The sickness in society

IN THE aftermath of Raoul Moat's death yesterday morning, there are many questions to ponder.

Some of those are matters of police procedure that senior officers involved in the case have to answer. First and foremost, let us remember that Moat was a killer, a dangerous man who had threatened to kill more. But why, on being informed by prison authorities that Moat was a threat to his ex-girlfriend, did police not pass on the warning? Why was watch not kept on the home of Moat's friend, to whom the hunted killer hand-delivered one letter, and then returned to deliver another? Perhaps most difficult of all to comprehend, why did police not search the culverts in Rothbury, where it now seems likely Moat was hiding out all along, sneaking out at night to raid the village's vegetable patches and greenhouses for food? After the police press conference yesterday, and curiously belated revelation that officers fired Taser stun guns at Moat, the biggest question remains unanswered; at what point was he shot, before or after he turned the gun on himself?

But there is a different kind of question that also demands an answer - not about the police or procedure, but about British society in general. Why do some people appear to regard Moat not as a brutal killer, but as a role model and a hero for our times? The evidence is there to see on the internet, with Facebook fan pages in his honour attracting thousands of supporters. They post comments such as: "Well done for 7days mate spot on"; "You're a legend in the north east"; and "RIP and take that f****** pig with you."

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Let us be clear who we are talking about here. Raoul Moat was a man who served a jail sentence for harming a child; who, coldly and calculatingly, shot and wounded his ex-girlfriend and killed her new boyfriend; who fired a shotgun, twice, at point-blank range, at an unarmed traffic policeman sitting in a patrol car; who threatened to kill other officers; and, finally, who said he would kill random members of the general public if he read anything more about himself in the newspapers that caused him displeasure. And yet in part, no doubt due to his ability to evade capture for a week in the face of an unprecedented operation involving police, special forces and even the RAF, this murderous self-pitying thug is regarded by a section of society as someone worthy of celebration. Those who find something heroic about Moat appear to fall into two distinct but equally contemptible categories.

First are those who find something therapeutic and satisfying in the brutal way he responded to the fact of his ex-girlfriend finding a new partner. The violent misogyny - plain in language that is not fit for a family newspaper - on display on these celebratory postings is shocking in itself. It is even more shocking if it is indicative of a strain of thinking, however small, in wider British society.

There cannot be many people in Britain who have not experienced the turbulent emotions of romantic rejection, or jealousy, but to take pleasure in the way Moat exacted a bloody revenge is appalling.

So too is the pleasure taken by some at the idea of Moat as a potential killer of police officers. This is confirmation, if any were needed, that a section of British society is so divorced from the rule of law as exercised within a parliamentary democracy, that their morality has been hopelessly corrupted. They were willing to be cheerleaders for Moat as he went on a cop-killing spree. Even in a world where people can lose themselves for days in violent console games where normal moral codes do not apply, this demonstrates a callous disregard for human life.

The Raoul Moat story offers us insights into his attitude to masculinity, honour, authority and women. But they are also insights into wider society's view, and that insight is a disturbing one.z