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Raoul Moat: The Ugly Truth About Folk Heroism
John Tatlock , July 16th, 2010 08:20

"Everyone should be free to do whatever they like that doesn't harm anyone else and so on. But we are a society, and we do have a social contract with one another. And an uncontroversial part of that contract, one would hope, is that we don't shoot each other," says John Tatlock about cretinous, coal bunker-shaped block of Spam with eyes and guns, Raoul Moat. Who has, somehow, become a folk hero – despite being a child beating, wife shooting murderer

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The Quietus team have constructed a Spotify list which looks at the many different ways in which folk heroism warps reality. Some of these songs subtly pervert the genre tradition, some are played with a shockingly straight bat. Some aggrandize while taking the form of admonishment; others are nowhere near as partisan as they initially come across. Here's hoping that the cretin bully murderer Moat doesn't get added to this list, for any reason.

On Wednesday afternoon, I experienced the fleeting and surely never-to-be-repeated experience of finding myself in fierce agreement with our recently unelected Prime Minister David Cameron. Indie Dave took time out from performing vigorous Super Mario smash jumps all over the UK's public services to comment on the nauseating Facebook tribute page for convicted child-beater and confessed murderer Raoul Moat.

Numerous tributes had appeared on the web almost as soon as Moat had fatally shot himself a few days after a gun rampage that left his ex-girlfriend Samantha Stobbart critically wounded, her new partner Chris Brown dead and police officer David Rathbone permanently blinded. But "R.I.P RAOUL MOAT YOU LEGEND!" was by far the most popular, boasting some 30,000 members* by the time it was taken down (by its creator, not Facebook) on Thursday.

The above is just the absolutely confirmed facts, note. I'm not even going to bother with the rape allegations and the reported links to organised crime. Because let's face it, if I feel like arguing that Moat was a 28 carat shite, I'm not short of material. Convicted child beater. Murderer. Blinded a man with a shotgun blast to the head. Shot his ex-girlfriend in the stomach to remind her "not to ever do this to anyone again" ("this" being break up with him).

Anyway, Cameron didn't provide us with one of the great oratorical moments of our age, but he did muster a pithy accuracy: "It is absolutely clear that Raoul Moat was a callous murderer, full stop, end of story. I cannot understand any wave, however small, of public sympathy for this man."

Previously, our nation's columnists had dithered over which way to jump on the story, but Cameron's statement to the Commons was the signal for the likes of dull contrarian Tanya Gold and arch New Labour toady Michael White to kick into gear in The Guardian, dismissing Cameron's words as "sympathy [being] cut from the budget" (Gold) and "remarks – possibly crafted in advance – that will generate headlines" (White). White has little to say about Moat's crimes or victims in his barely-coherent article, instead preferring to take a pop at the Daily Mail and, sickeningly, describe Moat as "an intelligent man trying to make sense of his life".

This all strikes me as quite unbelievably crass. Surely there are some things that transcend the ideological differences between our mainstream political tribes. And surely one of them is the notion that chaps who go on carefully pre-meditated murderous rampages can be held responsible for their actions. I mean, I like to think of myself as an intelligent man trying to make sense of my life, and funnily enough, have never considered shooting an ex-girlfriend and a couple of other people as a method for doing so. No doubt White thinks I'm a bit of weirdo.

But no, I'm being over-generous there. Such commentators don't actually have a position other than a tribal one; don't have ethical lines, only party lines. There's nothing wrong with criticising the government – indeed, it's part of their job description, and is essential to a functioning democ racy – but your enemy's enemy is not always your friend, and it is unwise to automatically make their bete noire your cause celebre. It can make you look a complete arsehole.

Which all leads us rather neatly to the notorious Facebook page. "R.I.P RAOUL MOAT YOU LEGEND!" was set up by one "Shivoun" O'Dowd. It's beyond my descriptive powers to communicate what a truly dreadful individual O'Dowd is, so it's handy that she called TalkSport's Ian Collins and discussed her thinking (if we dare use such a term):

O'Dowd's response to this horrific series of events is, like Gold and White's, entirely unconnected to the events themselves. It contains no scrap of real concern or sympathy for its supposed object, and is defined entirely by a dull-witted tribalism. O'Dowd's position, and that of many of the contributors to her page is, essentially: "We hate the police, Moat declared war on the police, therefore Moat is our hero, and his other actions range from irrelevant to entirely justified."

I can't really see the difference between that and: "We don't like Cameron, Moat has rattled Cameron's cage, so we're going to start puffing up Moat as the victim." But what I can see is the glaring similarity – everything that doesn't fit the agenda is skirted neatly around. The murderer, well, he had problems didn't he? It's all really the fault of The System.

The whirling fug of utter stupidly and gleeful cruelty ("I BLAME THAT SLUT, SHE DESERVED EVERY BULLET" as one poster to O'Dowd's page put it) that characterises the discourse around the Moat story was adroitly identified by Alice Miles in the New Statesman as "childish drama".

For indeed, this is a story in which denial of responsibility is the recurring theme. "She pulled the trigger just as much as me", claimed Moat in his first letter to the police while still on the run. "Why weren't they warned?" asked the red-tops, before Chris Brown's body was even cold. "This page doesn't violate our terms of service" said Facebook **, in response to Cameron's complaint.

