Karen Matthews, who received welfare payments of $40,000 a year, had borne seven children to five different men. She called two of her children with the same father “the twins,” thus transferring the meaning of “twin” from the relatively unusual biological occurrence of double birth to what she clearly thought the equally unusual social circumstance of full siblinghood.
The reasons for Shannon’s abduction have not yet emerged, but again the Guardian managed to distract the reader’s attention from less than optimal family arrangements. Instead, it ran an upbeat story on the housing project where the Matthews family lived; that way, the obvious could be ignored rather than denied. The Sun, a tabloid newspaper whose readership is virtually entirely working-class, had described the project as “like Beirut—only worse.” But the Guardian, whose readership is largely middle-class and employed in the public sector, drew attention to the improvements that had taken place in the project, thanks to the local council’s having spent $8 million on it over the last three years—supplying traffic bollards shaped like penguins, for example. Before the improvements, one resident said, “We’d houses burgled, sheds burned, caravans blown up.” Now, only one house in 90 is robbed per year; and, thanks to the penguins, joy-riding by youths in stolen cars is presumably much reduced. The implication is clear: with more public spending of this kind everywhere in the country, administered by Guardian readers and their peers, everything will be all right. It won’t matter in the slightest if children either have no fathers, or different fathers every few years.
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