Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Fourth Estate


Continual amazement best describes the press statements “released” by members of victims' families.

I just don't understand.

In this troubled world, a world of 24 hour news coverage populated by the inane and inept reporters such coverage engenders, I simply cannot understand the statements attributed to the families of the victims of tragedies.

Imagine – if you can – the scenario. A member of your family (heaven forbid!) is the victim of an accident/terrible crime. The press turn up on your door. They ask for a statement. What do you say?

I know what you don't say: no-one ever says, “He was a pain in the bum, and we are glad he's gone”. Fair enough. You wouldn't expect anyone to say this, even if it were true. You'd be amazed if anyone did say they were totally nonplussed by the absence of a loved-one. It just isn't an appropriate response.

So, why bother to ask?

Does the family's “eulogy” actually add anything to the story? Is the coverage worthy of a Bafta just for doing the asking? Do the viewers really need to see the auntie/uncle/family friend spouting the same shock/horror/amazement in order to be able to empathise with the family? I think not.

So, why is it done?

It must be simply to pander to the prurient interest of the masses.

Part of what makes us human is our unique ability to empathise with others of our species. We, alone in the animal world (seemingly), are able to imagine what others of our kind are doing, suffering and thinking. Therefore, we can imagine how someone else is feeling. Most animals can not do this.

For example, on the African plain, when the lions have managed to snare a zebra after a long chase, the rest of the zebra herd never, ever stop running and imagine what it feels like to have your leg bitten off by a lion. We would and we do. It's part of what makes us what we are.

So, the viewers are imagining how they might feel if a member of their family or friends were a victim. They don't need someone to tell them how to feel. It comes natural. The rest is just superfluous.

I almost feel sorry for the reporters who have to ask these silly, insensitive questions.

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