One is reminded of the deranged popular view of the Baby P case, which had it that the real blame for a child's broken ribs, broken back, sliced off fingertips, pulled out fingernails and eventual death were fundamentally the fault of social workers.

Of course, in both this case and that – indeed in any tragic circumstances – it is correct and fitting to examine what could be done better, what mistakes have been made, and certainly to censure any dereliction of duty. But it is also correct to remain clear that murder is committed by murderers and child abuse by child abusers.

The extent to which posters to O'Dowd's page conjured with the known facts of the case was truly breathtaking. There was much support for a conspiracy theory view, which in its most whacked-out form had Moat as the victim of some 70s spy drama brainwashing plot; but even among the less tin-foil-hatted, completely deranged ideas were readily accepted as fact. There was near-universal agreement that the police had "murdered" Moat, despite his death resulting from the shotgun he had held to his own head throughout six hours of negotiations. Only marginally less agreed on was the view that the state were to blame for Moat's own shootings, of which this muddled outburst from one Martyn James Poulson is typical: "HE WAS LET DOWN,BY MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES, AND EVERYONE ELSE,THE MEDIA LET YOU READ WHAT THEY WANT YOU TO READ,STERIODS WRECK LIVES,STEPHEN MARSHALL, CONVICTED KILLER, I KNEW HIM WELL,RIODS, RIODS WRECK LIVES."

Most depressing of all was the number of people – many of them women – pointing the finger of blame squarely at Samantha Stobbart. One post, veering from the page's house style of all-caps to an even-less-readable no-caps, declared: "look peeps all that happened is the man losgt his rag wit the govment and the bill and jst to top it off his ex said she was datin a copper whilst he was in jail what wud u do? Ppl in america have the right to... shot and kill there parterners and lovers if they have an afaire".

This profoundly extreme and pure form of misogyny – it doesn't get any harsher than "Men have the right to kill women who make them unhappy, and any man would do the same" – was not unusual for the page. Cody Aidan Lachey had this to say: "POLICE ARE A DISGRACE R.I.P RAOUL A LION OF A MAN SHAME YOUR EX DID'NT DIE MATE HEAD FUCKER". And if that's not enough to make you sick to your stomach, there was the insane claim "He must hav really loved her to shoot her like that".

It's at times like this I remember that I'm not really a liberal in the strictest sense. Of course, everyone should be free to do whatever they like that doesn't harm anyone else and so on. But we are a society, and we do have a social contract with one another. And an uncontroversial part of that contract, one would hope, is that we don't shoot each other. On this, I'm entirely with Cameron. I don't much care to hear about Moat's troubled childhood, and the fact that he felt nobody loved him. He doesn't sound all that lovable, frankly, and the world is full of troubled people who are managing, with considerable ease, not to go on shooting sprees.

It's obvious to the point of tautology to say that Moat had mental health issues; it's not like there's some other kind gun rampage that mentally well people do. However, what is clear is that he was not in a state of delusion or diminished responsibility, and knew precisely what he was doing; indeed, he went to great pains to make this point himself in his letters and calls to the police. His week in hiding was highly organised, with a network of helpers and access to weapons, camping equipment and mobile phones.

Of course, the lionisation of utterly despicable people is nothing new. The Krays and Ronnie Biggs were popularly forgiven the most appalling acts for the same reasons Moat's moronic worshippers came running like stray dogs to fresh vomit – the cheap thrill of outlaw status. There's something very wrong with people who value the putrid glamour of such status so highly they will excuse murder. There's no mystery: these people are stupid and deplorable. Full stop, end of story.

*It must be noted that a close reading of O'Dowd's page suggested that the majority of members were posting in opposition to the page; nevertheless, Moat's supporters numbered in their thousands. It should also be noted that there are several pages set up in direct opposition to O'Dowd's, though none of them are anywhere near as popular, with memberships of around 2,000 or less.

** Facebook's claim that there were no violations of their policies is utter bullshit. Myself and literally hundreds of others were flagging up dozens of posts over the last few days via Facebook's own reporting system containing blatantly against-the-rules stuff as Ray Cooper of Portsmouth's charming "SAMANTHA DID MOAT SHOOT U IN THE FACE U FUCKING UGLY CUNT BITCH SLAG. FUCK YOUR UGLY I WILL HAVE NIGHTMERES NOW" and a whole bunch of even less repeatable stuff. There was much regret expressed that Moat hadn't killed any "niggers" or "pakis", for example. Unfortunately, with the page now gone and only a few snippets cut and pasted for posterity, I can't give you the identities of these people, which I regard as a great shame. But the main point is that Facebook policies around direct attacks on other users, racism and incitement to violence were being violated, and they are in possession of the data that shows this.

[Editor's note: We compiled the Spotify list before asking titanium-plated attack wolf John Tatlock to pen some words for us and acknowledge that there is a vaguely uncomfortable disconnect between the seriousness of this piece and the slightly more casual idea of a mix tape but hope that people will recognise that at the root of it all is a joint interest in the resonance of folk heroism.]

Janis
Jul 16, 2010 12:51pm

Absolutely stunning post. The best thing I've read on the whole horrible ongoing saga. Thank you.

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Emma
Jul 16, 2010 1:00pm

Hit the nail on the head there John.

