Media Hype gone ballistic – 22nd March, 2014

Media Hype gone ballistic

This week, I have been listening on BBC radio to the serialisation of ‘Free at Last’ – the diaries of the late Tony Benn (1991-1999), spoken by the man himself.

The diaries make fascinating listening, as indeed does the incredible life of its author. I rarely agreed with what Tony Benn had to say on the political stage, but I have always admired his principled beliefs and stands – surely one of the last remaining, (and now sadly deceased), honourable politicians of a bygone age.

Like most people, I have grown increasingly disillusioned with the cynical machinations by politicians of every political hue, and the dearly lamented Tony Benn was a lone beacon of light that has now been extinguished in an age when people of his ilk are so desperately needed.

There was one particular item that stood out for me in the Thursday morning reading. It was about the death of Princess Diana  Although no lover of royalty – Benn himself forced the government to change the law so that he could give up his hereditary peerage, (he had inherited the title of Viscount Stansgate upon the death of his father) – he was very respectful about the tragic death of the world’s favourite princess. He had no issues with the life of the princess but, like me at the time, he had some severe misgiving about the media coverage of the Princess’s death.

Nobody would complain about the more or less blanket newscoverage for the first few days following her death, but it went on and on and on… day after day, week after week. It was almost as if time had stood still and there was no other news in the world other than the death of a somewhat unstable, psychologically fragile, privileged commoner who was foolish enough to marry a mentally challenged heir to the throne of Britain; a man who became a serial adulterer.

In reading his diaries of the time, Benn didn’t sound angry, offended or in any way upset by this ridiculous, over the top media coverage, but simply noted that several weeks after the event, the news coverage was still ‘99%’ about the death of Di. He left his readers (listeners) to their own conclusions.

It immediately brought to mind the current situation with regards to the media frenzy over the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH 370. It is now two weeks since the plane went missing, yet speculation on the fate of this aircraft still occupies a lions’ share of every world bulletin on BBC World news, CNN and of most of the world’s premier news organisations.

Yes, it is all very tragic and very mysterious, and the presumed death of  239 people is not something to be sneezed at.

But over the past two weeks since the plane disappeared there have been very few facts that can provide an explanation for what happened and where the plane headed prior to its presumed crash into land or sea.

Yet that hasn’t stopped the entire world’s media from endless speculation and the trawling out of thousands of so-called experts and thousands of hypotheses of what might have happened. Theories as far-fetched as seizure by aliens, to stopping off to pick up some unnamed passenger, to zombie air planes to God Almighty himself casting the plane into hell. These and countless others have all been given prime time news coverage.

Frankly, it is totally ridiculous. OK, it is a very unusual event and attracts much audience interest, but surely, given  the lack of any real news updates, a couple of minutes towards the end of a news bulletin would be more in keeping with its importance in any ‘ranking’ of world news.

On Thursday night, on BBC World news, they devoted the first twenty minutes of a thirty minute news bulletin on yet more speculation on what might have happened to MH 370.

To put this tragic event into perspective, there are over 300 people killed on the roads of Thailand in every single week of every single year. Yet these tragic deaths hardly make the headlines in Thai newspapers, let alone attract interest from the international media. And by the way, quite an alarming number of these deaths involve foreign tourists…

And as far as world news is concerned, it’s not as though there’s not much going on at the moment.

I don’t know how many times I noted that the MH 370 incident took precedence over Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Let’s face it, this event which has precipitated an alarming escalation of east-west tensions could easily develop into another ‘cold war’, and the fate of the remainder of eastern Ukraine other Balkan states is still very much up for grabs.

But no, in the esteemed opinion of the word’s media barons, the fate of a missing plane was a far more important story and was far more deserving of their very best, blanket coverage.

This to say nothing of news of the looming genocide in the Central African Republic, that could easily escalate into Rwanda proportions, (and let’s not forget how the world powers still berate themselves for acting too late to prevent that catastrophe in which more than 800,000 people were massacred).

How many of my readers have even heard about the US navy seals seizing the oil tanker, ‘Morning Glory’, after it left a Libyan port, bound for North Korea with a cargo of illegally obtained oil, and returned it to a government controlled port. Surely this was sensational news of the first order? Yet the news of this it was almost buried without trace.

And how about the continuing massacres of women and children in Syria, the failure to complete the removal of Syrian Chemical weapons, or the ongoing merciless massacres of Christian students, children and villagers throughout the length and breadth of Nigeria by crazed, Muslim extremists?

I could go on and on, but nobody is really listening. They just want to know what happened to MH 370 and listen to the latest risible theories.

Quite by chance, on Friday morning, after having already made a note to write this article, lo and behold Bill O’Reilly was making the very same point at the top of his programme. The only problem is, that despite the fact that he was deploring the OTT media coverage, he was – and is – doing the very same thing he was complaining about.

He told  us that the other ‘left leaning media’, were giving so much coverage to the missing plane because they did not wish to report the ‘failures’ of Obama’s presidency, the imminent collapse of Obamacare and the plummeting ratings of Obama and Democrats generally.

This might well be the case, but what was the ‘right leaning’ Fox News doing? Why! Of course, they were providing blanket coverage of MH 370.

Sean Hannity had entire programmes devoted to it, and Megan Kelly carries it every day as her number one, top news story… and… O’Reilly himself – despite protestations to the contrary – by my reckoning is devoting half his programme to it, and it has appeared as his top story of the day on several occasions to my knowledge – and I certainly don’t watch him every day.

Never have I known O’Reilly to be so arrogantly hypocritical. Not only does he devote countless hours on something in which little or no ‘hard’ news has developed, but he also goes into endless speculations with ‘expert guests’ along with his own, home-spun theories, despite telling us that he only provides hard news – never speculation….

Really? Are you sure about that?

Why don’t you go to your nearest church and confess your hubristic sins, like the good catholic that you claim to be?

Post Script

Today, Saturday, O’Reilly devoted another two lengthy segments to the fate of MH 370, even though the update news today on the missing plane is even less than it was yesterday; and yesterday it wasn’t more than a pin prick. He told us, with disgust, that CNN were devoting ’25 hours a day’ (sic) in blanket coverage, and apparently it had doubled their ratings…..

Woe is Fox news!

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