The Pornography of News

This afternoon, I happened to be sitting in the bar at work after lunch. On the TVs scattered around the bar, BBC News was playing out. Today of course, the events of a plane emergency landing at Heathrow and another being diverted from Manchester to Stansted were being played out. Endlessly, without any real analysis and with all the idle speculation one might expect.

In amongst this was an interview with the widow of Lee Rigby, the soldier murdered in Woolwich on Wednesday. And it bothered me that this woman, still struggling to come to terms with the loss of her husband, not to mention its manner, was having a microphone shoved under her face and being asked how she felt.  I felt pretty much the same on Wednesday when almost everyone in the TV media felt the need to play, on national television, the moment of this man’s death and its aftermath. Sometime on Wednesday, the journalist David Hepworth summed it up perfectly in a tweet, which said simply: “I don’t need to see horror to believe it“. I’m beginning to fear that some people are losing sight of that very important point.

The lesson wasn’t learned on Thursday morning either, when pretty much every newspaper felt it necessary to splash the images from those videos on their front pages. And the coverage was so arbitrary. As undoubtedly heinous as this attack was, was it more heinous than one that happened in Birmingham at the beginning of May? Why the difference in the reporting? And the profile?

So I’ve stayed away from the news.

But still it goes on and you can never totally escape, with radio phone-ins and the endless, clueless echo chamber of public opinion chiming in with exactly what it means about Muslims (see the twitter battering the BBC’s Nick Robinson took for reporting without comment the police’s use of the expression “Muslim appearance” to describe the attacker), and about our society in general. All the classic knee-jerks have been there through the last 48 hours. In amongst all of this vapid clamour, the key issue is almost forgotten. A wife is left without a husband, and a child without a dad. And all the hysteria generated has pretty much guaranteed that the nutcase behind this got exactly what he wanted: wall-to-wall media clusterfuck, for want of a less accurate word. Congratulations! The atmosphere of constant febrile paranoia gets perpetuated.

At which point I was reminded of this, oh so relevant, clip from Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe. See if you can spot what the media did wrong this week:

I think much of the best common sense on the issue came from this man, an imam. Surprisingly, it was on Sky News. Wonders will never cease. Treat the man responsible for this vicious and horrible crime exactly as what he is: a common criminal. No more. No less.

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