Saturday, April 20, 2013

"Peter, you've lost the news!"

Tara has been away in Scotland this last week, so I've had plenty of time to myself in the evenings after getting back from work. Walking around in your pants, shouting drunkenly at furniture, playing hide and seek with your cats, eating dried beanfeast from the packet with a dessert spoon and drinking milk straight from the fridge is novel for about two days and I had such bold plans about what I'd get up to - I'd catch up with loads of television series and a few films I'd been meaning to watch for some time.

And then on April the 15th the world turned upside down.

Suddenly it was forgotten that North Korean citizens were under instructions from Kim Jong-Un the Wrongun to gather all their elastic bands together (so they could fire nukes at everywhere in the world that wasn't North Korea) because some terrorists decided to perform the cowardly act of targeting and killing the softest of targets - innocent individuals spectating at the Boston marathon.

And then the waterboarding torture of rolling news began, very similar to the type of waterboarding torture that nobody has ever used at Guantanamo Bay detention camp. The constant drip, drip, drip of nothing in particular. Constantly. Without pause. Relentlessly.

At first it was the endless shots of one of the bombs going off and various marathon runners being blown off their feet by the force of the blast. This one short clip of video footage would be shown constantly throughout the evening on every single news channel, just in case you'd happened to forget what an explosion looks like.

And then that self-same footage was slowed to an absolute crawl examined and pored over in minute detail by amateurs and experts alike. All it was missing was Alan Hansen pausing the footage and using a light-pen to draw coloured highlights and projected trajectories against individual fragments.

And we were constantly reminded of the innocence of both the runners and the spectators, just in case we'd temporarily forgotten that it wasn't a War Criminal jolly day out to the Marathon.

And the endless speculation - reporters asking every single interviewee who could have done this and why - as though there was a witness who was ready to give the entire plot away, if only somebody would ask him.

Rolling news during an event such as this is very much like levelling up in Warcraft and the like - Nothing is really happening but you're constantly being reminded of what is about to happen. Exciting stuff is just around the corner, all the time. Every press conference goes along the lines of "Nothing is happening at the moment but if you come back in an hour something might happen - or if something really big happens I might even be back before that hour has elapsed."

And then just as the news networks started getting bored of showing the explosion, they had footage of the suspects - and then eventually their identities were revealed, and the news networks were salivating themselves in frenzied excitement.

"Dzhokhar (Tsarnaev) was just a normal student", his university friends all queued up to say, frustrating all the news readers who were desperate for some meat to this story, some exclusive detail about the killers personality, "At no stage did he even hint that he was considering leaving a nail-filled pressure cooker at a well attended sporting event in order to maim, kill and generally spread terror. And not once did he ever scream Allahu Akbar whilst wearing an explosive belt."

And then the manhunt - the most unfairly weighted game of hide and seek ever played out on American Soil. We were treated to exciting footage of armed police going into houses and then coming out of houses. And then going into another house and coming out of it. Like Avon ladies with heavy armament.

Cue unmissable dramatic news sequences like the following:

"These scenes from Boston are incredibly dramatic."

Cue shot of five police officers standing by a car doing nothing. One of them scratches his arse. Five seconds pass, ten seconds, fifteen.

"Now back to the studio."

And then more excitement as the police knew where Tsarnaev was. He was hiding out feeling sorry for himself in a boat - much like a disappointed Birmingham winner of Bullseye. And now the end was nigh, one way or another, the newsreaders could go to town in one final blaze of glory.

"Police are circling in now, but there is every chance that he may have placed bombs around the boat to protect himself."

"Or he might have some manner of bazooka or chain cannon under the boats canopy with him, Steve."

"Thats right, Karen. Or in fact might not be in the boat at all - there is every possibility that it might be a holographic projection. Or might be able to call down an army of highly armed jetpack robots."

But he was captured, so thats the end of this story now, surely? Can we get back on with being terrified about Korea again? Please don't say you're going to fill the news with weeks more of explosion footage and endless speculation about his motives? Oh, you are? I can surely force myself to switch this stuff off, can't I?


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