Can someone explain to me….

// 8 August 2008

why the Guardian is giving this misogynistic killer airtime?

Guardian reporter Tom Phillips has interviewed the man accused of killing Cara Burke. Warning *DO NOT LISTEN TO THIS* if you are likely to get upset at unapologetically misogynistic self pity. But I will say Phillips draws the interview to a close saying that Mohammed D’Ali Carvalho dos Santos doesn’t seem like a violent man! What! WHAT! This is a man being held for killing, dismembering and dumping is ex-girlfriend’s body. If that’s not a violent man, what it?

I’m not going to post excerpts to spare readers who might be upset – I’d ask that anyone else who is considering doing so *does* think about the potential impact on others first please.

Comments From You

Soirore // Posted 8 August 2008 at 4:47 pm

I only listened for three minutes or so. The whole tone of it is just nasty. If it had been a written interview I probably wouldn’t have felt so chilled but it sounded like he was disinterestedly describing an annoying accident. What happened when he spilt his drink not what happened when he disposed of(really hard to think of the correct wording here so I am not dehumanising her like he did) a woman’s body.

The interviewer states that he seems like a “perfectly normal young man” as if saying that he couldn’t have done this horrid thing, that it must have been the drugs. What crap. Loads of people take drugs and don’t murder others. Urgh, I couldn’t listen to more of that rubbish. Sometimes The Guardian really pisses me off, giving this chap airtime while pretending to be different/less hateful than other papers.

LauraR // Posted 8 August 2008 at 7:39 pm

Easy to answer, I’m afraid, Louise – the Guardian is giving him airtime because he is non-white and foreign.

If the accused was white and from the same estate as Cara, the Guardian wouldn’t have bothered interviewing him because they wouldn’t have been interested in presenting his side of the story.

White people from the underclasses of British society aren’t high on the Guardian’s list of priorities.

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 8 August 2008 at 9:56 pm

It is a common tactic to focus on male perpetrators who have callously murdered an intimate female partner. Of course the murdered woman is obviously not able to put her side of the case, so this allows the media to portray such male murderers as ‘victims.’ Amazing how this male murderer claims he does not recall committing any of the violent and degrading acts against Ms. Burke. Instead once again it is ‘drugs’ which supposedly caused Ms. Burke’s death.

Should we then charge ‘drugs’ with the crime of deliberately murdering dismembering Ms. Burke’s body? Of course Santos is not a violent man because he too is the victim of drugs. Poor man!

Mary Tracy9 // Posted 9 August 2008 at 12:58 am

The best way to get to them is spamming the bloody Guardian!.

It’s the only way these people will listen.

Kirsty // Posted 9 August 2008 at 2:45 am

I actually managed to listen to it with a level head until the point at which Tom Philips said, “You don’t seem like a very violent man to me, standing here in front of me”. WTF? He killed and dismembered a woman. Evidently he is a violent person.

polly styrene // Posted 9 August 2008 at 8:23 am

What appalled me on a similar note in the case of Josef Fritzl (who is accused of imprisoning his daughter for many years and repeatedly raping her) he gave an interview, (which was very widely reported naturally) and it was flagged in ‘The Independent’ as his ‘first interview’. Which suggests there would be more, a series maybe!

What? Why is he being allowed to make his case at all? (particularly while awaiting trial) – is the next thing going to be a photospread in Hello of him showing us round his ‘lovely dungeon’?

And on a similar note I was also incensed by the coverage in The Guardian of the Barry George case. Yes there was not a strong enough case to convict him of murder. But he was hardly a wide eyed innocent, as they depicted him, and has harassed and assaulted many women.

cb // Posted 9 August 2008 at 10:16 am

I was reluctant to even click on the link and don’t have any intention of listening because I know it would raise my blood pressure – actually just thinking about it does that. I just don’t understand what could be achieved by an interview with someone accused of a murder.

Anne Onne // Posted 9 August 2008 at 1:28 pm

I’m not going to listen. Maybe another day, but right now, I don’t need or want the details.

It’s just another attempt to justify violence against women, by focusing on perpetrators in a positive light. It’s funny how we always get people saying of violent attackers that they look like ‘normal people’! I mean, if they looked like a violent murderer, would anybody have gone anywhere near them? Would they have been able to cover their tracks, or get intimately acquainted with those they ended up killing? Do people really expect violent attackers to wear some kind of badge, or have a tattoo on their forehead warning others?

What a stupid, mindless assumption: that someone you know (or don’t know) can’t have done something like this, because they LOOK normal!

We should be taking the fact that abusers and murderers look like anyone else on board, to believe victims when they complain, to be vigilant for signs that this is going on. What do we get instead? This ‘normalness’ used as a tool to garner pity for the perpetrators, and I find that really distasteful. It may just be me, but when the crime in hand wasn’t something reasonably trivial (like, say, tax evasion), but was killing and chopping up a woman, the murderer won’t get any pity from me.

Where’s the pity for the victims? Where is the ‘SHE looked like a normal person… Hey, she WAS a normal person, like me or you or your sister’ focus? A woman was brutally killed and dismembered by a man she trusted, why is the focus not on her?

