It Was The Sun Wot Manufactured It

12:33 am - November 14th 2008

by Robert Sharp    

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The Sun crows over the Shannon Matthews case:

The prosecutor said cops recovered at [Michael] Donovan’s flat a copy of The Sun from March 11, with the headline: “£50,000 for Shannon. Sun ups reward to find lost girl.”

Police also discovered a copy of the Daily Mirror which had been ripped up and dumped in a bin.

Its bizarre that The Sun should choose to delight in this little factoid, because it draws attention to a few rather negative interpretations:

  • The Sun is paper of choice for evil scheming child abductors”
  • The Sun falls for trap set by evil scheming child abductors”

or worse

  • The Sun’s dubious track record inspires evil scheming child abductors”

Now the paper’s editors will no doubt suggest that by offering their reward, they were merely acting as good citizens who just wanted to see Shannon found safely. However, the crass branding of the reward poster, which they gleefully reproduced in today’s paper, shows that their motives were altogether more commercial. Not content with merely reporting the story, they insisted on influencing it. They delighted then, and they still delight, in the part they played. But the shocking truth is, by quickly fulfilling the plotters’ prophecy and advertising a reward, they inspired the kidnappers to keep Shannon hidden for longer, thus prolonging her ordeal.

Of course, if Karen Matthews and Michael Donovan are found guilty, then they will be rightly condemned for their actions. They have free will. However, blame is not a zero sum game. We do not live in a vacuum, and the media can send signals which inspire others to act in negative ways. Usually, violent films, rap artists, or computer game producers shoulder the criticism. When they are put in the spot-light, these groups usually cite free-will, but also agree that they should act responsibly, that they should add caveats and warnings to their art, and that it should not be marketed to the vulnerable or easily impressed.

I note that this contrite and defensive attitude is nowhere to be found on the pages of The Sun. They have fuelled this case, sparked a sales bonanza, and will surely do it again the moment they are given another opportunity.

And next time – mark my words, there is always a next time! – it is likely that the disappearance will be genuine. Another pair of worried parents, bamboozled into supporting “The Sun’s Campaign” to find their child, followed by a period where they themselves come under suspicion. Its a winning formula for The Sun, and not one politician will call them on it.

Karen Matthews and Craig Meehan pose with a 'Sun' branded reward poster, February 2008

Cross posted at my own place, obv

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About the author
Robert Sharp designed the Liberal Conspiracy site. He is Head of Campaigns at English PEN, a blogger, and a founder of digital design company Fifty Nine Productions. For more of this sort of thing, visit Rob's eponymous blog or follow him on Twitter @robertsharp59. All posts here are written in a personal capacity, obviously.
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Reader comments

Whilst I agree with you about the Scum’s coverage, mebbe better to wait for the jury’s decision before implying that Matthews and Donovan are “the kidnappers”?

I’m the first to jump at the Sun, but I think this is completely the wrong target. Yes, the Sun is an abysmal paper and they tried to make money out of this just as much as they did out of Madeleine McCann, but worth noting in this case is that while the attention on the McCanns was across the board, Shannon’s vanishing was almost ignored or spat upon in other quarters. It was right in the circumstances to step into the breach and offer the reward; unscrupulous individuals deserve the blame in this instance (if indeed they are guilty, as john b above rightly points out), not the Sun.

This is childish nonsense. Their motives were commercial …. well how dreadful. The Sun follows its readers who valued this child ,when the bourgeois Press , typically , scarcely registered an issue they deemed insufficiently middleclass. Incidentally the Sun is exceedingly well written and a vast improvement on the gaseous meandering crapola endlessly churned out of the Guardian which is funded by state appointment ads (not needed) for sinecures that are not needed.

It has always been a fundamental problem of the let that the self appointed progressive or fabian element despise the people whose votes they rely on .

I wouldn’t say they ‘inspired’ the kidnappers to hold onto Shannon for a bit longer. I’m fairly certain these completely warped individuals were intent on holding her for a long time in any case.


I presume your use of the headline “It Was The Sun Wot Manufactured It” – note “manufactured”, not “prolonged” – is an ironic play on the way that tabloids tend to sensationalise things.

Or maybe it’s a scandalous misrepresentation because the people who manufactured it were in fact the kidnappers, whoever they were.

I favour the latter. Not one of your best Robert.

Ok, but about the Guardian newspaper which barely mentioned the fact that the repellent Karen Matthews had borne seven children to five different men, as if she were a stray bitch.

Instead, it tried to run with a ‘positive’ story on the housing project where the “family” lived; waffling on about the ‘improvements’ that had taken place thanks to the local council’s having spent 5 million on it. That way, the blindingly obvious problem of the animalistic family arrangements could be ignored instead of denied. It’s funny how the The Sun, a paper whose readership is badly educated, more acurately described the project as “like Beirut – only worse”

Yeah, great one guys!, just throw money at it, everything will be just fine. Who cares if children either have 5 different ‘fathers’ every year?

I am not so dumb to think that the ‘anti-poor- rhetoric ever went away. However, am I the only one noticing a disturbingly aggressive revival of anti-‘welfare scroungers’ headlines and articles? . Shannon first and now the recent case of Baby P have honestly sent the Sun, the Express and the Mail completely haywire.
We are now at the point where “welfare dependance” is portrayed as the root cause behind pure evil behaviour such as the mauling of children.
Take a look at this- just to give you an idea.

