Because it can: death, respect and distasteful coverage
WE all know why a dog licks its testicles: because it can.
That inelegant intro is the key to the recent furores over media behaviour in the wake of two tragedies – the death of Robin Williams on August 11, and the execution of James Foley on August 19.
Both incidents unleashed torrents of coverage on both professional and social media, and came to raise issues of contemporary importance for both streams. The events also highlighted the difference in ethical attitudes between the two streams – the old, legacy, sclerotic media, as some would depict it, compared to the swift, chatty, pervasive digital-only style.
Both men died violently: all streams of media have had an evolving relationship with handling death. Death, as I’ve often argued in lectures, is the fulcrum for all current affairs news. Death is what we all fear, so when it happens to others it is a cause of horrified fascination. Anything that might hasten our own deaths, whether it be an excess of alcohol, road traffic, a meteor colliding with earth or radon gas under the ground, is also riveting because of its possible implications. Read more…
Obvious, really – with a thousand dead on one side, including many non-combatants, and only one civilian on the other side, and 45 military men.
But the argument is becoming so muddied with claim and counter-claim, with allegations that Hamas routinely and callously hides its rocket launchers in schools and hospitals, that an examination of the basics of just war theory should be made.
A just war is a proportional war: if one boy steals another boy’s pocket money, then he should be punished. But not beaten to a pulp by a gang of six men, we would all agree.
If a member of a diplomatic mission is found to be a spy, it is fair enough for him or her to be expelled – but not for the home country to sit a tank outside the offending embassy and fire short-range missiles into it.
Israel has a grievance and legitimate security concerns. But the answer to its problem is not to wipe the Palestinian people off the face of the earth, no matter how much many of its political leaders and supporters would like this to happen. Read more…
Sorry, more about Rebekah B…
When I left News International at Wapping in 1991, a young woman 11 years my junior was just starting her career there. Maybe we passed on the stairs? She most certainly would have been the one going up!
Rebekah Wade, as she was then, the “flame-haired temptress” in the joke cliché beloved of British satirists, was not a journalist but a secretary. In the law, medicine, other professions, an unqualified person cannot take on the role of the practitioner. But journalism is one of the few fields where a person can literally work their way up from sweeping the floor or running errands – it happened a lot in the 20th century and is still possible today. It’s a good thing, but does undermine the claims many of us, including me, would like to make for journalism being regarded as a profession.
But Rebekah Wade/Kemp/Brooks’s talents cannot be classified in a traditional way – other than that of the courtesan, the wildly successful female enchantress of men of power.
For the unusual thing about Brooks, it appears, is that she has succeeded with charm and grit, and seduced [not, of course, in the physical sense] all those around her from mogul Rupert Murdoch to former PM’s wife Sarah Brown. Read more…
Retirement age is being pushed back in countries all over the world, with the latest being the Australian government’s plan to make 70 the life-point when the old-age pension begins.
There’s no doubt people are living longer, with the average span now being in the mid-80s for both men and women, in the west.
And many people would be happy to remain in the labour force, and earning a reasonable income, till their late 60s.
But colliding with this scenario, and not being addressed anywhere by governments, is the problem of what to do with these older workers, in a world where looking for a job over 50 is like the famous needle-in-a-haystack quest.
Evidence is everywhere: in Britain, the 2013 Commission on Older Women report found that a government programme to get people into work had a 28 per cent poorer result for the 55-64 cohort than the under 55s.
[The recession was particularly unkind to older women, with a 41 per cent rise in unemployment among the 50-64 age group between 2010 and 2013. In the population as a whole, the rise was just one per cent.]
POINTLESS is an enjoyable early evening quiz show on BBC One. In it guests aim to decide which answer to a question would have had zero correct answers out there in the real world.
It’s hosted by Alexander Armstrong, with the wonderful, bespectacled Richard Osman as his sidekick. And last week there was a fascinating fact which appealed to me particularly. It was that Calvin Coolidge’s vice president on the 1924 ticket, Charles Dawes, was the same man who wrote the music for the hit song “All in the Game” in the 1950s. (“Many a tear has to fall, But it’s all, In the game…”.)
And to top his achievements, Charlie won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1925. He was, according to the Nobel website, known as “Hell and Maria” Charlie.
Now there’s a multitasker/polymath par excellence, which leaves one musing via the cliché “They don’t make ‘em like that any more.” At least, not in our dull western democracies, where high office seems reserved for the superhumanly bland, setting aside an Obama or two.