Making of a False Legend


Killer Moat is becoming a false legend. The growth of shrines to recent dead has been a growing British phenomena. Moat is the latest to build a posthumous fan club.


Broadly Risks

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The eagerness of poilice to adopt armour and weapons raises important questions about the effect their aggressive equipment has on them and on the people they have to deal with

British politicians are becoming concerned by the rapid development of a legend based around Moat after his killing of one person and serious wounding of two more including a police officer. This is a phenomena predicted twenty years ago by some communications and information specialists but the prediction was ignored by politicians who thought they knew better. Once the world is covered by multiple television and Internet services broadcasting continuous news, the quality of that news falls and continues to fall as the number of broadcasters increases. Each news service is forced to find something to fill the time and bandwidth available. Every event, however obscure, is trawled through by journalists and if they can’t find real information they fabricate something. The time pressure to get a story out also reduces the amount of editorial control. As consumers are swamped by news broadcasts, they come to develop short attention spans and require ever more shocking information to get their attention. As each year passes it becomes more difficult to produce a solution to this very destructive problem.

In the case of Moat, the media rapidly labeled him as a crazed killer and hunted him with more determination than the police. All sorts of stories were circulated, based on interviews with family members, friends and anyone who would stop in the street to be interviewed. As the news built to a climax, the police responded by forcing more and more resources into a small rural area of Northumbria. Twenty armoured cars were loaned by the Northern Ireland police, 15 Police forces loaned personnel, helicopters and even a Tornado jet with anti-terrorist surveillance systems were deployed. Finally Moat was discovered under the noses of police and, after a stand off, he was tasered with weapons not yet approved for police use.

At this point there is a mass of “information” in circulation but very little hard fact.

So far a mass of conflicting information has been broadcast and much of it has been inadequately researched and poorly edited. What the British public see is a mass of questions that have yet to be answered and where new questions emerge daily. That is the fertile ground for conspiracy theories and folk lore. Left unaddressed, it will build to a point where many will refuse to believe any inconvenient facts that may emerge eventually as genuine verified information.

At this point, a gunman is dead after killing one and injuring two others. That cannot be argued over. Whatever caused a man to go out and commit those crimes, the result is nothing to celebrate.

The local police mobilized quickly and did not try to skimp on grounds of cost. Whether their efforts were reasonably effective is a matter for subsequent debate. It is very easy to look back with more information than was available to the police at the time. That Moat appears to have being living in a storm drain while a costly search took place all around him implies incompetence. Perhaps someone should have checked the storm drain at an early stage but the drain would have hidden Moat from the heat sensors used by helicopters and the Tornado. Perhaps he received help from others and the facts will emerge in the weeks to come.

Questions are forming about possible neglect by authorities, including by the prison where Moat was held for a time, in failing to help a deeply troubled individual who appears to have made a series of pleas for help.

There are some burning questions about why Moat’s threats, made while still in prison, were not taken seriously. Again it is very easy to see negligence when more facts are available than may have been available at the time – that also supposes that the “facts” already broadcast are all that they appear.

There are questions about earlier police treatment of Moat. That he developed paranoia does not mean that he had no cause to be fearful. He thought he was being hounded by police, he may have been, but there may have been good cause for the police activity. We simply do not know the answers, but that is what inquests and investigations are there to address in the coming weeks.

The most emotive questions are about Moat’s final hours and death. The police may have used a long range taser that has yet to be approved for police use, although this is not necessarily an illegal act, because a Chief Constable is permitted to use all reasonable resources in an emergency. After the event, the Chief Constable is accountable for decisions on the use of any equipment whether or not it has been approved by the Home Office. It seems a very questionable act to fire thousands of volts into someone who is holding a shotgun to his head with his finger on the trigger. If he had committed suicide by shooting himself, it seems questionable to fire tasers into the body. If the tasers were fired first, it is highly probable that the convulsions caused by the electric shocks resulted in the involuntary firing of the gun and had the same effect of police firing bullets deliberately to kill. At this point even the sequence of events has to be established. Whatever the cause and effect may prove to have been, the police may have taken the best available decision. If they did not that should become apparent in the coming weeks and appropriate action taken.

Eventually, something close to the truth will emerge and undoubtedly there are many lessons to be learned by police and social services. None of that justifies the development of a cult around the dead gunman.



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