it is fair to ask looking at her geographical, social and family environment, what future does she have?
One thing certain, Labour does not have the answer

Anonymous said...

Verity, dream on... Obama is winning, Clinton is losing.

Pledged Delegates: (Using AP's numbers, with Obama's count in parenthesis)
Obama: 1,390 (1,411)
Clinton: 1,248 (1,250)

Popular vote:
Obama: 13,614,204
Clinton: 12,801,153

Primaries Won:
Obama: 16
Clinton: 12

Caucuses Won
Obama: 14
Clinton: 3

Overall contests Won: It's a 2-1 Obama advantage (includes territories and Democrats Abroad).
Obama: 30
Clinton: 15

Money Raised (through February)
Obama: $168 million
Clinton: $140 million

Obama is doing very well and you are in denial.


M. Hristov said...

Empathy is always easier with someone from your own background than someone with whom you have nothing in common. This is commonsense. It applies to the media as well as anyone of us.

Judith : Social Services don’t do “a quiet word” they do “ at risk conferences” and have, unsurprisingly ,taken Shannon Matthews under their protection. They are very wary when a relative or step relative is viewed as a miscreant. Notice how Kate McCann was so frightened of them. As a Doctor, she knows their methods.

Verity : I am not clear what Obama has to do with this issue but would welcome enlightenment.

Journalists are naturally interested in other journalists, particularly those who might be competition. Witness “The New Stateman’s” attempted rubbishing of “Total Politics” . I would take this as a compliment, Iain. They obviously view you as serious competition. I suspect that the only reason “The Spectator” hasn’t tried to “rubbish” Total Politics” is that they were busy publishing yet another hagiography of a New Labour luminary. This time it was Paul Boateng.

Anonymous said...

You want to read some basic A level sociology books Iain, this phenomenon has been well documented for many many years.

Anonymous said...

TrevorH I think Iain's mate Peter Whittle would be horrified to hear himself described as a lefty.

Iain you raked up the David/David contest! I don't think the outcome was media driven. I was initially leaning Davis, but got Cameroonized watching one of the TV platform debates where they both spoke.
If my damascine conversion was caused by subliminal media messages then I thank them. I still really rate David Davis and have emailed his office several times thanking him for his work, especially over stopping ID cards. Go Daves!

Chris Paul said...

The McCann's hired PRs to orchestrate coverage. Not a bad thing. But not everyone has the means to mediate the media in that way.

I think you're quite wrong Iain about the people of Dewsbury having no fellow feeling before this incident.

And when I come to think of it Shannon had a great deal of coverage. Continuing coverage.

Anonymous said...

12:27 "You want to read some A level sociology books, Iain."

Dear God! They're teaching this "sociology" toxicity in schools? I thought it was just uni. But it's being filtered into the minds of adolescents?

Is infiltrating failed socialist ideas into the minds of adolescents legal?

You socialists, you're adults and responsible for your own illusions, but these are young people not yet adults.

Chris Paul, who thinks the plural of McCann is McCann's, the McCanns were able to use the media to try to recover their child because they are articulate and speak English. Which is what most journalists on these isles speak.

Anonymous said...

Well the 'community' in Dewsbury (ie) Lower Working Class) is not just confined there. It's bloody EVERYWHERE. That's what you get with a 'soft' benefits system, piss-poor education system, alongside areas of 'social-deprevation'. To be blunt, that area looked like it required raising to the ground.

JuliaM said...

"To be blunt, that area looked like it required raising to the ground."

It looked like the locals were working on just that...

strapworld said...

Iain, I look up to you because you are upper class. I look down at the Dewsbury folk because they are benefit class. I am middle class.

The Upper Class allow immigration to bring in cheap labour so that they can remain rich!

The middle working class pay all the taxes so that the benefit class can procreate without any check.

Perhaps eugenics should be taught at school.

Anonymous said...

Another reason is that the locals where the disappearance happened weren't people like us. They were foreigners. This also applies in the Goa case & you can see generally that any death, disappearance, drowning, trial etc involving a British female & foreigners gets far more coverage than if it happens in Bolton.

Anonymous said...

M Hristov - My mentioning Obama was an act of trespass. I saw the name of the love-drenched Canvas who can see no wrong in this mountebank and mentioned that he wheels are careening off his bandwagon.

Canvas - I never read your long, detailed, passionate justifications for your faith in Obama. I wrote 11 days ago or so that he was already beginning to curdle. Now this, with his "church" and that "pastor".

To those who cite the McCanns - they are not "rich". But they are highly intelligent and articulate and can map out a plan, and they decided that the only way to develop a very high profile campaign was to get the helpf of rich people like Richard Branson. I hope you do not blame them for being so resourceful in their search for their child.

JuliaM said...

"To those who cite the McCanns....I hope you do not blame them for being so resourceful in their search for their child."

