Monday, December 28, 2009

The Great Christmas News Shortage

When Christmas straddles a weekend, (as it did this year with that displaced bank holiday today as a result of Boxing Day falling on a Saturday), I find myself losing track of what day of he week it actually is. Yesterday, for instance, I surfaced briefly from my seasonal debauchery to try and get some exercise and go in search of a newspaper, convinced that it was a week day. I was mildly surprised - and highly disorientated - to discover that it was a Sunday and that, consequently, The Guardian wasn't available. I had to buy The Observer, instead. Reading the latter newspaper just intensified my sense of disorientation - it was like reading a parallel world version of The Guardian. It had basically the same format and layouts, and was obviously printed on the same presses. Even some of the writers were the same. But there were all these differences - different typeface, differently named sections, a slightly different tone to the articles. Very disconcerting. The most amazing thing, though, was that there was enough news about to fill an entire newspaper at this time of year. Today's Guardian was very thin, (as were all of last week's editions) and the G2 section composed entirely of 'highlights' of the last year's articles, as chosen by readers. Similarly, yesterday's Observer seemed to consist largely of retrospectives of 2009 and lots of highly speculative pieces looking forward to 2010.

In the face of this general lack of news, something like the attempted bombing of a US airliner by a Nigerian student must seem like a godsend to news editors. Indeed, they've really gone to town on this story, with it dominating every news bulletin and newspaper headline since it happened. The fact that there really is little to report so far beyond the known facts doesn't deter them, of course. There's no shortage of speculation as to the long term security effects of this incident. No facts, obviously. Just speculation. It doesn't help that the whole thing seems more than slightly farcical - 'man attempts to blow up airliner by setting fire to underpants'. It reminded me of a story I wrote for The Sleaze years ago called Winds of War, in which a terror suspect is alleged to have tried to blow up a bus by igniting his own farts. Unfortunately for him, he 'follows through' and shits himself instead. Perhaps al Qaeda terror chiefs read that story. Perhaps I'm about to be closed down for encouraging terrorists. Will The Sleaze be classified as a 'terrorist text' by the authorities? Stranger things have happened. If nothing else, it might provide the media with a much needed story between now and the new year...

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