Moat - neither heroic nor callous
The story of the police manhunt in Northambria ending in the suicide of Raoul Moat is still making headlines. Yesterday we heard news that Moat had made a series of recordings of his dealings with social workers where he requested help from a psychiatrist. Also we heard that a Facebook page which has been created by people glorifying Moat’s attacks and portraying him as a hero. In Prime Minister’s Question Time we heard David Cameron express incomprehension at the sympathy for Raoul Moat and say: “It is absolutely clear that Raoul Moat was a callous murderer, full stop, end of story” and “the should be no sympathy for him”. Mr. Cameron is TALKING BOLLOCKS!
It amazes me that the Western world has regular incidents where alienated men go berserk and kill many strangers and we always dismiss the killer as evil. When we do this we condemn our society to suffer a reoccurrence of the incident. Mr. Cameron’s comments are merely the absurd knee jerk reaction of all politicians: “All terrorist are cowards”, “all firemen are heros” and “all murderers are callous”….yes, yes, thank you, does anyone have anything constructive to say?
Moat had obviously built up a narrative in his mind whereby his wife had left him for a police officer, that he was being prevented from seeing his children an that the police were deliberately harassing him. At the moment it is too early to say how much of this narrative is true and how much is imagined by Moat but I believe it is this story which has moved some members of the public to sympathy.
And we should have sympathy! This man was suffering and, in the end he killed himself.
The accusation when one says this sort of thing is: What about sympathy for PC David Rathband whom Moat shot and has probably blinded. Of course we have sympathy for PC Rathband but this is a given. That is acknowledged by the whole of society and should not and is not being challenged by politicians or the media.
Further, the media tell us the news in the form of stories. A popular catchphrase amongst journalists is “simplify and emphasise” and this is what they have done with Moat. They built up his character by revealing his body building and use of steroids. They told us of his camping out in a tent, catching rabbits and eluding the police for days. The main character of this soap opera was Moat and sadly, PC Rathbone only entered the story briefly.
The shooting of Moat’s wife, the boy friend and PC Rathband are awful and were Moat to have lived he obviously should have been brought to justice and punished.
But merely to dismiss Moat as “callous” is wide of the mark. Sir Fred Goodwin who destroyed RBS and then made off with a fat pension was callous. Berny Madoff who built up the largest ponzi scheme in history was callous. Peter Mandelson publishing his diaries within weeks of Labour losing power is callous.
Moat interminable recorded rants give us some indication as to his state of mind. One can only imagine his anguish as he sat on the ground with night drawing in, surrounded by police marksman and knowing full well that his heinous crimes would, if he surrendered, push him even further from those he loved. The anguish of fighting with himself over whether to end it all or give himself up to a life that he would hate could not have been helped by having the police shoot at him with a tazer.
The obvious suffering of Moat and the resonance with many divorced fathers mean that this story was bound to draw public sympathy and Mr. Cameron’s claim that we should have no sympathy for this man is incorrect and unhelpful.