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Matthew Britton
Jul 16, 2010 1:14pm

I read that Guardian piece yesterday, and was astounded at the tone of it. This has easily been the best work I've read about the aftermath of the killings, by some distance.

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Sami
Jul 16, 2010 1:21pm

Beautifully put.

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K
Jul 16, 2010 1:44pm

Congratulations on this fantastic post! You have summed up my feelings and thoughts perfectly - and I'm sure the feelings of many others.

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tom
Jul 16, 2010 1:44pm

I think this page was disgusting, but I don't agree with it being shut down.

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thosegoldsoundz
Jul 16, 2010 1:47pm

Great piece, I couldn't agree more.

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John Tatlock
Jul 16, 2010 1:48pm

In reply to tom :

Tom: it was taken down by O'Dowd herself, not Facebook.

Putting that aside, I confess to being at a loss for what a good argument against taking it down would be.

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Horrace Oats
Jul 16, 2010 1:49pm

Pah...what a lot of liberal grot...Moaty IS a legend.
Stick it up yer bollox quietus...go do another mark e smith feature...

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SilianRail .
Jul 16, 2010 1:49pm

"dull contrarian Tanya Gould" - yes indeed!

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Des
Jul 16, 2010 1:49pm

Some sanity at last. Great piece John.

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John Tatlock
Jul 16, 2010 1:52pm

In reply to Horrace Oats:

An excellent argument, brilliantly put. You've really changed my mind on this subject.

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Des
Jul 16, 2010 1:52pm

In reply to Horrace Oats:

You don't deserve the Quietus. Or Mark E Smith for that matter. Idiot.

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SilianRail .
Jul 16, 2010 1:57pm

Although her surname is actually Gold, not Gould

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Gareth Main
Jul 16, 2010 1:58pm

This is the best article I've read all year, on any subject, in any publication. Fantastic.

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Mr Excellent
Jul 16, 2010 1:58pm

odd that you'd choose to attack an article (white's) that summed up the situation far more eloquently and succinctly than you've managed.

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John Tatlock
Jul 16, 2010 2:03pm

In reply to Mr Excellent:

You're entitled to your view, of course. But as I say above, I didn't see that he addressed the subject at all, really. He seemed to me to be using it as ammunition for cheap shots at his usual targets, of which he should be ashamed in my book.

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G
Jul 16, 2010 2:12pm

Top notch journalism. Kudos to The Quietus for putting this up.

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Ross
Jul 16, 2010 2:31pm

Just about the only sensible article I've come across on this appalling sequence of events. Articulate, straight to the point and fittingly enraged.
Aside from Facebook at least two news networks ITN and Sky should be ticked off for approaching this situation with the lame brained, tabloid-ish " Raoul Moat - a friend to those who knew him " angle effectively giving the deranged fool gushing obituaries.

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Mitchell Stirling
Jul 16, 2010 3:23pm

When this story was developing, as they like to put it, I did wonder whether the spirit of Harry Roberts [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Roberts_(murderer)] would be lying dormant in the public's consciousness.

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Luke
Jul 16, 2010 3:27pm

As time goes on, I find myself more and more alienated from my friends who try so hard to be the opposite of a Daily Mail reader that they lean heavily towards the other end of the spectrum and spout bollocks like the opinions expressed in the above mentioned Guardian articles.
I can't tell you how refreshing it is to read things like:

"Everyone should be free to do whatever they like that doesn't harm anyone else... But we are a society, and we do have a social contract with one another. And an uncontroversial part of that contract, one would hope, is that we don't shoot each other"

and

'It's obvious to the point of tautology to say that Moat had mental health issues; it's not like there's some other kind gun rampage that mentally well people do.'

These put into words my thoughts exactly and like many people who have commented already, I reckon this is the best article I've read all year.

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Dan Barrett
Jul 16, 2010 3:27pm

Excellent article sir! Love the Ian Collins clip too. I may have to start listening to him - how he kept his temper speaking to that idiot woman, I've no idea.

Just as a sideline on this, O'Dowd kept saying "well, everyone's entitled to their own opinion". Whilst I agree to some extent, I definitely side with Harlan Ellison when he said "We are not entitled to our opinions; we are entitled to our informed opinions". If you're not going to base your opinion on fact, your opinion ain't worth shit.

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Mitchell Stirling
Jul 16, 2010 3:27pm

In reply to Ross:

Likewise while I feel no sympathy for Moat, those news networks did their very best to give cause to feel some form of sympathy for a man that had given the police the slip for a week and was, clearly, about to die live on television. I dare say that Kay Burley had her finger's crossed hoping she was going to arrive on the scene in time.

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Anthony
Jul 16, 2010 3:57pm

Another great article. Could rant hugely about this but thing the article articulates it a lot better than me!

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Lucia Lanigan
Jul 16, 2010 4:03pm

I think what the whole media/Facebook carnival proves is: a chunk of the available comment/opinion space has always been filled with shit; Joe Public’s outlet used to be crank letters or graffiti – now it’s comments that get published alongside ‘proper’ reporting on TV and online; the immense volume of coverage and comment space now means that there’ll be even more shit to explore; throw in a situation as clear-cut as this, and that shit has to become preposterous, to set itself against the obvious position (murder bad).

After the first 14,675 articles/comments saying "I think he is a bad man" you're going to get 253 eejits contorting themselves into appearing to say, "I think he is a good man" – whether that’s to justify continued coverage with a new angle, or just to fill the void. I find the media coverage more galling, cause it’s basically intelligent people second-guessing what it’s like to be thick, for money.

