The Six O’Clock News: What It Takes to Re-Focus the Media (sort of)

Let’s address the obvious first and foremost and take a moment to appreciate what journalists are doing in certain parts of the world at the moment. While the tabloids are going crazy over Cara Delevigne’s holiday with Selena Gomez, there are people from across the globe who are quite literally the front line of communications in areas where for various reasons events can’t be broadcast to the world as easily as the weather bulletin. Not that the world seems to be listening most days anyway – James Foley is the tenth journalist to be killed in Syria so far this year and the 44th to be killed worldwide, yet the Syrian civil war isn’t even on the main news most days.

So since it’s taken the brutal beheading of a journalist to draw the West’s attention to the shithole that is current middle eastern politics, let’s have a look at how the West’s covered it so far.

Actual Broadcasters

Not long after the news of James Foley’s death broke, James Kirkup over at The Telegraph pointed out that people calling the murder an “execution” are linguistically wrong; execution occurs as a punishment and the only crime that’s been committed has been the murder of a journalist by a group of people who call themselves a state but actually have zero legitimacy. IS isn’t a geographical piece of land with boarders and a government. It does not have the consent of its citizens. It doesn’t actually have any citizens (has anyone actually come across somebody endorsing the things they do? So far every piece of commentary I’ve seen, from all areas of the political and religious spectrum, has condemned IS as a total piece of shit).

The BBC has a nice page dedicated to explaining all that’s going down in Iraq – I had a look at an article about what happened to al-Qaeda (they’re a bit old-fashioned according to modern, hip Islamists) and it has lots of links explaining all the different varieties of ‘violent Islamic extremists’ that are currently besmirching the good people of the Muslim faith.

Shit Broadcasters

The Mail did actually run a story in which there may be some actual reporting, but I couldn’t finish it because I got distracted by the sheer number of scantily dressed women in the sidebar. Well, I know what I’ll add to this site if I ever want to put you off a post…

Conspiracy Theorists

Yep, some people genuinely think the video was faked. The commentators on this mildly depressing Reddit thread cite “zero emotion”, “no blood” and the video’s “fade to black” as reasons why the CIA/IS/US government faked the entire thing. None of those things can have anything to do with the fact that Foley was an experienced journalist who knew he was going to die and had worked in enough war zones to accept the risks… or the probability that the IS guys know their way around iMovie, especially since many of them are from the West.

Social Media

I was quite surprised, both when his name was a trending topic and on a general search just now, that most Twitter commentary has been pretty decent; most people have expressed their disgust at the whole situation. That said, Twitter’s been getting better at preventing total pillocks from airing their ignorance, so maybe we just can’t see the bullshit.

All right, I’ve depressed myself enough for one day. I almost titled this What It Takes for the Media to Give a Shit About Syria but I thought it was a bit too Vice. Any thoughts on the whole rigmarole?

The Six O’Clock News: Children In Need, Charities and Cynicism

I mentioned last week that people can donate to the Syrian refugee crisis appeal via the United Nations, and in light of the Philippines’ typhoon and Children In Need’s imminent broadcast I thought I’d talk about giving cash to worthy causes.

Medicins Sans Frontiers is currently fundraising to support their work in South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Syria, the Philippines, Haiti, Mexico, Nepal, Greece and the USA. I picked those names out of a list; you can see the map of their locations here. The World Food Programme, an extension of the UN, is present in Iraq, Sierra Leone, Egypt, North Korea, Ecuador and the Republic of Congo. Their list is here. Comic Relief has projects going in Guatama, the UK, Mozambique, India, Columbia and Bangladesh. This is their list.

I’ve name-dropped twenty countries and, shocker, they aren’t all in Africa. Some aren’t even poor. Most need help because of corrupt governments, war, shitty geographical locations or a mix of the three. (By shitty I mean “in the way of bad weather”, for the record. If it weren’t for the resemblance to a war zone, the Philippines would look very nice for a bit of winter sun.)

So how does one choose a worthy cause? By going on an aid-giving website and picking a location randomly? By picking a cause (sex trafficking, slavery, refugees, queer rights, women’s education, famine, etc.) and donating to a specific charity? By donating to a ‘general’ cause like Children In Need and letting them do the allocation? What about causes closer to home – cancer research, Jeans for Genes, the poppy appeal, local homeless shelters…?