No, if it turns out they are innocent of complicity in her disappearance, I wouldn't fault them for the efforts they went to to get her back.

It's a pity, however, that they didn't put as much effort into ensuring she wasn't left alone in the first place. Such as making use of the ample facilities at the hotel...

"The middle working class pay all the taxes so that the benefit class can procreate without any check."

Incidentally, my suggestion over at 'Comment is Free' that the DWP should look into the source of income of Fiona MacKeown (a Goan holiday for such a brood doesn't come cheap) was moderated out!

I think the 'Guardian' has thrown it's lot in with the hippies - 'too harsh, maaan'.

Anonymous said...

to be fair a lot of those people on the Dewesbury estate probably didnt have a lot else to be doing anyway and were driven as much by the temporary relief from boredom than any great sense of community spirit.

Anonymous said...

Juliam - Pity you can't be less judgemental, given that you apparently aren't in command of all the facts. Just what one would expect of someone who couldn't even get a comment accepted on CiF.

The McCanns had put their children in the creche before and had found that, being woken up at the end of the evening, they became disturbed and difficult to settle a second time. They therefore decided - in a decision that will be in the front of their minds for the rest of their lives - to settle them in their room and come back periodically and check on them.

It was a terrible decision, but who of us has not made a terrible decision in their lifetime and profoundly regretted it - even though the consequences were far less severe than what the McCanns are suffering? And it was based on concern that their children not become disturbed and fretful.

Anonymous said...

Verity, your comments just ooze pent up anger and bitterness. This is why you always try to promote the 'fear factor'. You're scared of change.

Barack Obama will move beyond the forces of division. The facts are the facts - he's winning.

Rush-is-Right said...

I don't know how this discussion turned into a Barack (don't you DARE call me Hussein) Obama thread but Mark Stein sums up the situation vis a vis him and his ghastly 'pastor' here..

Anonymous said...

Canvas, you're right! I'm terrified of change! What a great reader of character you are! That is why I moved to France, and then over here where I had to get stuck into operating in another language! Absolutely scared - rabbit in the headlights! - of change! What a great psychoanalyst you are!

Frankly, I berate myself for being too shy and retiring.

Canvas, anyone who can't see that Obama is a mountebank isn't playing with a full deck anyway. Buzz off.

JuliaM said...

"...Just what one would expect of someone who couldn't even get a comment accepted on CiF."


"The McCanns had put their children in the creche before and had found that, being woken up at the end of the evening, they became disturbed and difficult to settle a second time. They therefore settle them in their room and come back periodically and check on them."

Well, there's the McCanns motive. What of the rest of the Tapas group? One father reported periodically going back to check on his child 'because she was vomiting'..!

Shame it didn't occur to this overly hedonistic group of people that leaving a sick child is even worse than leaving a healthy one. How, really, are they any better than the feckless parents currently in the news?

"..It was a terrible decision..."

You say it as if it were the only time they ever made that decision. Not true, they had apparantly done it before, according to witnesses.

I suspect, however, though it's off topic, that you are right on Obama - he isn't going to shake off the Pastor Wright matter as easily as he has shaken off everything else. And there's a lot more to come out about his links to Rezko too...

Anonymous said...

Juliam - We won't argue. I read that they had tried the creche a few times and their children were fractious and difficult to settle when they were woken up and taken back to their room, and they decided it was better for them to sleep through in their own room.

Yes, I read about that other man - a doctor! - who had changed his child's sheets because she was vomiting, then went back to the tapas bar! But we can't all be blamed for what jerks in our group do.

Obama, yes, he's going off the boil. His pastor, who he talked up all during the campaign, said instead of the phrase "God bless America", it should be "God damn America". Way to go during a campaign for the US presidency!

I too think there will be more to come out, but I also think that this incident with this very, very peculiar church is sufficient for people to draw away in shock - even without any further revelations. Obama had a wide variety of churches he could have joined. Yet he joined the one that has a long-term association with Louis Farrakhan, founder of the Black Muslim movement ...

Say wha'?

Anonymous said...

Oooh- another thought. With such a high profile case WHERE was the MP? Usually these buggers show up at the slightest sign of publicity. Even stranger that the MP for Dewsbury is one Shahid Malik. Who used to show up at every hoo-ha involving race/muslims. Why was he not seen on 'the scene' on 't white council estate in his constituency? From what i've seen on Sky news he was NOWHERE to be seen.....

The Remittance Man said...


While I do agree with your argument, I feel there is one other factor at play here. That old estate agent's maxim: Location. Location. Location.

A council estate in Dewsbury in mid-winter is hardly the place an aspiring hack would wish to spend five minutes let alone five months. But the sunny Algarve (or Goa for that matter) is a completely different proposal. Especially when it's all being covered by expenses.