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John Tatlock
Jul 16, 2010 4:13pm

In reply to Lucia Lanigan:

I largely agree, though I suspect some of my fourth estate colleagues have solid first-hand knowledge of what it's like to be thick.

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Jul 16, 2010 4:16pm

In reply to John Tatlock:

Granted!

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Lee
Jul 16, 2010 4:29pm

In reply to Mitchell Stirling:

The sympathy for moat is purely down to widespread hatred of the people hunting him and of the media who made such a circus of it.

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John Tatlock
Jul 16, 2010 4:33pm

In reply to Lee:

That's idiotic. Whether or not you like the police and the media has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not Moat's actions are defnsible or deserving of sympathy.

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Steve
Jul 16, 2010 4:47pm

At least Channel 4 got a ready-made replacement for Big Brother out of it. 'Paul Gascoigne: Celebrity Hostage Negotiator' hits our screens in 2011, I believe. In it, the titular ex-football hero talks the world's most feared criminals out of pedestrian-endangering situations using 3 items of his choice and his natural Geordie charm. In a gripping finale he attempts to coax Osama Bin Laden himself out of an Afghan cave using only a stick of rock, some cans of Fosters and a tin of tuna.

Grisly but gripping.

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Horrace Oats
Jul 16, 2010 5:35pm

Fancy a pint Tatlock...i'm buying?

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Horrace Oats
Jul 16, 2010 5:38pm

In reply to Horrace Oats:

oooh Gazzas coming too. It'll be class. I'll even show you my tattoo of Moaty

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John Tatlock
Jul 16, 2010 5:43pm

In reply to Horrace Oats:

Sorry, I am particular about who I drink with.

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Horrace Oats
Jul 16, 2010 5:48pm

In reply to John Tatlock:

How about I call round to yours then? I'll pick up a few cans on the way. I'll even bring those pics of Andrew Ridgely you were banging on about.

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John Tatlock
Jul 16, 2010 5:52pm

In reply to Horrace Oats:

How very droll. I see what you're getting at: obviously anyone who doesn't think Raoul Moat is a hero is gay. And that's an effective diss, because being gay is really terrible, and nobody could stand to be accused of it. It's incredibly funny, very original, *and* cuts to the bone. Well done.

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Horrace Oats
Jul 16, 2010 5:58pm

In reply to John Tatlock:

Okay how about a Coffee then? Meet in town tomorrow, say 1ish? We could even go see the new Shrek film...not the 3D version though, plays havoc with my vertigo.

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Cheryl
Jul 16, 2010 7:17pm

Wow. I actually slacked a bit from work to read through this entire thing.

I have been appauled by the ongoing saga that played before us all.

I too suffer from a mental health issue and while I utterly sympathise with any person who feels they have reached a point of dispair it leads them to such actions I am still of the opinion that their actions are their own, unless so mentally ill they are without knowledge of their own reality. Which I did not see with this man.

I am sorry he died under such distressing circumstances, I do feel for his family but I am outraged and disgusted by anyone who claims this man was a hero or a legend or was some how justified in his behaviour.

I read the aforementioned Facebook groups comments and found myself ashamed to be part of the same race as these people. Ashamed and afraid for the society in which we live. I fear for their children who will grow up and spread this ignorant and callous attitude towards people and spread this unrealistic sense of justification when it comes to this kind of situation.

I applaud you for your insight and for your well written and details article. I may even pop back to read more of what you write.

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neil
Jul 16, 2010 7:45pm

A good insight about tribal lines, disappointed by the Grauniad.
30,000 is still a minority - there must be that many bouncers in this country who probably think along those lines. Lion of a man indeed! Lions kill their rivals' offspring. Lionesses don't, they form a creche.
Everybody suffers loss, betrayal, abandonment etc at some point in their life; it is not lack of courage that stops us hurting those around us, it is lack of arrogance.

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Cole
Jul 16, 2010 11:31pm

The Talksport interview with "Shivoun" O'Dowd highlights exactly why Raoul Moat has become 'a legend' in the eye of a significant proportion of the British public. Because her perception of 'a legend' is somebody who is talked about rather than because of their actions.

I despair

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John Tatlock
Jul 17, 2010 1:02am

In reply to Cole:

I wouldn't despair. I think the outcome of this will be - is already turning out to be - "remember that time there was a small shower of cunts who thought this was cool"?

There's a tribute page to the tribute page up on Facebook now, with the same name. It has 51 members.

This sorry fad is already over. A few utterly disgusting people will have made themselves pariahs for the statements they made during it. And while I would always vigorously argue against a death penalty, for any crime, there is one less violent abuser of women and children in the world.

Overall, a result.

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John Tatlock
Jul 17, 2010 1:06am

Tell you something else, I've discovered a lot of obscure fuckery while researching this article. I never knew Chumbawamba had a song praising career criminal and multiple murderer Harry Roberts.

Always thought they were a bit suspect, but that's pretty much beyond the pale, isn't it? What a shower of worthless fuckwits.

