So, the names of Baby P’s parents have finally been released, although, one rather suspects anyone who really wanted to know them knew them months ago, courtesy of Facebook groups – and similar – calling for their torture and murder.
(Apparently, we actually live in a Biblical society, where it is an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. Neither the murder of a young child, nor the public’s response, has filled me with any confidence that we have evolved at all in the past 2,000 years.)
And herein lies what appears to be a slight irony – Tracey Connelly, mother of the toddler Peter, has been attacked through a medium which she herself used. What’s more, it is a medium through which she boasted of her neglectful behaviour to what has been described as an “unknown audience”.
The Guardian’s background piece on Connelly regularly refers to her use of social networking sites to announce how much she loved her boyfriend, and how much she had had to drink the night before.
So, the sort of posts 99.9 per cent of Facebook users make. Indeed, they are only auxillary evidence after the fact. Because, if announcing your drunken weekend escapades marks you out as someone who will allow the murder of a child on your watch, we need to be really worried.
In no way am I trying to defend this woman: what happened was truly appalling, disgusting, and, well, worrying. And it is surely the worrying aspect we need to concentrate on.
Unfortunately, what’s done is done. Joining a group calling for their torture and death is not going to bring a small child back. Taking an interest in the world around you, however, may do.
An interest in politics beyond groups experimenting with whether or not they can find a million people against the BNP is not going to make sure the BNP make no further gains. A group extolling outrage at social services is not going change social services.
Pretending to care by joining a Facebook group is not good enough: after all, channelling all your energies anmd concerns into a social networking site is not going to make a difference in the real world.
Making an informed vote at the next election, however, could make a difference. Only 34.5 per cent of elligiable voters bothered to vote in the recent European Elections, below the EU average and, frankly, somewhat embarrassing (it rather makes you wonder how may of the million people against the BNP did anything to make sure the BNP did not get seats).
Next time, then, instead of joining that Facebook group to express your outrage, do something about it in the real world. I promise, it will be more effective.