Belfast Telegraph

Monday 14 July 2014

Let’s switch off our ghoulish fascination with murderers now

I am currently working on a new show for the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival in Belfast in May, called The Ulster Kama Sutra. It’ll be a funny and informative look at our attitudes to all things to do with sex, the body and relationships in this part of the world.

So far, the research has thrown up some intriguing, even shocking findings. According to one leading counselling organisation, one of the most common reasons couples seek help is for non-consummation of marriage.

Wow, sounds like something from the Victorian age, but no, apparently, it’s still “not happening” for many people, right here and now.

It’s made me think about how we are happy to talk about certain things, but not others. This past week we’ve been happy to give air time to the mass killer in Norway, who’s had the world’s ear as he’s poured forth his intolerance, ignorance and bile. His behaviour is all those words you normally only see in newspaper headlines — depraved, psychotic, raving mad.

So why are we giving him publicity, which is precisely what he seems to crave and why do the courts there even need to hear his explanations for what he did? They know what he did. End of story. Sentence him and be done with it. Behind closed doors. Then tell us what’s happened. Do we need to have his sickness paraded on the six o’clock news every evening?

I can’t remember any other case where a murderer was allowed such a platform to justify their actions. What’s the point?

In Scotland they’ve televised a judge’s sentencing in a murder trial for the first time. Again, why? The only person I heard on radio explaining why it was a good thing, was a local law lecturer who failed to explain at all why it was a good thing.

She said her young students all think it’s a great idea to televise courts, but then again, they’re the generation which probably doesn’t realise something can actually happen without being filmed, photographed or recorded in some way. Generation LOL.

The sad thing is that publicity and public coverage of crimes and antisocial behaviour generally seem to stop at the voyeuristic, salacious stage. We seem to have a ghoulish appetite for the what, but not much interest in the “how are we involved/connected?” part of it. Because we all are. We are all connected.

The only way for a person to mass murder others is for him or her to disassociate from them, to see them as something different, usually inferior, somehow deserving of death.

But when we as a society take such a morbid interest in the minutiae of these killers’ behaviour and reasons, we also become disassociated. We see them as different, inferior, despicable.

The common humanity that binds us is lost sight of.

I see that young man in Norway and at an animal, reflexive level, I feel disgust and pity, disdain for something so odious.

But when I see that he and I are made of the same stuff, I stop and ask myself what I can do, how I can be, to balance out his abberation.

The world needs more of us to be despising each other like it needs another hole in the ozone layer. I say vote with the remote, switch it off, switch off the judging and give our thoughts to love not hate.

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