Monday, February 22, 2016


What to say?

Where to start?

Do you defer the horror with humour? Embrace it with grief? Rail against it with rage?

Does it even matter? A pointless blip of human misery in a vast and indifferent universe?

Should we plead for calm with our logic? Rationalise both the cause and effect? Manage the anguish?

I don't know.

I'm strangely numb.

I'm not sure whether to be concerned about that fact or not. When mass violent tragedies have become so commonplace that my mind instantly takes a cold, indifferent refuge in the facts and politics, should I be worried?

Is anyone really keeping a body count anymore?

The perpetrators certainly aren't. More is more, where agenda-driven violence is concerned.

But how did random aggression become a symbol, worth wielding arbitrarily like an enraged toddler with a blow torch? What is giving these heinous acts their perceived power?

Unfortunately, we are.

Not deliberately or consciously, of course. But through the universal connection of modern communications, and the ubiquity of technology. Put simply, through our media.

We are more connected than ever, with visibility on the granularity of each others lives that has never been experienced in history. And with that deepened global human connection, we have allowed symbolism to grow steadily in influence.

The violence that unfolded in Paris and Lebanon were symbols. The response around the world to light monuments in the colours of the French flag were counter symbols.

The black flag of ISIL is a symbol. The U.S. flag is a counter-symbol.

Action and reaction. All to garner the will of people to follow a set of ideals, principles, and - ultimately - decisions.

Not minor decisions either. Decisions to go to war. Decisions to invade other countries. Decisions to support one side of the combatants of a conflict we are not directly involved in.

And here is where it gets tricky. In real terms we are talking about the power of pieces of decorated fabric. About the universal solidarity that comes when you project colourful light onto a handful of buildings. How you can terrorise a world population of 7 billion people, by killing 300 (a tiny fraction of a percentage).

We are at once powerless and powerful. Weak to the will of evil men, and yet strong in our ability to join our voice to the cacophony of outrage. The cycle of symbol and counter symbol spurred on, to oblivion.

But is there a better way?

I think there can be, and it starts with a better media.

We have allowed symbolism to become too dominant. We have permitted those that have the privilege of running our news services to morph them into a demented carnival. A cirque du freak, which jabs at our adrenal glands to sell papers.

Don't believe me? Then why was internationally-infamous, ignorant bigot Pauline Hanson contacted to speak on Australian television about the Paris attacks? What could Ms Hanson possibly add to the discourse?

It's sensationalism, and it sells.

Where is the analysis? Where are the facts?

Instead we get symbolism. Page after page of it.

At first, this evolution (devolution?) from social service to entertainment seemed harmless. So what if lazy journalism has infected our newsrooms? Sure, let's water down the geo-political discussion on invasion of a foreign country into platitudes about "freedom". Who doesn't want a Kardashian story on the front page, while news of a major scientific breakthrough dawdles on page 25?

But you've been deceived. You made a faustian pact without realising it. You empowered the newsmakers to abandon information and reason, and replace it with cheap parlour games, to deliver your sickly-sweet emotional thrill.

Problem is, you weren't the only ones paying attention.

Remember those evil men? They derived their entire PR strategy from this new world order. Why fight a costly ground war to get attention, when you can simply behead a British journalist?

All played out in high resolution, coloured digital video. Around the world.

Aided and abetted, as always, by our own media.

You deserve better.

You deserve the news. Do you even remember what that is? Where you were actually informed about an issue, to form an opinion, rather than simply being told it was 'good' or 'evil'?

The enemy of ideology is information.

We won't stem the tide of violence with a violent response. We need expertise and insight. We need to listen, investigate and understand how our citizens become radicalised. We need the facts of the issues we face, so that we can be a part of the solution, or at the least be savvy enough to spot leaders who will.

We need the 'news'. To rid these iconoclasts of their destructive, symbolic power.

And for that we need a media that holds its sacred oath immutable.

For us. For the families now swaddled in bereavement.

For the people who won't wake up tomorrow.

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