Thursday, February 08, 2007

Snow Business

If it isn't terrorist threats, it's bird flu. There's always something the media, particularly TV news, is trying to panic us over. "We're all going to die!" seems to be the main message these days. The most recent threat to our lives has - bizarrely - been snow. As soon as the white stuff was forecast we had concerned looking newsreaders giving grave warnings of traffic chaos and massive disruption to our everyday lives. You could feel the tension mounting as they waited for the first snowfall, their panic barely contained. When it finally came, it was like the country had been invaded. There were constant reports on how far the the snow had advanced, what roads were blocked and which trains weren't running. "Don't travel unless it is absolutely necessary," urged anxious looking newscasters, as they crossed over to a front line report from some poor schmuck out in the cold. "Now over to Dick Holder in Upper Dicker. What's happening where you are Dick?" It's bloody snowing, that's what's happening! We can all see that by simply looking out of our windows! But the chaos just went on, with one radio station reporting breathlessly that Virgin Trains were running late and had now been reduced to an hourly service. Doesn't that happen every day? Most Virgin passengers were probably surprised to learn that there was even an hourly scheduled service. They'd just assumed that the trains turned up when they felt like it...

TV reports on anything mildly threatening are nowadays getting so frenzied that I'm fully expecting to tune in and see a reporter suddenly leap up from behind his desk as he gives us the latest weather update and run around the studio waving his arms, tearing out his hair and shrieking, "Oh my God! Oh my God!" over and over again. Quite what effect all this panic is having on the viewing public isn't clear. I sometimes get the impression that the media are deliberately trying to stampede the public like frightened cattle. I suspect that, in reality, they'll all be reduced to gibbering wrecks, hiding under their dining room tables or behind sofas, too scared to look at their TVs whenever the news comes on. Still, the snow's melting now (where I am, at least) and it should all be gone by tomorrow. Not that the thaw will deter the panic mongers on our TV screens. They'll all be screaming "Flood - we're all going to drown" now, and when it freezes over night they'll be warning us of the evils of black ice and urging us "Not to travel unless it is absolutely necessary - or you'll die!"



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