In the hoo-ha surrounding the Shannon Matthews case, I find myself wondering about her mother’s motivations behind kidnapping her own daughter. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, even among the most morally dubious of people, and given the amount of attention and sympathy – from most quarters anyway – that the McCaan’s received, it is, I believe, a reasonable supposition to think that someone as clearly desperate and needy as Karen Matthews might think: “I’d like a bit of that attention.”
The case may not be the “verdict on our broken society” that David Cameron recently suggested, but there are certainly elements within society who are sold on the idea of fame at any cost; enough that I wonder if we are not likely to see more such appalling plots to garner attention and money in the near future, especially as the recession bites deeper.
There have always been a few people deranged and unpleasant enough to go for a radical and awful solution to their woes, perceived or otherwise, and children, over the centuries, have often been used as collateral, whether they were shoved up chimneys or made to sell matches or kidnapped by their own mothers.
Hoaxes have been part of the national consciousness for years, too. The person behind the Hitler Diaries, for example, was not a lone voice in the wilderness – it was part of a long tradition of hoaxes and has influenced others since. It was part of an ongoing trend that surfaces and resurfaces every so often.
I hope I’m wrong, and that no one will be inspired to take Karen Matthews’ example a step further, but when people are made so aware of the processes behind such a cruel hoax and can see so clearly that, if they’re careful, they might just get the attention they crave – or even a great deal of money – if they just plan a little more carefully, then the temptation could be awfully strong.