Raoul Moat: just a thug

Last week I heard an awful lot of nonsense in the media about why there were so many people willing to sing the praises of the murderer Raoul Moat, who killed his ex-girlfriend’s partner (believing him to be a policeman), shot the ex-girlfriend and a police officer, blinding the latter, before going on the run and eventually being cornered in Rothbury, a village in Northumberland, where he committed suicide last Saturday morning. The Facebook tributes (one of them since removed) contained comments praising and excusing Moat, and blaming his (battered) girlfriend for his murders and other violence. What is it about certain sections of the British working (or formerly working) class that causes such admiration for a vicious petty thug?

Rod Liddle, in the Spectator, blamed a particularly northern form of degeneration, but I can assure him you’ll find plenty of degenerates down south who’ll find much to admire in someone who will kick, punch and even shoot everyone who gets in their way. I don’t quite understand George Galloway’s claim on Question Time last Thursday that it all represent the “desperation” of the white working class (quoted from here:

He said: “I think it is a cry from the heart from poor, white, working class, unemployed people who are drifting on to dangerous shores.

“They hate the government, they hate the police, they hate society and feel left behind.”

I don’t think it represents desperation. It represents degeneration, a loss of moral fibre, if people are willing to idolise someone who was unambiguously a criminal, a hooligan. Let us not confuse it when someone, or a group of people, who are on the wrong side of the law are admired. Some are perceived (rightly or wrongly) as Robin Hood types who attack the powerful in defence of the powerless. Some are terrorists who kill in pursuit of a political cause or in response to (at least perceived) oppression. Some provide benefits to a “client” population while running their drug-trafficking operations (like the Jamaican gangster who was extradited to the USA a few weeks ago). Some may have a grudge against the police after years of harassment because of their colour or some other reason.

Not Raoul Moat. Perhaps we’ll hear stories about him sending food and clothes to the poor children of Tyneside, like Woody Guthrie’s version of “Pretty Boy” Floyd, but that remains to be seen. Admittedly, he had been arrested and put away, but that is because of his well-known violence to people, including women, and his cruelty to children and animals. Possibly partly as a result of his steroid habit, he was someone who went through life violently kicking aside anyone who got in his way. I’ve known a few people like that and there’s nothing as deep as “white working-class desperation” about it. Some people are just like that.

Some of the criticism of the media and the police is well-grounded, however. The Guardian printed an interview with Moat’s brother Angus yesterday, who said he believed that their mother’s “better off dead” remarks to the press were malicious and that the press sensationalised everything. Also, in the New Statesman, Alice Miles pulls apart the myths of the “brave police” who intimidated the public more than Moat himself did (see here for some other fine examples of police “bravery”).

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