My more sentimental readers will expect me to begin with a ritual expression of sympathy with the family of this murdered boy. However, I don't know them and I didn't know him so it would be entirely meaningless. Millions die ungrieved by anyone but their family and the whole tabloid notion of "Liverpool in mourning" or even "a nation in mourning" is a crock.
Maudlin sentimentalism is part of the disease eating away at the British psyche. It would be far better for those directly concerned (e.g. the police hunting the killer) to get on with their jobs in calm and professional way, without being required to get synthetically emotional. I am sure they know where their sympathies lie. Who wouldn't? Why distract and degrade them by requiring Dianian bleating and Blairite lip-trembling? It would also be better for the friends and family of the distraught parents to gather around and do their bit, without the distraction of public events attended by the same sort of people who rubberneck at car crashes.
Consider, for example, the spectacle of the parents paraded before the television cameras in their pitiable condition. They were still talking about Rhys in the present tense. They have not yet even begun to grieve properly. There was not even the usual fig-leaf of an excuse for such exploitative programming - such as is offered when a (blonde, white, blue-eyed, female) child goes missing. No leads will be generated. No public appeal is justified. No purpose was served by that interview other than to satisfy the viewers' schadenfreude.
Britain's viewing public seems neither to know shame, nor to have any concept of decency. While the journalists should be ashamed of themselves, their viewers are more to blame. Yes, it was the journos who held the cameras mercilessly on the Joneses as they dissolved into wordless agonies. But anyone who did not turn off that scene of torture, was the author of it. It would not happen if it spiked the viewing figures in the opposite direction.
The whole "missing Madeleine" saga was similar. Those of you who shed a tear, go "aaah" and secretly enjoy the fact that it's not you, are to blame. Professional police work may finally bring that sad story to an end. The emotional appeals, the wave of fake public sympathy and the sickening exploitative journalism did no good and may have done much harm. The reaction of the Portuguese police at the outset (that by raising such a ballyhoo, the mad British might be forcing her abductors to kill her) was perfectly sensible.
Those who think me hard should remember the tabloid emotionalism of Ian Huntley, who pretended to be part of the search for (blonde, white, blue-eyed, female) Holly and Jessica, having already killed them them and disposed of their bodies. He was faking it. How many others who got their five minutes of fame by giving lip-trembling interviews were faking it too?
Grief is solemn and important. It is not to be debased into a plaything for the masses.
Is British sang-froid gone for ever? Are we doomed to the decadence of afternoon TV emotionalism? Surely not? If we could regain emotional balance perhaps we (and our judges, who come from the same decaying society as us) might also be less susceptible to criminals' pleas in mitigation based on "social deprivation" and other such pathetic (in all senses) excuses.