I’m not in the business of discussing the various short and long-term implications of the terrorist attacks in Paris last Friday (13th November) because they’re evolving as new developments in the investigation as to what happened and why occur every day – maybe I should say ‘every few hours’ – and in any event are being covered in exhaustive detail by the world’s media.
Instead, for good or ill, I simply wished to record a couple of personal observations.
Firstly – and I cannot help it – but in situations like this one (probably to be filed under ‘shocking events that attract global attention’), I often surprise myself by how little time passes before I begin suffering from ‘compassion fatigue’, as I think those working in the charity industry refer to it, i.e. the point at which those affected enough to care about what’s happened eventually switch off, gradually numbed by the sheer weight of the horror/’victim’ images and stories being presented to them.
It’s a ‘lose-lose’ situation I suppose.
Faced with a broadsheet Sunday newspaper which opens with eight pages or more’s worth of in depth analysis, reporting and comment on some word-shattering disaster/outrage such as the one in Paris, I can quite easily switch straight to page 9 on the basis that – probably – I’ve already seen/heard enough of the ‘evolving’ story on TV and/or radio to already be fully up-to-date enough for my purposes, thank you … and now, if you don’t mind, I’d rather move on to contemplate something else, e.g. the Vauxhall Conference League football results.
On the other hand, by the same token, when last Saturday morning I switched on my radio and then television to discover that those that decide these things had cleared the advertised schedules entirely in order to devote themselves to blanket ‘special programming’ covering the Paris tragedy/outrage minute-by-minute as it developed throughout the day, I was equally ‘turned off’.
I acknowledge that when you’re an elite news journalist or editor and some giant disaster like Paris happens, you become filled with adrenalin and intent. This is the kind of thing for which you’ve both been trained and indeed called to your vocation ‘to educate and inform’. However, there’s also a degree of conceit involved. Something earth-shattering has happened, our duty is to report it and that’s exactly what we’re going to do, irrespective of whether the bulk of the paying public out there is interested.
The trouble is that there is only so much I can take of news programmes in which the in-studio presenter [or, in the case of Paris, the in-studio presenter now transported to a foreign land in order to reflect the importance of the event] begins by summarising the latest detailed up-to-date position … and then passes to an ‘on the spot’ specialist reporter for further elucidation, only for the latter to take a deep and solemn breath and then repeat said opening summary again, detail for detail. Because at that moment in time that’s all the information anyone has. By the nature of these things, details are sketchy, few in number and dished out by the authorities simultaneously to each and every news organisation from around the word that is covering the story. All the radio/TV reporters can do, for hours on end, is repeat themselves ad infinitum until someone lets them go home and/or something new happens.
The absurdity of this media situation is compounded when, during an ‘on-the-spot’ reporter’s piece, the in-studio presenter interrupts – with a mounting smear of excitement and pomposity – to report some item of ‘breaking news’, e.g. [I’m making this up] it’s just been announced that the death toll has risen from 110 to 119. He then ‘throws back’ to the on-the-spot reporter for his reaction … and all the poor sap can do is repeat the news that he (and indeed the audience at home) has just heard.
What I cannot understand – and I’m not just bashing the organisation just because it’s such an easy target – is why the BBC sees fit to switch its BBC1 channel to blanket news coverage at times like these. We’re all aware that the vast bulk of the British population that owns a television by definition thereby has access to at least two and possibly eight or nine 24/7 dedicated news channels. If any of us want to view blanket coverage of such an event we could just switch to one of those – so why also force-feed us it via BBC1 as well?
Or is it the case that some Big Brother has decreed that, whether we like it or not, this subject is so important to the world that we’ve all got sit up and pay attention?
My second comment is aimed at some of the liberal, politically-correct, brigade who are constantly lecturing us that all refugees and migrants should be welcomed with open arms, preferably without any passport-checking or consideration of any kind, because (as a western, liberal, democratic country) we should be welcoming the growth of our multi-cultural society without reservation. It’s our moral duty partly because, by our cavalier attitude to starting conflicts in long-term war-torn regions, we’ve caused many of the situations that prompt locals to become refugees or migrants in the first place.
It’s interesting to see how those politicians, current affairs commentators and ‘renta-mouth’ pundits who habitually champion the supposed underdog and/or use the Human Rights convention(s) to justify defending rapists, fraudsters and violent criminals against deportation, or indeed any other sanction, react when they are confronted by events such as Paris.
Or how those who (on ‘invasion of privacy’ grounds) a week or so ago were complaining bitterly about the Government’s proposals for allowing our spooks to access greater amounts of internet communication than ever before are squaring that position now with their horror and revulsion at seeing what can happen if our lords and masters don’t (or indeed can’t) act decisively to give themselves the means, hopefully, to prevent such outrages.
Call me a right-wing loony if you must, but I’m fully prepared to forgo some of my personal right to privacy if this potentially goes some way to prevent a Paris happening (God forbid) in central London at some point in the future.
At the moment I feel I’m being lectured by some on how ‘liberal, democratic, freedom-loving’ Western society mustn’t lower its ‘rule of law’ standards etc. because to do so would amount to sinking to the terrorists’ level and lose us the moral high ground.
I’ve never bought that argument.
If you find yourself in a war your first – indeed only – priority has to be to win it, by whatever means it takes. You can sort out whether in some respects your very highest standards, principles (or aspirations) had to be compromised in along the way afterwards.
Plus – lest we forget – the fact is that, when it comes to conflicts and wars, the winner always writes the official history anyway.