The resolution is simple. Demand more from the media.
By Patrick Brogan
The mainstream media should be the best source of information there is, but all too often it clouds the very stories they are covering. There are a number of reasons for this. Advertising is one. Timing issues and relevancy also play a part. Regardless of the causes, the outcome is still the same. Poor journalism. Two stories really showed up the media’s clamour to fill us with information that was only conjecture. The recent Paris attacks and Flight MH370.
Who carried out the Paris attacks?
The 13th November should have been a good day for Irish sports fans. The national soccer team had put themselves in good contention of qualifying for Euro 2016 after drawing 1-1 with Bosnia and Herzegovina on a foggy night in Zenica. However, this optimism quickly turned to sorrow as we watched with the rest of the world the cowardly attacks in the French capital unfold. Also playing that night were France and Germany in Stade de France. The French are due to hold Euro 2016 and what better way to instill fear around the tournament by attacking the very stadium that will host the final. The French premiere, Francois Hollande, was also in attendance. Even he is unsafe from radical attacks. Restaurants, cafés and the Bataclan Theatre, which bore the brunt of the massacre, were also targeted. These were just ordinary Parisians going about their day-to-day lives and they were mercilessly murdered by people who have no appreciation of the cultural and social practices they had just tried to blow up. If we couldn’t grasp this ourselves, Sky News kept kindly reminding us.
Paris has had a bad year with extremist attacks. In January, the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were attacked with a number of their staff being murdered in cold blood. The attacks continued around Paris and the casualty number rose. 17 died in total over three days. The perpetrators were members of the Yemeni faction of al-Qaeda. As Muslims, they felt the publication was guilty of blasphemy when they depicted the Muslim prophet, Muhammed. Although I totally condemn the actions of those involved and find them utterly despicable, I also believe Charlie Hebdo was wrong to characterise Muslim people they way they did. Their depictions of Aylan Kurdi, the little boy who died and washed ashore on the coast of Bodrum, Turkey supports this. It follows a pattern of juvenile commentary that often crosses into the obscene. I digress slightly, but the point here is the media are unwilling to look at all the angles, which I will get into a bit later on. The Charlie Hebdo attacks are important for a number of reasons, not least because the men behind them were born and raised in France. Not jihadis from the Middle East.
France, like most Western European countries, has a long colonial past. Many of the countries colonised are in the Muslim world. Algeria, Syria and Lebanon for example. Many people from these countries followed the French home. As a result of this mass migration, many French cities house ghettos and Paris is no different. These ghettos are no different from other deprived areas in the world in that they create a social imbalance and a population understandably unhappy at their disadvantaged start in life. Add to this the current geopolitical landscape and you have a jihadi tinderbox. This much should have been clear after what happened in Paris in January. Sky News must have missed that memo.
So who was responsible in November? Again, French citizens, albeit radicalised. At around this time, there was a huge exodus of people moving towards Europe from the Middle East, Africa and beyond. There was a real fear that extremists would merge with these desperate migrants and carry out more atrocities on European soil. This is not the most far-fetched idea out there. Many in the media were only too ready to jump on this in what I describe as passive racism. It’s not in your face. It is made up of a million insinuations and rumours. There were also thousands of people on social media that were willing to run away with this idea in a way only they can. Sky News didn’t speculate on who the perpetrators might be when the story was first breaking. When a Syrian passport belonging to a man named Ahmad Almohammed was found at the scene they let their imaginations run wild. Had they have done a bit more research before running with the story they would have found it was a fake. By the time we found out it was fake, the idea that these people came in with the other migrants had already stuck. They have to cram so much information into their rolling news space that whether the information is true or not is irrelevant. They could have easily held off this information till they had verification of its authenticity. This passport also smacks of the passport found in the aftermath of 9/11. Satam al-Suqami’s passport survived an explosion that destroyed the plane he was on and the building the plane crashed into. Found mere blocks away. Thank God these men are carrying around indestructible passports before blowing themselves up. How else would we know whom to blame?
Some of the Paris attackers have yet to be identified. Of those that have been, it is positive they are French. A lot of people you ask are not aware of this. Apart from the initial murders and destruction of life, are the most important elements who did this and why? Robert Fisk found the American media’s reaction to 9/11 troubling too. He said after the American government told us it was Osama bin Laden responsible nobody in the American media bothered to question what his motives were. We have the same situation in both Paris attacks. Why are these young French men attacking the state they were born in. The situation in the Middle East is enormously complex and the more you read into it the more difficult it becomes to get your head around. (A lot of which, it must be stated, the West is complicit in.) I understand that the media don’t have time to explain geopolitics on a story that is still unfolding, but surely if they are willing to dedicate so much time to horror and emotional reactions by the public surely they must ask the hard questions like who and why when the dust starts to settle. Do they not owe it to the victims? I would argue that they do as they make big money off this is sort of coverage. It is up to us, the people, to force them to ask why.
MH370 is a similar situation. Although we are still unsure what exactly happened, some speculation can be ruled out. At the time, nobody really had an idea what happened. This didn’t stop the media indulging in the more outlandish theories out there and damaging speculation. The dramatic music was out in force too. A plane has just disappeared traveling between two well-developed nations, false suspense is not required. Then there were the close-ups of upset families. Breaking news of what might be debris. And oil slick. Of course, it is a vast ocean. Both of these are fairly common. No concrete evidence is ever presented to us. It must be pointed out that the Malaysian authorities created a lot of confusion, changing the sequence of events which did not help reporters, but for the more tabloidy news agencies this seemed to suit them. This helped them make a story rather than finding out the truth. When actual debris was found on Reunion over a year later it was treated as an afterthought. Surely this is huge news. No wonder conspiracy theorists are thriving in this information vacuum and inconsistent narrative.
For any society, it is always important the average person questions authority and those reporting the “news”. For your own sake try and be more analytical. As Aristotle advised a young Alexander the Great; Make no assumptions, every situation is different. Organise and analyse the facts before drawing conclusions. If there are two people in history we can learn from surely it is those two. Also, the IFLScience website posted an interesting article on biases that may cause you to make bad decisions. This is good for all walks of life and it definitely applies when you are being bombarded by the mainstream media. Here is the link; http://www.iflscience.com/brain/20-cognitive-biases-which-make-you-form-bad-decisions. Other than that rant, Happy New Year and, as always, peace and pout.