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Mark Dent
Jul 17, 2010 2:42am

Couldn't have put it better myself.As a regular facebook user(I use it mainly for sharing music and ideas on popular culture)I am incensed at the owners for not doing more to prevent hate and vitriol pages(I am also an old schoolfriend of PC Rathband)In the past 2 weeks I have encountered vicious hate pages about toddler Jamie Bulger and now pages worshipping a cold blooded killer!As far as im concerned Facebook failing to do anything about the content of these pages makes them complicit in the perpetuation of this hatred and vitriol.The people who run Facebook remain faceless and unaccountable,you try contacting them to complain!I myself also believe in the freedom of the individual but as a society we are accountable to each other and as such these kind of groups comments and ideas cannot be allowed to flourish.Shame on you Facebook for SUPPORTING this kind of vile nauseating behaviour!

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John Doran
Jul 17, 2010 9:34am

In reply to John Tatlock:

Chumbawamba come from that totally odious 'Hospitalized Copper'/ Class War uneasy alliance of middle class drop outs and 'working' class squatters who don't seem to be able to tell the difference between an institution and an individual. I know from bitter experience that these (and pro-active, violent animal rights activists) are the hipsters of the political world. Extremism as a fashion statement. A stance as easily cultivated (and hacked off when necessary) as dreadlocks.

Read a brilliant interview that Paxman conducted with Chumbawamba where he allowed them the requisite amount of rope to explain how they threw a party when a policeman got killed and ten minutes later were complaining how it took the coppers thirty minutes to turn up when they got burgled.

This kind of gross entitlement nearly always comes from rich parents.

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Jul 17, 2010 10:39am

In reply to Horrace Oats:

mark e smith kinda hit the nail on the head when he sarcastically sang..."it was the fault of the government"

moat was a cunt
more fall plz

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Ian cusack
Jul 17, 2010 11:11am

Brilliant analysis

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Fay
Jul 17, 2010 1:31pm

Brilliantly wriitten article about a truly sickening Facebook group. One of the absolute worst things I encountered on it was the argument I had with a woman who was of the opinion that if her own children had the temerity to leave someone, or commit adultery, that they would also deserve to be shot, and that she would be fine with it. Added to that, she claimed to be a good mother. I have all the screenshots, and they still leave me open-moouthed with horror.

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rrichh
Jul 17, 2010 3:20pm

John - agree with most of what you've said; I'm increasingly frustrated with The Guardian's pavlovian liberal/left-wing reaction to anything spouted by the right. And it's absolutely right that we shouldn't lose sight of Moat's personal responsibility for what he did.

Cameron's comments made me squirm though. If he "cannot understand" any wave of public sympathy, then perhaps he ought to try to rather than tell us what we "should" be thinking "full stop, end of story". For a self-labeled progressive politician, it all sounded quite Norman Tebitt.

He decribes Moat as a "callous murderer" - well, yes in that you can argue that any murder is callous, but more callous than your average murderer? Cameron (plus Coulson) saw an opportunity to curry public opinion, and used deliberately emotive language to do it. Why else speak out about it? We were hardly all on the edge of our seats, waiting to hear the 'Cameron view'; I'll get my moral advice elsewhere, thanks.

So yes, Moat's crimes were horrific, and the media circus/police failings might have been contributing factors, not causes. But when terrible things happen we should look to the reasons behind them in order to understand them better, not take the easy way out with handy soundbites.

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bar har
Jul 17, 2010 4:12pm

All makes good sense. The problem started when people, esp Gazza, started calling him Moaty whilst forgetting about the tragically unlucky guy he killed (odd how most of the coverage has been on his girlfriend and the policemen). And a child beater makes for a ridiculous folk hero. Why not have a Gary Glitter facebook page? He was hounded by the police and media. There's a definite BNP/ Timothy Mcveigh victim thing in this Facebook page.
Having said that there is a weirdness on the left about these things, especially residual police hatred. As if there wouldn't be a police in a socialist society. the doublethink goes back to the days of calling Churchill a fascist while defending Stalin's latest atrocity. A classic example is when the Weathermen, leftist folk heroes themselves, made a statement in support of Charles Manson saying that the murders were part of the war against the pigs. I knew people who cheered when the twin towers fell- America getting what it deserves. There's a lot of noise about Blair Peach or Ian Tomlinson but not so much about Hammas executing rival factions. Quite a few leftist folk heroes, such as Joe Hill and Sacco and Venzetti, were convicted murderers who probably did it but were transformed into martyrs.
The point is that folk heroes and real people are seldom one and the same. For a lot of people the idea of the left is a narrative where everything America/ capitalism/ police do is evil and whatever the resistance does is acceptable. I like to think of myself as Left but having been on a Mayday parade where people had banners of Stalin and Mao, for fuck's sake, I wonder what reality my comrades are tuned into.

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A.
Jul 17, 2010 4:27pm

This whole event has made me feel sick, especially the bizarre wave of public sentiment for the vile criminal. Thank you for a decent and intelligent article.

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bob
Jul 17, 2010 11:14pm

Want to see more unfettered racism on a mainstream website? (sorry, rhetorical question, not sure that you do!) Youtube comments section is absolutely rammed with it, obviously depending on the post, but particularly anything regarding the middle east. Totally un-moderated, appalling racism and homophobia. Depressing stuff. Strange beast the internet is, when married to this culture...

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Rob
Jul 19, 2010 9:56am

Sorry mate you are just a Tory in denial.