I saw Daniel Radcliffe on The One Show the other day (nice hair, Oprah) and he said that he had to choose the causes that meant the most to him personally. JK Rowling’s charity helps out children who live in institutions, which has a passing resemblance to a certain bad guy in a certain book series she wrote. If I had to choose three charities to support I’d probably go for APEC, which supports families and sufferers of pre-eclampsia, because it’s quite literally close to my heart (yes you can make a pun out of critical illness), something that provides education to children like Camfed and something that strives to improve human rights, like AllOut or Amnesty International. But what if there was a part of the charity that I didn’t like? I’m hesitant about giving to Greenpeace, however much I love the planet, because they’ve got a habit of working against, not with, some institutions. They’re anti-GM, for example, when there are regions full or starving people for whom GM crops would help quite a bit. Humans aren’t going to stop using stuff we’ve made, like nuclear power, so we’re going to have to use our science to make sure that we’re looking after nature without compromising human rights or lifestyles that people arguably should not have to give up.

I’m going off-topic. Children In Need is on tonight and I’ll almost definitely raid my spare-change pot, but if I’m out tomorrow and see a homeless person I probably won’t give them the change in my pocket, because I have no way of knowing whether or not they’re legitimate. Then I’ll feel guilty. Should I? Should I march on the government to get them to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place? Whose problem is poor people anyway?

I don’t even know any more. Pudsey awaits.

The Six O’Clock News: Dogs Are As Smart As Humans (but that’s not saying much)

Wag the dog

It’s been scientifically proven that dogs are smarter than they look. Again. According to The Economist, Italian scientists have discovered that not only do dogs “wag their tails to the right when they see something pleasant…and to the left when they see something unpleasant” but that a video or silhouette of dog with “a left-wagging tail… induced… an anxiety response” in subject dogs, while the right-wagging one didn’t. Basically, they can both tell humans how they feel and impact how other dogs feel – with their tails.

I want to take a video camera out with me when we go for a walk, and record everything, especially when Fred and Don meet their dog friends. We could analyse who likes whom and whatnot. (Video camera necessary for playback because those tails go fast, man).

Clerics rule besieged Damascus residents may eat dogs

The end of Eid is traditionally cause for c e l e b r a t i o n in Muslim cultures, but there are Syrians starving to death because humanitarian aid can’t reach their areas – so clerics have issues a fatwa, a ruling, that people are allowed to eat dogs, cats and donkeys. The BBC says that “similar religious edicts were announced in Homs and Aleppo when the fighting in those cities was at its fiercest”.

I’m not sure how I feel about military action in Syria (Iraq versus Rwanda, Iraq verses Rwanda) but for God’s sake, UN, find a way to get food and water to these people. Better still, get them out. Okay so the Mediterranean-refugee issue is suggesting that people who are leaving aren’t finding help, per se, but if you can’t end the war please try to make the whole fiasco as painless as possible for civilians. Ahh. Go here to give money if you’d like.

How do you safely match stray dogs to new owners?

It was simultaneously heartbreaking and anger-inducing hearing about Lexi Branson’s death this week. Her family’s bulldog Mulan mauled her to death and in a bid to help her daughter, Lexi’s mother stabbed the dog to death with a kitchen knife. They had owned Mulan for two months. It’s opened up another debate about whether we should be adding to the Dangerous Dogs List (don’t think it’s actually called that) or whether or not people should rehome strays.

My thinking is that instead of blaming the dogs when they bite a human, we should be blaming the humans. Not the little girl, of course, nor her family – but the thing is that Mulan had been a stray for an unknown time before being rescued. Very little was known about her history or the treatment she had in her previous home(s). You could blame the rehoming centre for giving a potentially dangerous animal to a family with a small child – but every single dog is a potentially dangerous animal.

They all have teeth, yes, and claws, and really strong jaws. Even Chihuahuas can do some damage if they really want to. I love Adonis with all my heart but I will never, ever, take his food away from him while he’s eating it because he would take my hand off. He’s lived on the streets and has had to fight for survival – manners don’t matter when you’re hungry, and despite the whole wagging-tail thing, dogs are far less able to think critically than humans. They see a person getting in their space, they growl. The person keeps provoking them and they’ll bite. If they’ve been mistreated, they could lose their temper and attack. Even your cutsey Labrador that you bought from a breeder off the Internet who’s real good with kiddies because all Labs are good with kiddies will bite your kiddies if they poke him in the eye, or hit him with a toy, or torment him by taking away his food. The breed of dog is almost irrelevant – yes, Mastiffs or pit bulls are “dangerous”. They are physically big and strong so are naturally able to do more damage than, say, a Boarder Collie. But that’s what they were bred for. Dobermanns were “invented” by a tax collector named Mr Dobermann who wanted a dog that was intimidating enough that people wouldn’t give him shit while he did his job. Go figure.

Humans are the ones in charge of the dogs, not the other way round. It’s up to us to make sure that our dogs are raised in a safe and stable environment so that they in turn are part of a safe and stable environment. The BBC is nicer about saying this than I am.

Do you have a dog? Have you had one? Let’s share pictures. (I will upload some of Fred and Don when I can get Fred to sit still.)

