In the beginning there was Old Anorak. And Anorak spake of Madeleine McCann and the multitude did answer him.
‘We want to talk about this, give us our daily McCann thread, and we will arrive in our thousands and debate’. And Lo! they did, and there was much rejoicing in the advertising department of Anorak Towers.
In the wilderness, other web tribes looked on with envy, ‘This is the promised prophet land’ they cried, ‘we want some too’, and they opened their web pages to the ravenous McCann hordes to discuss and debate whither be ‘Our Madeleine’.
It came to pass, that amongst the hordes were those whose passions ran so strong that they no longer came to debate or discuss the possibilities, nay, they held the golden key, they and they alone, knew the answer to this mystery. They collected around them disciples who agreed that they and they alone knew the answer to the mystery of ‘Our Madeleine’.
Yeah, and some of them knew the answer was ‘the parents done it’, and some of them knew the answer was ‘the parents didn’t done it’. And there was civil war in the land of Anorak comment and Old Anorak cast them out into the night, and said begone with you and your libels, take your advertising revenues with you, and don’t come back.
Thus spake also the Daily Mirror comment threads, and the fabled land of Sky. So did the wandering tribes arrive at their promised land, 3 Arguidos, where the ‘truth’ was said to flow freely, and they were to be free of curmudgeonly moderators breathing fire and damnation and darkening the sky with talk of libel.
Within the promised land, there was no longer resolve to simply discuss or debate the mystery of whither be Our Madeleine, for it was soon resolved that it was their duty to actually solve the mystery, not just talk about it, and they came to see themselves as a force of web sleuths, unhindered by fear of libel, better equipped to know the truth than any police force. And amongst them, and their weird and wonderful theories, came a belief common to all cults eventually, that those who did not agree with them were infidels. So did the land of freely flowing ‘truth’ become the land of freely flowing ‘Our Truth and There Shall Be No Other Word‘.
In such a fervent atmosphere, it was not long before different views came to be seen as the work of the Devil, to be denounced at every opportunity, exorcised, and cast out of their midst. First the media, then the various police forces, then the government were seen to be a conspiracy preventing ‘their truth’ from emerging. Eventually the owner of the web site was seen as part of the conspiracy and cast out into the wilderness, and there was no restraint upon them at all.
And the one they called the ‘wise one’, the disgraced ex solicitor who was a veteran of other conspiracy campaigns, called them to a secret meeting, and told them to go forth and spread the word that he alone knew the truth, he no longer debated, he no longer discussed, he knew for a fact that ‘the parents done it’ and it was only the ever growing conspiracy that prevented other people from agreeing with him……..and he sent forth his handmaiden, ‘doris’ to spread the word, and she did get mightily slaughtered by the media, for in the real world, outside of the promised land, people recognised that debating the subtleties of the case was one thing, haranguing the parent’s neighbours with written ‘proof’ of their guilt was another.
Last night, the civil war in McCann land drew to a close. The promised land shut out its people, and left instead a note hoist on the petard at the entrance – “Due to unresolved issues the forum is disabled until contact is made with Beowulf” Those who know their Early English literature will appreciate the delicious irony of this statement. Grendel’s Mother is nowhere to be seen.
It has been a fascinating experience over the past two years, watching an Internet debate descend into the realms of farce and beyond, turning apparently intelligent people into self-shooting barrel dwelling fish. Those who have no clue what this is all about would do well to research the subject, for this is surely the case which will ultimately lead to censorship on the Internet, to the chagrin of us all.
Yesterday a case was decided in New York which is liable to have profound implications. In the Cohen case, it was ordered that Google reveal the identity of an anonymous critic of Ms Cohen, so that she could sue her for defamation. Note: she has not actually sued for defamation yet, but merely by saying that she wished to, a precedent has been set that effectively allows for anonymity to be stripped from on-line commentators on demand. Without actual proof of defamation.
This morning I found a sad little group of posters from the promised land waiting outside Raccoon Towers, hopeful of news of their leader and a temporary resting place. I had to turn them away, and shall continue to do so. Fanatics like that will destroy the Internet for all of us.
Madeleine is still missing.