Why Must We Give the Villain Star Billing?
Byline: Martin Samuel
So tell me about Chris Brown. This is what I know. Karate instructor, 29, liked to cook, lived most of his life in Slough, shot dead by Raoul Moat outside the home of his girlfriend Samantha Stobbart's parents, on July 3, 2010.
Not much, is it? Here lies one whose name was writ in water, as Keats had it.
That is the fate of murder victims in modern society. They are cameo roles, they are bit players, they are the narrative tools we need to get to the main story: the murderer.
Raoul Moat is the star here, the 'legend', as his Facebook tribute site (which was finally taken down yesterday) states. Victims are boring and the news agenda has no respect for them any more.
There are not 30,000 signatures in Brown's book of remembrance. Nobody compares him to Rambo, or admires his hulking physique.
David Cameron may be angry and perplexed by Moat's Facebook lionisation, but it is only natural that this killer draws an online following of the moronic and the misguided.
He spent the preceding two weeks being portrayed as one of the classic anti-hero stereotypes: the fugitive on the run from the law (and smartly eluding them for several days, remember, affording him a gilded image of cunning and intelligence). In death, a myth has been allowed to build until his uncle Charlie was able to describe him as a 'gentle giant' in one interview without redress.
Moat shot a stranger, PC David Rathband, in the face. Moat served an 18-week prison sentence for assault. Moat was arrested on 12 separate occasions and is known to have suffered terrible episodes of rage, perhaps steroid induced.
There was little that was gentle in his existence. Perhaps there was in Chris Brown, who taught karate, a martial art the Japanese regard as being as much about self-discipline as fighting, but nobody has bothered to find out. He's old news. We're cutting to the chase.
Villains fascinate us, always have. Shakespeare called his play othello, but gave Iago, architect of his downfall, most lines. The Joker is the dream role, not Batman.
England's northern counties are not cartoon land, however. Real people are being murdered, and maimed, by men -- like Raoul Moat and Cumbria mass killer Derrick Bird -- who no longer suspect they will get 15 minutes of fame, but know they will achieve lavish notoriety. …