A very public death

This post is re-blogged from my other blog, as I felt it needed maximum coverage. Apologies to those of you receiving it twice.
On Wednesday, a young man was killed by Muslim extremists in South London.  The murder was quickly reported on TV news, with helicopters racing to the scene, and reporters arriving as near as they were allowed. It soon became apparent that the victim was a serving soldier, from the nearby barracks, and that there had been two perpetrators, both of whom had been shot by Police, and were still alive. This was fairly normal news reporting, and up to that point, is was acceptable, and informative.However, it soon degenerated into a tasteless media circus, the like of which is rarely seen in this country. Reporters alleged that the young man had been ‘hacked to death’, and that his head had been cut off with a meat cleaver, wielded by one of the murderers. The helicopter footage was soon zooming in on the scene, focusing on the bloodied weapons lying in the street, the blood on the road, and any point of ‘interest’ that they could find. One reporter, hardly able to contain his excitement, updated the viewers with the news that the victim had been run down by a car, repeatedly ‘hacked at’ with bladed weapons, then finally decapitated, in what he confirmed was a ‘terrorist’ attack. At this stage, no relatives had been informed, so we can only imagine the anguish felt by the families of the hundreds of serving soldiers who may have been posted to that barracks, and that area generally.

I was disgusted with this type of coverage, and this from the BBC, an organisation I expect to have higher standards of reporting. I stopped watching it, and was left with a feeling of sadness for the death of this young man, in horrific circumstances, as well as a growing sense of annoyance with this gutter level of sensationalist news coverage.

Later that evening, it got a lot worse. Mobile phone footage, shot by bystanders, was ‘obtained’ by reporters. Not only was this referred to, it was then shown, with the dead body clearly visible nearby, and the blood-soaked murderer speech-making to the crowd, about his reasoning, and personal motives behind the killing. There had still been no identification of the victim, and his family had still not been informed. Not only was this tasteless in the extreme, it also gave the ‘terrorists’ the media platform they desired in the first place, and made their actions justifiable to others of the same extreme views. The footage of the blood-stained killer was shown over and over again, often in slow motion, pointlessly repeated Ad nauseum. ‘Witnesses’ were interviewed in the streets, with no confirmation of what they had actually seen, or proof of whether they had even been there. Any connection was seized upon, and numerous ‘experts’ rolled out for studio interviews. Ex-soldiers, former police officers, military strategists, all got their performance fee, for speculating on the reasons behind the murder, the response of the Police on the day, or the history of such attacks around the world.

Nobody was asking the questions that needed to be asked. What of the dignity of the victim, and the horror and trauma inflicted on his family by all this? Why show the ravings of an extremist murderer on mainstream British TV? What use did any of this serve, and was it all nothing more than gory and ghoulish headline grabbing? No public interest was served by any of it, that is certain. There were no outstanding suspects, no danger to anyone else that evening, in that area. Could this not have been left until later, when the family had been informed, and calmer heads perhaps decided not to show such distressing images?

This is supposed to be related to military action abroad, and involvement in the ongoing wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Africa. Ironically, when reporting from those countries, the BBC and others normally choose not to show ‘graphic images’, on the grounds that they will upset viewers. They also decline to allow the extolling of ‘extremist views’ from participants in those foreign conflicts, so why abandon all this for an incident that happened in London? They also sought out local Muslims, and asked for their views on what had happened, then attempted to second guess public reaction, with the possibility of ‘revenge’ attacks on Muslim targets. By doing so, they added irresponsibility to bad taste, and completely abandoned all pretence of serious journalistic intentions.

I feel that we turned a corner this week, in the path of media reporting. It was a nasty corner, made worse by use of unpleasant mobile phone footage, and pandering to the ‘Facebook generation’. The next morning, with few exceptions, all the main newspapers carried a large front-page photo of the bloodstained murderer, with emotive and unnecessarily unpleasant use of the phrases ‘hacked to death’, and ‘beheaded’. Absolutely no consideration was given to the distraught family, friends, and colleagues of the victim, who was stripped of his dignity at the moment of his death.

The media threw away their own dignity at the same time. I am ashamed of all of them.



  1. beetleypete

    Cheers Eddy. I am beginning to think that you are right to avoid the news. When I worked for the Special Ops in the Met, we had either BBC or Sky news on all day, and we used to joke that they knew about everything before us! It became a habit with me, and one that I can soon see me breaking. Regards old mate, Pete.


  2. Eddy Winko

    I’m glad I only read the news on the web and then I only read headlines, I very rarely follow up and read the entire article; trying to rid myself of negative feelings! I think the Kinks had a line in a song about the obsession of people watching TV ever since Kennedy was shot; the gruesome curiosity of people is sickening as I’m sure you are aware given your past.
    I agree that it is a sad day when the BBC follow this line of reporting, but it’s a sad world we live in.


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