Thursday, September 07, 2017

Out of the Headlines

Have you ever noticed how certain stories simply disappear from the news?  I don't mean those that have reached a natural conclusion, or have run for a long time without a conclusion, resulting in them being down graded from the top tier of the news agenda.  I'm thinking more of those stories which are incredibly prominent when they break, plastered over every front page and topping the schedules on the TV news, yet vanish from the headlines within days, never to be mentioned again.  A recent example which caught my attention was that murder at an M25 service station a few months ago.  It was all over the news media - press, TV, internet - largely due to the sensational elements of the story. As originally reported, it all started with an altercation over a parking space between the occupants of a car and those of a van, which culminated in the car's driver being bludgeoned to death with a shovel.  There were all the usual police requests for help in tracing the vehicle and the tributes from friends and relatives of the poor bugger who was murdered.  It looked set to run and run.  But after a couple of days the story completely vanished.  No reports of arrests, no coverage of the victim's funeral, none of the follow ups you'd normally expect from the media.

After a few weeks of this silence, my curiosity got the better of me and I took to the search engines in attempt to try and find out what had happened to the story.  In the end, I had to look to the local press to find out that there had actually been arrests made in the case, with at least one suspect charged with murder - completely unreported by the national press.  As I read more in the local Essex press (the victim hailed from Essex), I started to get an inkling of why the national press had apparently decided to drop the story like a hot potato.  AS it turned out, both victim and alleged perpetrators in the case turned out to be members of the traveler community.  A community generally characterised by the media as being a bunch of criminal degenerates.  As long as the incident had appeared to be a random act of violence between complete strangers, sparked by road rage, it had obviously looked like a winner for the press, the sort of story they could milk for sympathy for the victim and moral outrage toward his killers.  But once they realised it was possibly part of an ongoing dispute between rival groups of a vilified community that refuses to play by middle class rules, they obviously felt that they couldn't sell it to their readers. So they just dropped it instead.

All of which tells us something not just about our media, but our modern society, where the worth of a murder victim is still apparently measured by their social background.   Of course, this isn't the only story to vanish after breaking sensationally.  Some have simpler explanations than social prejudices.  Remember when Max Moseley had his private life splashed across the papers, accused of indulging in 'Nazi themed' bondage orgies.  I clearly recall many of the early reports mentioning that one of the women involved had turned out to be married to someone from the Security Service (MI5, as the press still likes to call them).  Now, apart from implying that the Security Service pays so poorly that its employees have to put their wives on the game to make ends meet, this detail raised all sorts of questions along the lines of 'was it some kind of set up?'  But this detail quickly vanished from the reporting, never to be mentioned again.  Not even in the court case in which Moseley successfully sued the paper involved for libel (there was no Nazi theme to his orgies).  In this case, this detail was clearly suppressed in order to avoid embarrassment to the authorities.  Nevertheless, such manipulation of what we see in the news is very troublesome.

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