A Word on Today and Some Other Days

The ‘start’ of My Chemical Romance has always been 11th September 2001. Unless you think it though, anyway, and then it’s more “sometime between 9/11 and 23rd July 2002 when their first album came out” (9/11 was the catalyst but I kind of think that it took five people making noise to properly get it going, and I’m seriously uncomfortable with people mistaking terrorism for a cause for celebration). This year is the first that we’ve had an ‘end’ of MCR. Actually, this is debatable too, since the announcement was March 2013 but Gerard’s end was May 2012…

Let’s let the historians argue over that.

I’m not fussed about dates, to be honest. Putting a date to something means you have a designated day to feel the emotion(s) you think you ought to feel. Unfortunately, since it’s 9/11/my birthday week, my brain has done what it usually does and started thinking about things – MCR, life, the usual big questions… what’s stood out the most is the fact that this is my first 911/birthday week without MCR in seven years. The first that I’ve known about MCR and its history, anyway (technically it’s my first since I was five, but that makes me feel old). It’s strange. I try very hard not to be superstitious, but part of me has always liked the fact that, probably, on my birthday Gerard was having an existential crisis (on the off-chance Gerard’s reading this: sorry). It was the only upside of my birthday, really, because 12th September has kind of become one of those days that the world woke up and was palpably different.

There’s a pre-9/11 world and a post-9/11 world in the same way that there was 5th August 1945 and 7th August 1945 and during that middle day, everything changed. Not visibly – most people probably had no idea of the long-term effects of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – but the world was different. Historians had a date with which they could split their textbooks, and 9/11 is another of those dates.

One of today’s many Twitter trends has been #NeverForget. As a Government and Politics student, it’s getting to the point where any mention of the American government makes me want to throw my massive textbook at a poster of George W. Bush, because Afghanistan was a complete waste of time, money, human life, etcetera, and what kind of fuckin’ idiot talks about crusading against Islam anyway?! But that’s not the point, at least for today. The point is that one Tuesday lot of people died horribly, and then lots more died horribly because of the first instance of horrible deaths. Twelve years later and every time I switch on the news I think that today might be another ‘defining date’. Syria, Egypt, the Eurozone crisis, the motherfucking EDL and soldiers who’re decapitated while going for a walk wearing a Help for Heroes t-shirt, because someone’s fighting on behalf of a version of god that arguably doesn’t exist anyway.

I think the real reason I don’t want to go to university to study Politics and RS is that the frequent rises in blood pressure would probably kill me before the first Christmas break. But here’s the deal:

Quite a large part of me is splitting the world into pre-22nd March 2013 and post-22nd March 2013. Most days I’m somewhere between okay and completely fine about the end of MCR. The band is still alive and happy and MCR-the-legacy is doing pretty well for itself; the MCRmy’s not going anywhere and neither is the music. So it’s fine, you know, most days.

Some days are harder. I nearly cried in Starbucks the other day, for example, when I read the interview Frank did with Kerrang! Magazine. I went to Wembley Stadium in April and I didn’t realise why I was so down until I realised that we were walking past the Arena, which is where my second-and-last show was in 2011. Watching Live At the Apollo feels odd because the Hammersmith Apollo is the other venue I saw the band live.

That’s coming up for three years ago, and I’m getting worried that I’m going to forget in the same way America seems terrified of forgetting. Forget what it’s like to be in a room with a group of people whom I’ve never previously met and possibly wouldn’t like but love at that very moment because we’re all in the room together. It’s the closest feeling I’ve experienced to Charlie’s infinite moment, and I miss it. There are no cool tunnels where I live either, so that’s out (well there is a tunnel and a bridge, but they scream “CONGESTION CHARGE!!!!”).

There’s a picture somewhere on MCRmy.com of MCR with the caption “don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened”. And let’s face it, compared to what the families of 9/11 victims went though during its aftermath, 23rd March 2013 was a party. Compared to what Syrians are facing right now, it was My Super Sweet Sixteen with extra tantrum-obtained sparkles. At its worst, it was like a funeral for someone who lived a long and happy life then died peacefully with no trace of dementia or terminal illness.

Except comparing bad events and weighing them against one another is what’s got the world running in circles over the last few decades. 3000 people die on American soil and the middle east gets turned upside down. A Fusilier’s killed in the street and minor racist pressure groups suddenly have the right idea when it comes to non-British/white/Christian people’s treatment. 800,000 people are systematically murdered over one hundred days in Rwanda and it’s like, “they aren’t geopolitically important so we can ignore it until the general public notices that it’s not cool to see dead Africans on the six o’clock news.”

We’re all from Africa, people. Get your fucking act together and don’t forget any of it.