As this rather eventful year draws to a conclusion it seems to me that the latest overnight media reports upon developments in the Gatwick Airport drone attack incident, specifically the news that the police have admitted the possibility that there may never have been a drone at all – Sussex Police’s Detective Chief Superintendent Jason Tingley has been quoted as confirming that there exists “no available footage and we are relying upon witness accounts”) – serve as a forceful reminder that, no matter what safeguard or quality control filters the human race seeks to apply to its reporting of anything that happens in the world, the fundamental of the matter is that nobody actually knows anything for certain.
As a starting point let us call in evidence two famous notions:
Firstly, that history is written by the victors – a statement uttered more than once by Churchill as part of a quip that he personally would be doing the drafting – is a theme as old as the hills.
Secondly, Malcolm X’s “the media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses …”
Fictional dystopian views of the future from Orwell’s 1984 onwards, whether their authors’ motivations were grounded in fears at the way the world was going or simply the mundane desire to make money from straightforward ‘horror genre’ mass entertainment, have highlighted the key conflicting issues of Big Brother governmental authorities, civil liberties, freedom of expression and even Marx’s dismissal of religion as the opiate of the masses.
Every time, perhaps prompted by new developments in science or technology, that somebody comes up with even a simple and practical way of ‘keeping tabs on people’ – e.g. by the electronic tagging of prisoners or those on probation, or ditching passports and instead injecting digital chips into our necks containing all our personal data that the authorities might ever need – the armies of those for and against enter the tournament lists.
On the other it’s all about the unwelcome implications of creeping encroachments upon individual freedom. And in the 21st Century the issues surrounding these eternally conflicted principles are sometimes being bypassed or overtaken by the breathtakingly swift successive arrivals of new means of communication and potential control.
This in times when some of us have hardly mastered, let alone understood, the recent ones we’ve just been persuaded by our peers and/or children that we ought to come to terms with and take on board.
Which brings me back to where I came in – the thought that those who control a nation’s, or continent’s, or even the world’s media also thereby control the news agenda and to an extent the minds of all of us. This applies even in capitalist Western World democracies, never mind state or dictator-controlled countries.
If you’re a complacent Brit like me, you might fondly imagine that our media is broadly fair, reasonable and impartial. When the BBC (then the British Broadcasting Company, not Corporation) was founded in October 1922 it was intentionally established as a stereotypical Big Brother organisation, viz. ‘the Voice of the People’ – or as it became colloquially and affectionately known – ‘Auntie’.
At the time, of course, though Britain was already in terminal decline as a world power, it was still basking in its self-belief as not only the centre of a vast Empire but as a fount of ordered, logical, rational, fair and balanced authority – all laced with impeccable integrity – upon every subject on Earth including the codification of world sports and universal natural justice.
As the days we instinctively sneer at foreign media like Al-Jazeera, anything coming out of Putin’s Russia or even the transparently-partisan US media giants, we do so secure in the comfortable but preposterous belief that the British media is at least ‘telling it as it is’ despite the fact that we each draw our self-fulfilling views of the world from the news outlets that most align with our personal political beliefs.
In a way, I suppose we should thank President Donald Trump for inadvertently turning over the proverbial stone of Truth to reveal the unedifying, squirming contents of the subjective cess-pit which in one form or another is the way the world reports upon itself.
There is but a small gap between ‘Fake News’ and any other kind. Or maybe all news is fake until it is proved otherwise by either the weight of corroboration or hindsight (which, of course, the victor writes).
Or perhaps that should be better re-written as ‘All news is true unless and until it is proved to be fake’.
In the meantime, the Gatwick Airport drone attack incident currently dominates our minds.
Some ten hours into the crisis, I recall the youthful-looking Gatwick spokesman – I thought he was billed as the CEO but my subsequent research suggests he wasn’t that – saying in an interview on Radio Five Live as part of a discourse upon how many flights had been cancelled and how many tens of thousands of passengers had been affected “… Passenger safety is my main priority. As I speak the incident is ongoing, there are still two drones on my airport …” [or words to that effect].
It hardly squares with this latest police statement which implies that, as far as they are concerned, no hard evidence at all of a drone being involved has yet been established.
See here for a many-reporter-penned “Shock! Horror!” piece on Gatwick Airport drone attack latest that appears today upon the website of the – DAILY MAIL