What makes us so willing to praise people who really don't deserve it?
'sup, it's your boy Clive Martin, regular VICE contributor and rap game David Attenborough. Unlike most of the misanthropes here, I actually really like people, so much so that studying them is kind of a hobby of mine. Seriously, I watch people like racists watch Top Gear. So I thought it would be worthwhile for me to put some of my wasted anthropological expertise to work and try and shed some light on that thing we call humanity. So join me as I take you on a guided tour of my Human Zoo, just don't touch the animals, because they'll probably headbutt you.
As I'm sure you've seen from the rolling red bars of the 24-hour news channels, a man has been arrested in connection with setting up the "Dale Cregan Hero" Facebook page that you undoubtedly read about yesterday. The details are sketchy at the moment, so that's all we really know: a man has been arrested in connection with setting up the "Dale Cregan Hero" Facebook page.
There's not much point dwelling on who made it; I'm sure it's just a misguided provinicial troll, desperate to make some kind of impact on the wider world. What's interesting is that it's yet another example of the strange mass psychosis we have when it comes to praising people who really don't deserve it. A folk hero, an iconic bastard, somewhere between Eric Cartman and Jack The Ripper.
Think this is a new phenomenon, a sad fact of a sick society, Broken Britain searching for its icons amongst the rubble? Then you're an idiot. False idols go back as far as time itself. I mean, they even get their own section in the 10 Commandments. If anything, they were even more popular back in the olden days. From psycopathic bank robbers like Clyde Barrow, to heartless muggers like Dick Turpin, society has always drawn a thin line between "cunt" and "legend".
Even a ham-headed, roid-raging, murdering twat like Raoul Moat had his fans. Although, in his case, it was worryingly easy to understand what his admirers saw in him. Moaty was the ultimate outsider – a man who had returned home from prison to find that everything in his life had changed, like a Geordie Rambo in an uncaring post-New Labour planet.
Of course, amongst the fans there are the trolls, the jokers and the ironists who make jokes about fishing rods and "Like" the pages to impress their mates and upset their parents. And you can see why: Gazza's intervention fit perfectly into the tragi-comedy of delusion, ambition, frustration and humiliation that fuels most British comedy, from The Office to Dad's Army. But not everyone was amused, many were actually touched. Let's not forget that there were still people on the tribute sites six weeks later and ordinary mothers laying wreaths at his funeral. I don't think they were trolling.
And whilst there are real issues surrounding the neglect of the white working class and male depression, Raoul Moat wasn't a political cypher, he was a mad idiot who shot three people, lived in a sewer, ate beans for a week, then killed himself.
Thelma and Louise, this was not.
His fans didn't see it like that, though. To them, he had successfully avoided the meddling bastard coppers trying to stop him, taken his revenge on somebody who had set out to fuck him over and taught that slag a lesson. He became a role model for all sorts of people who found themselves on the edge of decent society. His plight was seen as being representative of a class that the rest of the country had forgotten in its cafe latte delusion.
Of course, this was all bullshit. Moat was a moron and a psychopath and the only people he really represented were other psychopaths (substance addled ex-footballers amongst them). His case tells us about as much about working class British men as Harold Shipman tells us about the NHS. What cases like his and Dale Cregan's tell us about, however, is our culture's desire to worship an outsider.
Where does the appeal of somebody like Dale Cregan lie you wonder?
Cregan's fanbase are presumably a small band of crackpots and people with their own issues with the police. His status as a hero probably lies in the fact that he's an utter scumbag. A giant of a man with a shiny black lump of coal for an eye and a propensity for extreme violence, his thug posturing lends him a sense of rebellion; he's the last angry bastard.
Compare and contrast his life with those of the two female police officers he's alleged to have murdered, and you begin to see the dark dichotomy of British life emerging. One side represents the kind of hard working normality and inherent decency that we we're all told we should be aiming for: nice girls, friends with their fathers, engaged to be married. The other one is a tooled-up cyclops. Another cruel failure who, for some reason, many people can identify with above anyone who ever wore a police hat.
Basically, Britain has its libertarians and, if you kill a policeman, they love it. One suspects it's not fuelled by the death of Ian Tomlinson, or racist stop-and-search policies, but more by terror of a liberal nanny state, speed camera rage and POLITICAL CORRECTNESS GONE MAD – conservative concerns that anyone in a uniform should be expected to answer for.
Basically, he's a one-eyed Clarkson with the guts to turn his fantasies into a reality.
I guess the appeal lies in the way that killers are often blank canvases, they've done strange things that can't quite be explained, so people who are looking for heroes tend to cast them as the avatars of their secret fantasies. James Holmes becomes Manson, Anders Breivik becomes Adolf Hitler and Moat and Cregan become Clakson. Sad, mean, arrogant Clarkson. Popular, everyman Clarkson, celebrated by the stupid and selfish fringes of Facebook.
Which is really, really depressing.
Follow Clive on Twitter: @thugclive
Previously: Things I'd Really Hate To Care About