Not a lot seems to happen in Walsall Wood, but when it does, it kicks off big time. The strange event in Lichfield Road on Tuesday morning has sent ripples across the internet and other media that could give us a new definition of care in the community.
The facts of the incident are sparse, but what is clear is that an un-named man, either in his 30`s or 40`s, was found to be hanging from a cross attached to a telegraph pole outside a doctors surgery. A passer-by photographed the scene for posterity and within minutes, the image was posted on the internet. Wearing only a loincloth and crown of thorns in sub-zero temperatures, the man was brought down by police and paramedics and taken to hospital suffering from mild hypothermia and to undergo psychiatric tests.
A short time later, a Facebook group was set up which within 24 hours has attracted close to 1,000 subscribers. The majority of comments display a sense of hilarity at this unusual occurrence and there are endless references to Monty Python`s Life of Brian and “No more Nails” adhesive. A national tabloid ran the story and speculated that the incident was a protest against the surgery. News agencies as far away as Adelaide in Australia and in Portugal picked up the story printed in The Sun. Wild rumours began to fly across the internet as to what was the motivation behind such an extraordinary event. A stag night prank was suggested, drug abuse and mental illness were other major themes. Very few commentators seemed in the least bit sympathetic towards the man or what reasons may have drove him to such a bizarre action.
The rumours became darker, leading West Midlands Police to take the unusual step of issuing a statement that categorically denied that the man was a victim of a vigilante attack following a murder outside The Anchor pub in Brownhills. The police also confirmed that the mock crucifixion was a protest against the health service.
The Express & Star, our “local” paper, ran the story tucked away on page 5 and did not bother to put the article online even as the social networking sites were buzzing with speculation and a real need for accurate news. The increasingly influential YamYam was across the story from the beginning and presented the facts as they emerged and added value by linking to Facebook and the blogosphere in terms of context and background. The hippo must declare an interest here as TheYamYam has consistently supported this and other local blogs in bringing opinion to a wider audience.
There is still, though, something very odd about the incident that defies explanation and will continue to cause febrile imaginations to run riot. At the time, the Police described the action as “a spur of the moment thing”, but the construction of a wooden cross, the purchase of a loincloth and the manufacture of a crown of thorns suggests a certain amount of pre-planning and how on earth is it possible to tie yourself to a cross?
Given the speculation and rumour and paucity of facts, we are no closer to knowing the reasons why this man did what he did and perhaps it should remain that way.
If this man is unwell, he should be left in care of professionals who may help him to face his demons. If he has been involved in criminal activity, then that is a matter for the Police and the courts. Any further publicity could compromise legal proceedings. If the whole thing was staged, then such attention seeking should be ignored.
The almost hysterical reaction from Facebookers and Twitterers exposes a dark side of society when a community views a person in difficulties as entertainment. It says more about our collective mental state than it does about our own personal Jesus.