Shea // Posted 9 August 2008 at 1:33 pm

“she was my friend……!” WTF?!?

This is horrific- there is not one trace of empathy in this interview, not from Mohammed or the interviewer. Why did they bother? He just seems obscenely callous and entirely unconcerned at what he did. The line ” I was thinking of her mother and my mother, I thought it was better to have them think she was missing than dead, thats why I got rid of the body” nearly made me vomit. Cowardly, cold — at least own what you have done. Take responsibility for the fact you were trying to evade being caught.


Kath // Posted 10 August 2008 at 12:06 pm

Laura – “White people from the underclasses of British society aren’t high on the Guardian’s list of priorities.”

Not only is this complete nonsense, it is utterly irrelevant to this post.

LauraR // Posted 10 August 2008 at 10:21 pm

Kath – you may consider it to be complete nonsense, but it is a matter of opinion. And I maintain my position.

As regards its relevance – Louise asked why the Guardian ‘is giving this misogynistic killer airtime’. I gave a reason why that might be. I also suggested that if Cara had been murdered by an ex/current boyfriend from the same background as her, the Guardian would not have bothered sending a journalist to interview him, the reason being that in that situation they wouldn’t care much for getting his side of the story. We can argue the case about why that might be. But irrespective of the reasons for my assertion, I consider my comment to be relevant.

Butterflywings // Posted 11 August 2008 at 7:44 pm

At the risk of this being totally misinterpreted…so don’t bother being rude to me, OK, it’s only the Internet…

may I say a word in defence of the “wow but he doesn’t SEEM evil” thing.

It comes from sheer incredulity. It is very, very difficult for most normal people to imagine how/ why anyone would do evil things such as murder.

Thus the natural reaction is to other them, to think of them as violent monsters, not quite human.

And they are human. Yes, even Stalin was a human being. It’s difficult to deal with, the utterly abhorrent, evil acts that some humans are capable of. So it’s understandable that people react like this.

A logical consequence is to believe that we really can tell “bad” people from good (or OK) ones, because it makes us feel safe, and no-one likes feeling at risk. Victim-blaming stems from misogyny, sure – but it’s not wholly that. It’s understandable that we say, Well, what was s/he doing walking in that area late at night? Why didn’t they just take more care? (this does get said about men who are murdered, robbed, raped, too. Not in the same way, but it does).

So we really do on some level believe that violent psychopaths do have horns on their heads and red eyes.

Like Anne Onne said, “Do people really expect violent attackers to wear some kind of badge, or have a tattoo on their forehead warning others?”

Well – yes. I think most people who haven’t experienced violence do.

And can I point out that EVERY time anyone is charged with evil acts like murder, the media gets their neighbours to say “but they seemed so…normal!” Whether the perpetrator is male or female and whether their victims were.

And “doesn’t SEEM violent” does not equate to “is not violent”.

Of course he was going to sound cold. He’s a psychopath, after all. They don’t really show emotion.

I don’t deny the problems others point out with the coverage. The tone of these things can veer into inviting pity – but just saying they seem like a normal person isn’t. Trying to understand people who commit evil crimes isn’t condoning them. Even finding factors that may somewhat mitigate the offence isn’t condoning it. Not commenting on this specific case. For example, being on drugs, mentally ill *to the point of being out of touch with reality, yes I know not all or most people with mentally illness are dangerous*. Or being a child themselves – I was always amazed how vilified the killers of Jamie Bulger were and how merely stating that they were 10 and 11 years old and came from terrible homes was taken as somehow “pitying” them or condoning the murder.

Women who commit evil acts are often even more vilified than men.

Shea // Posted 12 August 2008 at 12:30 am

Is he a psychopath though? That is a recognised psychiatric diagnosis. As far as I can tell that has not been suggested. Just because he seems cold and unrelenting, that doesn’t translate to psychopathy. I think that suggestion is as insulting as the “drugs made me do it” excuse. He is a sadistic and violent man. There is no diagnosis here, there is no psychopathy, only a guilty man unwilling to take full responsibility for his actions. In the old days they claimed the devil made them do it (the “evil” you mention?)— it was also a b*llsh*t excuse.

Kath // Posted 12 August 2008 at 4:31 pm

Well said Butterflywings. I think that most people do think that people who commit violent crimes will look or act differently to other people and that the media pointing out that this is not the case is actually a good thing. And it’s not just that they look and act like normal people, they ARE normal people. Ordinary people commit horrific acts. They are not monsters. Their crimes need to be investigated so they can be dealt with in a way that will best rehabilitate/treat them and protect the public. And we can do that without having to pity them or disregard their victims.

Having said that, I don’t think it is appropriate to publish interviews with suspected murderers awaiting trial and The Guardian cannot be excused for this.

LauraR – Yes there is more interest in this story than if the killer had been from the same background as Cara. White British women murdered abroad by foreigners tend to attract a relatively high amount of coverage. As for The Guardian’s priorities, it has done more than any other paper to highlight poverty and inequality in British society and I point you in particular towards articles by Polly Toynbee (amongst many others).

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