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4 Crime Media Culture 5 (2008)

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  C_ C

Investigating the crisis of the present

CHRIS GREER, City University, London, UK
JEFF FERRELL, Texas Christian University, USA; University of Kent, UK
YVONNE JEWKES, University of Leicester, UK

As we begin Crime, Media, Culture's fourth volume, the need for serious and sustained
scholarly engagement with the intersections of crime, media and culture has never been
greater. Around the world, genocidal criminality competes with global warming and a
Spice Girls reunion for media attention. The United States gears up for a presidential
election sure to be decided by distorted images of terrorism, gender, and crime. The
Guardian declares that, with some 138 journalists now killed, Iraq has become a war
'no longer . . . accessible to public scrutiny or to democratic engagement', and so
evidences 'the end of the media as a major actor in war' (Bunting, 2007: 17). In the
heartland of the United States, a distraught young man murders eight people at a
mega-shopping mall and then kills himself, all in the hope that 'now I'll be famous'.
Meanwhile, a little girl goes missing - and the media are mobilized.
   Madeleine McCann's disappearance in Portugal has generated a torrent of inter-
national media coverage - coverage that may in fact be ushering in a dangerous
extension in the hyper-mediatization of crime and control. Images of Madeleine are
ubiquitous, and can be spotted not only in the media, but in airports and other public
venues around the world. Two points arising from this story are worth briefly dwelling
on here. First, in November 2007, charities released figures indicating that more than
600 children have been missing in the UK for as long as Madeleine McCann, and are
still unaccounted for (Woolf, 2007). Among them, dozens have disappeared from local
authority care, and many more have been identified by police and immigration officers
as trafficking victims: 40 are considered to be at particularly 'high risk' of harm. Many
of these children have no parents to launch an appeal and few have achieved any kind
of media visibility. None has attracted the levels of attention devoted to the McCann
case. Secondly, the intensity and relentlessness of the media focus on the McCanns
becomes all the more interesting when we consider the dearth of verifiable facts in the
case. Indeed, all we 'know' at the time of writing is that a little girl has gone missing.
No body has been found, no clear information regarding Madeleine's whereabouts
has been uncovered, and no one has been officially charged with an offence. Yet
Madeleine's parents- Kate and Gerry McCann - have been subjected to nothing short

CRIME MEDIA CULTURE © 2008 SAGE Publications, Los Angeles, London, New Delhi and Singapore
www.sagepublications.com, ISSN 1741-6590, Vol 4(1): 5-8 [DOI: 10. 1177/1741659007087269]

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