Phrases like
"I don't much care to hear about Moat's troubled childhood, and the fact that he felt nobody loved him. He doesn't sound all that lovable, frankly"
show you up good and proper.

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Rob
Jul 19, 2010 10:01am

To clarify - I'm not a Moateedevotee. Yes the Facebook thing is indefensible and clearly Moat was a murderer, so what other reason did you have for writing the article other than to publically wrestle with your conscience over the fact you've grown up to find yourself a Tory

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John Tatlock
Jul 19, 2010 10:28am

In reply to Rob:

What specifically in what I've said strikes you as Tory?

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John Doran
Jul 19, 2010 10:47am

In reply to Rob:

I had a relatively troubled childhood and a disturbed young adulthood but last time I checked I didn't shoot a copper in the face or my gf in the stomach.

Finding murder, misogyny and child abuse horrendous and demanding people take personal responsibility for their own actions does not make one a tory.

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John Tatlock
Jul 19, 2010 11:02am

In reply to John Doran:

The idea that people are, by and large, responsible for their actions, doesn't really sit anywhere in particular on the political spectrum, as far as I can see.

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John Tatlock
Jul 19, 2010 11:09am

In reply to John Tatlock:

I'm a big believer in the legal concept of mitigation. So say we take someone who shoplifts a lot. Shoplifting is not legal, but in a courtroom, you can offer extreme poverty as mitigation for shoplifting; it's a valid argument that a court will take seriously, and can affect what sentence is handed down. Whereas if you shoplift a lot just for the sheer fuck off of it, they'll take a dimmer view.

The question with the Moat case is: what's the mitigation here? A lot has been offered up, from Moat's own brand of self-pitying bullshit, to the hysterical claim in the Times the other day that the real problem was that North Eastern men are all from Viking stock (I shit you not, this was quite seriously claimed in a editorial piece).

All I'm saying is, I don't think anyone has come up with a shred of substantive mitigation for Moat's actions, and indeed, I don't believe there *could* be any such mitigation in this case.

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Marc Bright
Jul 19, 2010 2:17pm

In reply to Lucia Lanigan:

Well said Lucia. The interminable hand wringing over this tribute, with much rhetoric of the "What does this say about our society that such a group exists on FB?" type, failed to answer with the simple reply that it only shows the Internet is truly a democratic medium where any moron with a keyboard can now enter the mainstream of debate where previously they were confined to ineffectual moaning in pubs. It doesn't herald any sort of shift in societies attitudes as such morons have always existed, we've just never heard them so clearly before.

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Rob
Jul 19, 2010 4:08pm

In reply to John Tatlock:

"All I'm saying is, I don't think anyone has come up with a shred of substantive mitigation for Moat's actions, and indeed, I don't believe there *could* be any such mitigation in this case."

This is what I mean - it's same sentiment as I highlighted about you not caring about his troubled childhood.

I agree that no one has come up with any sort of mitigation yet - but then the official inquest isn't complete? It may well be that the dust settles, the inquest is complete and there IS no substantive mitigation. At which point you become right, but as a compassionate human being trying to seek some sort of sense in this, my hope is that we get to understand what happened to Moat that saw him go from the tiny innocent baby that we all enter this world as - to the murderer he became.

The fact you're admitting that you already don't believe there could be any mitigation, is the difference between us. I hope for the benefit of his victims, his family and for us as a society that we get to see, if even a little bit, how this happens to someone. I hope that there is some mitigation.

You hope that there isn't because you want to see it as black/white or right/wrong.

Your Tory mannerisms are simply that you don't care and as an instinct you seem to prefer to hate rather than strive to understand.

It doesn't matter if you end up being right or not - Moat may turn out to just be the personification of pure unmitigated evil but it's the fact you've already made that decision that ruined the article for me

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John Tatlock
Jul 19, 2010 4:54pm

In reply to Rob:

Firstly, I've not said anywhere that I'm opposed to seeking to understand what has happened and why; that's obviously a good idea. However, you're conflating that with needing to feel sympathy for the perpetrator, when in fact they are two unrelated areas.

Secondly: "I hope that there is some mitigation.

You hope that there isn't because you want to see it as black/white or right/wrong"

It is wrong. He murdered a man in cold blood, shot his ex-girlfriend in the stomach, and then when and shot a police officer who had absolutely no connection to any of it at all. It's wrong. It's absolutely black and white.

Finally, you still haven't explained what is "tory" about what I'm saying. And this: "Your Tory mannerisms are simply that you don't care and as an instinct you seem to prefer to hate rather than strive to understand" is simply incorrect.

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Jul 19, 2010 4:56pm

In reply to Rob:

As for "evil", I haven't raised the concept at any point, not least because I don't believe there is any such thing. You're projecting things onto what I've written that simply aren't there.

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Marc Bright
Jul 19, 2010 4:59pm

In reply to Rob:

Rob, surely there comes a point when what happened to you ceases to become as important as what you decide to do about it? The point when a person decides to be defined by what they are and do now, rather than what happened to them before? I can see some sense in what you are saying but I'm concerned you're veering a little too close to the "it's all my parents fault I shoot people, not mine" argument that absolves people of responsibility. I could see a Moat childhood being part of the story of how he got to the point of being confronted with these decisions, but I could not see it mitigating the decision he then took to go out and shoot people. On your main point though, trying to say this is some sort of Tory view just cheapens your argument.

