Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Serial killings are invariably opaque affairs. Even when - if - the killer is found, we are left unsatisfied. As at the end of Hitchcock's Psycho, the proffered psychological explanations are never quite big enough to fit the facts. The only honest thing to say about the murder of five prostitutes in Ipswich is nothing. Like a black hole, the object itself lies beyond our categories and all we can discuss are its observable effects. And so the killings have become a neutral zone, a blank sheet on which people, unconsciously, write their autobiographies. The Telegraph leader, for example, notes the poignancy of such events happening in the midst of the English rural idyll, in villages with names like Copdock Mill, Hintlesham and Nacton. In The Times Alice Miles says its makes the case for legalised prostitution clear. Does it? In the Guardian Julie Bindel constructs a rather complex feminist case. The serious intent of this is somewhat undercut by the online Guardian's astoundingly tasteless and depressing interactive guide, as if already coachloads of ghoulish onlookers were setting out to tour the sites where the bodies were found. But something has to be said and so, baffled, we talk earnestly about ourselves. The truth is that serial killings say nothing, nothing, at least, that we did not already know.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 8:20 am