Madeleine McCann has been spotted in Belgium. She has also been spotted in Holland, Morocco, Spain, Portugal, England... just about everywhere. She's the most famous missing child in Europe - though not the only one - and of course she's going to turn up everywhere.
The human brain is a complex thing: it fills in the gaps between what it sees and what it expects to see. Interesting, then, that these latest sightings of Madeleine should come so very soon after the publication of the Portuguese police files on the case, including the 'I SAW MADDIE IN MY SHOP' story from Holland. That brings the focus to Northern Europe, and it's just a short hop to Belgium, whose recent years of paedophile scandals have tainted it in many people's minds.
This week, Madeleine has been seen in a bank, in the street, and with a woman in a burqa. Ah yes, it rings all the bells doesn't it? Muslims and Maddie, all wrapped up in a one-stop-shop story - very handy for the tabloids during Silly Season, when there isn't the distraction of Judas McTrotsky or white people dying in the 'knife crime epidemic' to keep the journos busy.
The Express says:
30 NEW 'SIGHTINGS' OF MADELEINE IN A WEEK
Quotes in the wrong place there, I fancy. It should really be 30 NEW SIGHTINGS OF 'MADELEINE' IN A WEEK. Some of these sightings overlap - she's been spotted in Brussels and rural Belgium supposedly at the same time; unlikely to say the least. Is it silly season in Belgium too? Have their population, mindful of the paedophile tragedies of recent years, taken this story to their hearts, and began seeing Madeleine around every corner?
The Express really hedges its bets when describing the latest sighting, in the 'Arab Quarter' of Brussels:
And images of the little girl, walking hand in hand with the veiled Moroccan in the rundown Arab-dominated Molenbeek St Jean quarter, have raised hopes fears [sic] that Madeleine is alive and being held in the country.
Can't make up their minds as to whether it's a hope or a fear, can they? And can anyone tell me how you can tell a woman is Moroccan from through a veil? Or is there something else going on here, some kind of prejudice spilling out in these sightings? Surely a nice white person couldn't take Madeleine - it must be one of those swarthy Muslim types!
Let's just stop for a minute and think things through, carefully and rationally. Let's say Madeleine McCann has been abducted and she is in Belgium - let's just assume that for a moment. So would her abductors really take her into shops, into the bank, walk her down the road? Is that really understandable? Does that make any sense whatsoever? Why wouldn't the child be kept behind closed doors all the time, if she had been genuinely abducted and taken there? Why don't journalists ask any of these questions? Why must they blithely accept that a missing child has been spotted 30 times in a week? Why don't they ever bloody think about this stuff, for fuck's sake?
Septicisle is getting a bit pissed off too with the wilful ignorance of Fleet Street's finest. It's also well worth reading his splendidly bad taste look ahead to how the story's going to be covered in a few years' time. The thing is, it's probably not a million miles away from what we will see.
But still the story rumbles on. The constant speculation continues. Who knows? Maybe Madeleine McCann really is being held by Arabs in Belgium who take her down the shops every day? But if not, then what do these stories say about us, and our press?