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John Tatlock
Jul 19, 2010 5:04pm

In reply to Marc Bright:

Indeed. Moat was a 37 year old man, who carefully planned what he did.

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Rob
Jul 20, 2010 10:17am

In reply to John Tatlock:

John and Marc you both seem to be striving quite hard to miss my point, which is frustrating, so I'll call it a day there.

It's your article and I'm well aware that you're not going to back down and admit you are wrong, but at the end of the day what you have written is just yet another polarised media reaction to the whole sorry story - and one I happen to disagree with.

Take care my friend

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Jul 20, 2010 12:23pm

In reply to Rob:

I'm not "striving hard to miss your point" at all. You've not at any point explained what is "tory" about my position. I can't help missing points that you're failing to make.

What does "polarised media reaction" even mean? I'm not "the media", I'm me, and this is what I think about the subject.

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John Tatlock
Jul 20, 2010 12:32pm

In reply to Rob:

Consider this: Every major p;oint you are making here assumes bad faith on the part of others. I could only think this because I'm a secret tory; I could only think this because my instints tent towards hatred; and finally, not agreeing with you indicates stubborn refusal to back down no matter what, and secretly agreeing with you but pretending not to understand you.

Putting aside the fact that this is just a volley of baseless insults for a moment, at which someone could quite reasonably take offence, I would suggest it's you that's approaching all this from a prejudicial postition, and you that's not interested in the detail of others' positions.

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Jul 20, 2010 12:33pm

In reply to John Tatlock:

God damn this lack of an edit feature. Look at those typos fly.

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nic
Jul 22, 2010 11:31am

Rene Girard's 'violence and the sacred' discusses this very issue - which has been indentified as a disturbing social phenomenon for at least the last couple of hundred years. Sadly, social media facilitates our bleating, sheeplike communal veneration of selfish ego-driven narcissists and their violent manifestations. The Rise Of The Idiots indeed.

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Don't look back
Jul 22, 2010 6:08pm

I don't see why you object to Moat being called 'an intelligent man trying to make sense of his life'. As if intelligent men trying to make sense of their lives are not capable of violent crime. Maybe because it doesn't fit with your heroes vs. villains, black vs. white perception of reality? Yeah, let's call Moat 'a bunker-shaped block of Spam', the reference to his looks is reeeaaally helpful.

The thing I don't get is how the media (and, yes, you are 'the media' and so am I now that I am posting this) somehow decide that they are some sort of moral arbiters in cases like this. Whatever happened to judging a case in a court of law? Whatever happened to accurate information and professional expertise? Whatever happened to official inquests?

You are right to question the idolisation of Moat as sickening and ludicrous. But don't think you are too far off, you are just the other side of the coin and you don't know it. And may I say, the Moat fans are clearly not that bright, whereas you at least come across as quite intelligent (at least articulate). So, really, what is your excuse?

And you say that you don't care about understanding Moat's childhood. I would say that understanding his childhood (and this is not specific to Moat) is probably one of the few things that matters at this stage. Understanding the causes of these types of crimes helps us deal with them better. But, no, you are obviously not interested in understanding and preventing, you are only interested in repeating that Moat is scum, like some kind of zombie. scum, scum, scum, OK we got it. Sorry, but WHAT IS THE POINT? Do you think that by calling him scum you are making any substantive contribution to the moral debate?

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Don't look back
Jul 22, 2010 6:18pm

I just noticed that you never actually used the word 'scum'. That was probably some other armchair judge, you get plenty of those online. Insert 'cretinous, despicable 28 carat shite' instead. At least you are original, I give you that.

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John Doran
Jul 22, 2010 6:34pm

Have you actually read the piece? It is quite clearly about certain individuals, whether they be Joan Q Public or members of the press, who have little or no interest in the crime, using this as an excuse to have a go at another bunch of people. (In this case the police and Tory politicians.)

But then you know because this is exactly what you're doing. You've got no real interest in people describing this wife beater, wife shooter, child abuser, murderer etc as slightly red in the face... you just like having a barney on the internet.

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John Tatlock
Jul 22, 2010 7:28pm

I can't really see how you could come to the conclusion that I'm not interested in understanding why violent crime happens and thus preventing it, given that the article doesn't touch on that topic at all. For the record, I am entirely interested in those things, and consider them very important.

I think you're assuming that a belief in personal responsiblity and a willingness to denounce murderers are largely unsympathetic figures is incompatible with wanting to comprehend root causes. Myself, I can't see why this would be so.

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John Tatlock
Jul 22, 2010 7:37pm

In fairness, I will say that when I read back what I wrote about Moat's childhood, I think I have not explained my position well.

What I wrote was this:

"I don't much care to hear about Moat's troubled childhood, and the fact that he felt nobody loved him. He doesn't sound all that lovable, frankly, and the world is full of troubled people who are managing, with considerable ease, not to go on shooting sprees. "

I largely stand by that, but to clarify, I mean that I don't care to hear about Moat's childhood as any kind of *mitigation* for what he's done. And that's for the reasons given in the second sentence; it simply fails to mitigate.

The endeavour of looking at the his whole life in detail, and the lives of other killers, and using that knowledge as a means of figuring out how to prevent future atrocities is, of course, a worthwhile pursuit.