Yeah, Cleanthes, ‘prolonged’ is better. I still find the line about the Daily Mirror to be bizarre, an addition which betrays the mercenary nature of the paper’s coverage all too clearly.

Nor do I think that the Sun could be said to be ‘stepping into the breach’. that’s just propaganda. The difference in coverage between Madeline and Shannon was well documented at the time, with much hand-wringing from the liberal media and The Sun’s reward for Shannon much less than the fund raised for Madeline.

Alexis: Ah yes, how dare the Guardian try to suggest that a housing estate wasn’t like Beirut only worse. The very fact that the community there overwhelmingly came out to look for Shannon and was disgusted by the media’s attitude towards them perhaps suggests that quite maybe the Guardian had the right idea.

The bigger problem is that about one child a week is killed by it’s parents. You won’t find mush coverage of this in the Sun of Mail because it does not fit with their scaremongering of the stranger/danger bullshit they like to push. Also, it goes against their family=good all the time rubbish.

Hey, why doesn’t one of you oh so intelligent so-called liberals do a piece on what should be done about our benefits culture/welfare fishing net, instead of this constant sniping at newspapers you don’t like?

Why don’t you find somewhere else to troll while we do that?


“why donesn’t one of you…… zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Go back to your swamp troll. Nobody is interested in your views.

What’s wrong with alternative opinions? If you have too much back-slapping, your knowledge and opinions become stale. Why are so-called liberals intolerant of anyone that doesn’t toe the line?

15. Alec Macpherson

I prefer to use the word “evil” only sparingly, even in proven cases. That said, yes, I do find The Sun’s lack of shame and bizarre pride… distasteful.

If Matthews and Donovan are found guilty, they will hardly be role models for the proles, but do compare it to the coverage of the McCains. They, I hasten to add, did not consciously mistreat Madeline or allow her to be abducted. Instead there was a blithe assumption that they could leave her in a separate property whilst they socialized in a tapas bar – imagine Donovan or Matthews leaving Shannon alone whilst they drank at a pub.

The McCains’ actions do not compare to the alleged offences of Matthews and Donovan, but media reporting can be compared. See a certain British newspaper’s reporting of “fury” over doubts express. Recall the press calls for British Police to take-over a Portuguese investigation, or the belief that this case merited the personal attention of the Pope.

Now we have a pair of not-very-bright, not-very-pretty proles who may have hoodwinked The Sun. It’s going to be ugly.

Just as it was ugly for Robert Murat.

16. Alec Macpherson

McCains!!! Where have I been the past six months???

“Hey, why doesn’t one of you oh so intelligent so-called liberals do a piece on what should be done about our benefits culture/welfare fishing net, instead of this constant sniping at newspapers you don’t like?”

Simple: Because a thorough an honest examination of welfare addiction would seriously disturb and perhaps destroy their entire worldviews. They like to think they are the ones on the side of the downtrodden when it is in fact untrue. They ‘care’ about the poor only in a crude and disembodied way. That is why they stupidly conflate prejudice against chavs or scum (by that I mean people who choose to walk, talk, dress and conduct themselves in a vulgar and degenerate way eg. The stray dog lifestyle of some single mums) with ordinary working class people. It doesnt even compute to them that working-class people can and do often behave themsleves in a dignified way. When I was living in Africa the people there are poorer than anywhere in Britian and yet they do not lead such souless, debased and useless lives as do members of the growing British scum-class.

Welfare addiction, chavs, scum, stray dog lifestyle, scum-class, all so indicative of a real desire to help people, isn’t it? The reality here is that those of you who write like this have no real solution other than not wanting to see these people on our streets. Just a reminder: in America they call these people white-trash, except they don’t have the sort of access to benefits that we have. The problem though is exactly the same: the failure of education, not the welfare state, coupled with there are always going to be individuals who live like this. It doesn’t matter also that are plenty of middle class people that conduct themselves in the same “vulgar and degenerate” way that you so hoightly call it, going out every weekend, snorting their way through their coke fucking some miserable little wage-slave, and then going back in on a Monday as if nothing happened, they just manage not to impregnate anyone while they’re doing it. The intolerance here is apparently one all sides.

And who are the chav idiots who actually buy the Sun, I wonder? Everyone with a braincell must know it is odious in every possible way. I blame the parents.

Also, if what you say is true, how come they didn’t turn themselves in and claim the reward as soon as it was offered? Hmm?

Why are so-called liberals intolerant of anyone that doesn’t toe the line?

Er, because they disagree with them?

22. Col. Richard Hindrance (Mrs)

I see some fuckwits have found there way to the site and are now dribbling out the usual half-baked shite; referring to women as “stray dogs” and then accusing other people of “intolerance.”

Sometimes I envy people this stupid. Then I realise that it would mean spending my whole life in a red-faced rage at EVERYTHING because the Sun told me to.

Hint: The Sun is owned by a trillionaire, staffed by public schoolboys on £100,000+ and fucking HATES the working class, which it sees as only fit for milking of its cash, you losers. Get a grip.

So did those two pick up the reward or not? I’m certain they knew where she was.

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