Just a flavour of the abuse that’s been hurled at me over the past couple of days. Over 60 messages since Friday. And the fire is still incoming.
All because over a month ago, I happened to express sympathy for the parents of missing Madeleine McCann…
It all started with this post: on 12th June.
I noted that:
When Madeleine first went missing, there were questions raised about why they left their children in their holiday apartment while they went for a meal.Predictably, my post didn’t raise a titter. But last Friday, well over a full month after it first appeared, an angry campaign suddenly started cranking up against me.
I certainly remember doing exactly the same when our children were small.
Over the weekend, apparently outraged commenters claim to have reported me to Social Services and to the Police for allegedly neglecting my children while on holiday a quarter of a century ago.
I’ve been asked if my kids were as good looking as Maddie (how bizarre’s that...?) and whether I’d defend Madeleine's parents if they lived on a council estate (even more bizarre...?)
The McCann's have been accused of being criminals and swingers: I’ve been told they have no charisma, and that they’re playing a charade…
Some clearly regard Madeleine's parents as criminals and raise questions about why they are raising money rather than looking for their daughter.
But surely the sickest comments are from those who suggest the entire story is a hoax because there’s no conclusive evidence that Madeleine is even missing…
(Forgive me, but you have to wonder whether these crazy conspiracy theorists believe little Madeleine’s hiding behind the grassy knoll…)
Sensible people have urged me to treat the commenters as loonies and religious nuts and warned me to turn on the monitoring button to filter out the nonsense – particularly the potentially libellous comments.
I’m not in the habit of removing or blocking comments on my blog – I’ve always welcomed dialogue and try to reply, even to those who have diametrically opposed views to my own. We’re all entitled to our opinions and should not be afraid of healthy debate.
In the 18 months or so I’ve been blogging, I recall only ever removing one – maybe two – comments that I considered bordered on libellous (to others as I remember)…
But there is a limit…!
And unlike the self-righteous commenters, I don’t pretend I was the perfect parent. I did my best: sometimes I got things wrong. But I’m enormously proud of how my children have grown into the caring adults they have become.
In any case, it may all be a bit of a storm in a teacup as my memory may have failed me. My wife is adamant that we never actually left our children sleeping in a hotel room, specially abroad – and she’s usually right!
Of course, times were different 20-odd years ago when our children were small. And they were even more different when I were a lad and it was normal for parents to drive to a pub and leave the kids in the car with a bag of crisps and a bottle of pop if you were lucky.
We enjoyed family holidays at Butlins where parents were encouraged to leave children in chalets and go out for evenings – and there were regular alerts of baby crying in chalet xxx often chalked up on a board rather like hymns at a church service.
As I say, different times.
Of course, no modern ‘How to Raise Children’ handbook would advocate leaving children asleep in a hotel room while parents go out for a meal. And I wasn’t saying it’s OK either.
Just as the new Home Secretary Jackie Smith last week admitted she occasionally smoked cannabis when she was a student, she wasn’t saying it was OK.
But the fact is thousands of British parents on holiday do leave their children sleeping in the room while they pop out for a meal or a drink - though I suspect there will be far fewer following Madeleine's disappearance.
The point is, surely this: the McCanns have been to hell and back since their daughter disappeared. They are going through enough heartache without a personal and rather nasty campaign calling for them to be prosecuted for leaving their children in a hotel room while they went a few yards for a meal, even though they checked on them every half hour.
As for their actions since, I see nothing odd or strange in clutching any straw that might just help lead to their little girl’s safe return.