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Don't look back
Jul 22, 2010 10:11pm

The problem for me is that you automatically assume that anybody expressing any remotely 'positive' sentiment about Moat, whether that is sympathy or pity or calling him 'an intelligent man', is doing so because they want to have a go at a group or institution they don't like. In your article you also seemed to suggest that you didn’t see the value in looking for reasons and causes that might have led up to this (I acknowledge that later you backed down on this); your attitude seemed to imply that you thought that anybody doing so was trying to find ‘excuses’ for Moat’s behaviour.

I am surprised that it doesn't occur to you that some people might just be more interested in determining the shades of grey, the complexities, the context and the background and they might be doing so because they think it *matters*, not only for coming to any conclusion and make sensing of this tragedy, but also in order to find ways of preventing similar ones in the future.

By your reasoning, I could suggest that you don't care about the crimes either. I could say that all you care about is 'showing up' certain groups you don't happen to like.

The thing is that most people (and this actually goes even for many that have sympathy for Moat) acknowledge that murder and violent behaviour is wrong. The people that might be more sympathetic towards Moat (and I include some hero-worshippers in this category), are not necessarily so because they condone murder and abuse, but because they choose to believe a different interpretation of the story. They might be deluding themselves according to you, but ultimately it is their perception of reality that you should be questioning, not their morality. On the point of perception of reality, however, you should also acknowledge that your own comes very much from how the story has been presented in the 'media'. Your access to information is actually limited, but yet you are adamant that there were no mitigating factors. You might be right, of course, but the fact that you don’t even seem to want to discuss the possibility, suggests to me that you have as much of an agenda as anybody else in this sad affair.

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John Tatlock
Jul 22, 2010 11:41pm

"The problem for me is that you automatically assume that anybody expressing any remotely 'positive' sentiment about Moat, whether that is sympathy or pity or calling him 'an intelligent man', is doing so because they want to have a go at a group or institution they don't like."

I don't *assume* that at all. I am saying that this is certainly the case in the examples I cite. I'm open minded to the idea that other arguments with a sounder basis are *possible*, in theory, though I freely admit I consider them unlikely to appear. But if you have an argument you'd like to make for positive views on Moat, please do make it. I'm all ears.

"In your article you also seemed to suggest that you didn’t see the value in looking for reasons and causes that might have led up to this (I acknowledge that later you backed down on this)"

Whoa nelly. In my article I do not touch on this topic at all. And I certainly haven't backed down from anything. I stand by every last word of it.

"By your reasoning, I could suggest that you don't care about the crimes either. I could say that all you care about is 'showing up' certain groups you don't happen to like."

"By your reasoning" is always a tricky tactic to make work, and I don't think you're onto anything much here. My reasoning proceeds from the position that murder is ineluctably the worst thing one human being can do to another, and is basically beyond justification and mitigatiopn in all buit an incredibly tiuny number of cases. I'd proffer that this is uncontroversial.

My interest in writing this article was as a riposte to the very real phenomena of this man being lauded by some people, and the magnitude of his crimes being hand waved away by other people. I absolutely do care about the crimes, I think they're horrific. I'm not seeking to "show people up" However, if the side effect of trying to focus on the terrible nature of what has transpired rather than ridiculous and opportunistic piggybacking by various groups is that it makes a few people look kind of bad, then so be it. That's not on me, that's on them.

"The people that might be more sympathetic towards Moat (and I include some hero-worshippers in this category), are not necessarily so because they condone murder and abuse, but because they choose to believe a different interpretation of the story."

Yes. I made this point myself in the article. These people are stupid and deplorable. Full stop, end of story.

"You might be right, of course, but the fact that you don’t even seem to want to discuss the possibility, suggests to me that you have as much of an agenda as anybody else in this sad affair."

Of course I have an agenda. Mine is absolutely out in the open for anyone to see. I think that allowing our extant social biases to nudge us into weaselling around such profound violations of other human beings and blinding and murdering them is a profound social ill worth being vigilant against. That's my agenda, and I don't apologise for it.

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John Tatlock
Jul 22, 2010 11:47pm

In reply to John Tatlock:

Oh, and:

"but ultimately it is their perception of reality that you should be questioning, not their morality."

I don't see why. Unless you're making the argument that "anything bad anyone ever does is always a matter of diminished responsibility". If you are making that argument, I think it's for you to put some flesh on the bones of that idea.

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John Tatlock
Jul 22, 2010 11:58pm

In reply to John Tatlock:

There'd better be an edit feature in a future site update. I only get literate on the second draft at the best of times, and not even than at 1am.

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Dave K .
Jul 26, 2010 12:08pm

Moat and O`Dowd .Two scumbags .Simple as that !

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Mikey
Jul 28, 2010 8:07am

Bullying, unpleasant people come in many different guises, often wearing a thin veneer of socialist intellectualism. How many people have you actually pissed off John with your endless ranting? Opinions are like arseholes; everyone has one, but most people have the good grace to keep there's covered. BTW I'm glad that idiot Moat killed himself, one less useless waste of space for the tax payers to support in prison :-)

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John Tatlock
Jul 29, 2010 9:48pm

In reply to Mikey:

"Theirs".

It's a bit sad, this e-stalking, Paul, especially under the false name.

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Nov 18, 2010 5:20pm

In reply to John Tatlock:

Who's Paul?

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