Sunday 18 July 2010

Tributes for Moat were wrong, but Facebook was right not to take them down.

Like a lot of people I've been baffled by all these tributes that have sprung up on Facebook for Raoul Moat.

To hear him described as a 'legend' is totally ridiculous. The main reason I can see for this view, is because he managed to stay on the run from the police for so long!

How is anyone a 'legend' because they shot dead one innocent man and inflicted life changing injuries on two other people?

Facebook came under pressure to remove the comments posted in support of Moat following his death. They refused to back down, and it was left to the creator of the tribute Page, Siobhan O'Dowd to do so, almost through a sense of embarrassment.

Despite not agreeing with the comments, Facebook did the right thing by not removing them. You have to remember that Facebook and other forms of social media are about people sharing and expressing thoughts, opinions and information. I'm sure the comments of support for Moat would have been said in private by the same people in pubs, shops and workplaces.

With Facebook, what would once have remained private opinions amongst personal networks of friends and associates are now freely available for the whole world to see.

You might not like what's been written, but that's social media for you. If Facebook decided to remove the comments because other people didn't like them, then what is the point of Social networking?

I have to say I've found it intriguing as to why people would show such support for Moat. Despite the tabloids best efforts to demonise him (The News of the World continually refer to him as a monster) others don't see him that way.

One theory is that there's a huge group of disenfranchised white working class people out there who saw Moat as a champion of the underdog, sticking two fingers up to the authorities.

I could understand that, if Moat had robbed a bank then went on the run, with no one getting hurt. But he didn't. This was a calculated attack on innocent people.

Reading in today's Sunday Times, the writer India Knight made an interesting point. She wrote that people seemed to overlook the fact that Moat had a history of domestic violence against his former girlfriend Sam Stobbart, regularly beating her.

Knight's point is that domestic violence isn't taken as seriously by some people in comparison to other crimes.

There were comments on Facebook criticising Moat's girlfriend, suggesting she provoked him into violence. They were quite happy to overlook not just the obvious shootings but also the domestic violence.

I can see her point. I can't believe that if Moat was a paedophile on the run, having abused small children, we'd have seen the 'he's a legend' comments, but beating up women is fine in some people's eyes.

It suggests that the type of crime someone commits, influences how others are prepared to remember them.

Clearly Moat had some serious mental health problems, and maybe he could have been helped further by Newcastle Social Services. But I still don't see why people should pay tributes to him, as if he was some sort of anti-hero of our times. He wasn't.

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