Posted by J Russell
The following is finding its voice as a blog post because it can’t stay in my head a moment longer.
Once, I wanted to be journalist. Today, I am glad that never happened. Today, I have been sickened and hurt by the media in this country.
A terrible thing happened on a street in Woolwich, London yesterday afternoon. I am not going to repeat what happened because, thanks to the media deluge, you probably know. What concerns me first and foremost is that whilst the professional media sharks (apparently driven in an unthinking, animal way desperate to compete with social media) go into a frenzy of feeding the public with graphic images, speculation and eye-witness reports: a young man was murdered. That’s the first thing, the last thing and really, the everything about this story.
What in the world has happened to us. How have we allowed ourselves to be so drawn in by horror? A young man has been killed, as yet without a name, but somewhere his family and loved ones are not being spared a thing. No detail is too awful or horrific to share and pick over. A young man, who happened to be a soldier has been appropriated as symbol, first by his attackers and then perpetuated in the media. When he pulled on his Help for Heroes t-shirt yesterday he was just a young man, living his life. He was not living as a symbol of the state and to force that onto his memory within an hour of his death only feeds into the very ideology that seems to cause so much hate and suffering in the world.
It is said that the political message of the perpetrators makes the act one of terrorism. Terror. That is, to create terror in a community, in society. The most effective way to create the terror is if you can get the print media, following hard-on-the-heels of the knee-jerk reactions posted all over the social media networks, to scare and sicken people with their words and their pictures the following day. Blood on their hands is a graphic enough image in words; I will never understand the need for it on the front page. According to this piece by Roy Greenslade, only the Daily Express refrained. Be warned if you click through to the Greenslade post, you will see the blood. I am sure you have done so already. I was trying to avoid it, but it has been unavoidable and I had the image planted in my head overnight. It disturbed my sleep. I do not pray, but I hope that the young victim’s family have been protected. Roy Greenslade says something like, newspaper editors would have looked stupid if they had not published images that were already in the public domain. Is that their main concern? Whether they look stupid? Or is the truth of it, that no matter what the potential hurt, harm and damage, the market always rules; that if one editor is printing, the others follow suit because of sales. In the internet world, the image was old news by this morning anyway, but it was none the less shocking. The image is everywhere. I cannot even get into an email account without it being on the landing page. Newspaper editors did not reveal a truth to us in their papers today; neither have they informed us. All they have done is given a physical manifestation to the most graphic image of hate I have ever seen in my whole life.
Roy Greenslade had these papers with their front pages on his breakfast table this morning. It is no surprise his eldest grandson commented on it. The thought of a newspaper man eating breakfast over such an image… consuming the news product along with toast… words fail me. Perhaps they turned the page… folded it shut… Yesterday’s news. My children will not be taken near a news stand until the papers come, if not to their senses, to some common denominator of decent humanity, which, for all its positive traits, social media never can.
The men that murdered that young man yesterday, were filled with hatred, that much is self-evident. They are not my concern. The young man and his family are. The frightened people in the same street yesterday are. All I can say about the two men, is that with their actions they only represented themselves, their own beliefs. Even if they followed an ideology external to themselves, they took it upon themselves and acted upon it. They do not ‘belong’ to any thing, or any one, other than themselves. They defy categorisation, speculation and they should never have been given the front pages to strike fear and discord into the hearts of the wider community. What purpose those images may serve for unknown others with hate in their hearts does not bear thinking about.
At this point, it is worth mentioning another forgotten victim of hate crime. Earlier this month in Birminghan a seventy-five year old man, originally from Pakistan, who walked with a stick, was stabbed to death. That crime too was horrific. That crime also involved a knife and blood. I never read a thing about it at the time, let alone on the front page of a national newspaper. Yesterday’s victim came out of the barracks, the Birmingham victim came out of a mosque. Yesterday’s perpetrators were black, the one in Birmingham was white. Victims and their assailants come in all colours and creeds. That is not the issue. Hate is the issue. Everything else is just an excuse. We can only counter hate with love. What love did the newspaper editors show the world this morning in their own private race not to look ‘stupid’? When I pass a road accident, I look away. Today the newspapers were the drivers of the tour bus and they did a slow drive by on an unedifying, unilluminating but visceral story about a human tragedy.