Thursday, 10 June 2010

Perverse media take on killings

The recent tragic shooting dead of 12 people by Derrick Bird at Whitehaven in Cumbria dominated the news headlines.
A major tragedy of this type comes up roughly every decade. So prior to Bird, there was the shooting dead of 17 children by Thomas Hamilton at a school in Dunblane in 1996 and nine years before that 16 people were killed by Michael Ryan at Hungerford.
The media approach though does not seem to change, camping out in the area, determined to drag the story out, regardless of the impact on a stunned local community.
The story itself was simple enough. Cab driver Derrick Bird for whatever reason lost control and shot 12 people dead before turning the gun on himself. The story at best had two days plus life, even allowing for basic reporting followed by the list of experts giving analysis as to why he took this action. But this was not to be, media organisations had moved substantial resources to the area concerned and they were going to get value for money or put another way at least four days news coverage regardless of the feelings of the town.
The story was simple enough but new leads had to be found to stretch it out. This resulted in speculation over motive and then the inevitable blame game. The police were the first culprits, although there is nothing more they could have done. Then there was a clamour for legislation, the sure fire knee jerk reaction to any tragedy in this country. The fact that making more laws rarely improves the situation - and invariably makes it worse - never seemed to register.
An interesting point concerned the other stories of the week where deaths were preventable but there was no focus on providing solutions because they would be unpalatable for the ruling class.
The first of these was the attack by Israeli forces on an humanitarian vessel taking supplies into Gaza. Israel has been treating the people of Gaza abominably for years but little ever happens. Shamefully, the United States remains silent whatever atrocity the Israelis commit.
The killing of the nine people on the humanitarian vessel was wholly avoidable if pressure had been brought to bear on Israel whereby it knew there would be very real sanction if it took such lawless action. No such action was or will be taken. The ongoing appeasement of Israel it seems continues. This will ensure another future tragic loss of life, given that violence begets violence.
There was further loss of life in the same week as the dead bodies of more British soldiers returned from Afghanistan. The British army should not be in Afghanistan and the blood of every individual killed in that conflict is on the hands of those in government who continue to pursue this futile war. Further death is preventable in Afghanistan if the troops are brought home immediately. At a time of fiscal austerity it is an ongoing anomally that spending on conflicts like Afghanistan and Iraq appear to be outside of any budgetary cutbacks.
Little media space was given to the life saving strategies that could prevent further loss of life in the Middle East and Afghanistan compared to the amount of navel gazing that went on surrounding the one lone gunman in Cumbria.
The situations all involve killing but the polticial contexts are all different. The killings in Cumbria were emotive and probably impossible to prevent. On the other hand, the situations in Gaza and Afghanistan could be resolved and lives saved given the political will. Action by governments in pulling people back from these theatres of war and pursuing peace making policies would prevent death and eventually lead to justice and peace - why does it not happen?

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