It is becoming increasingly difficult to make any sense of conflicting reports about the current health crisis.
Take this exchange, found today on Twitter.
· Jan 1
“It was minimally affecting children in the first wave… we now have a whole ward of children here.”
Laura Duffel, a matron in a London Hospital, tells Adrian Chiles about the Covid situation in hospitals.
I’ve been the on call consultant in a london children’s hospital this week – this is simply not true, and irresponsible in the extreme – frightens parents, fuels covid-deniers. Covid is rife in hospitals, but not among children. We have enough to deal with without this garbage.
Twitter reply, January the third.
Recent events in America have unleashed a storm of protest against the treatment of black people all over the world. Not just current treatment, or the recent actions of the Police and other authorities, but historical ones too. This is understandable, and it has been suggested to me that the George Floyd incident was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
In the last week, numerous corporations and organisations have felt it necessary to make public statements and even apologies on the issues of Black Lives Matter, and the long history of institutional racism in the western world. Laudable perhaps, and possibly also necessary for marketing purposes and attracting customers in future. Both Nike and Apple have been involved, ignoring the fact that they are happy to exploit Asian labour by paying the workers in countries like China a pittance for long hours, compared to salaries in the West. Is that not also a form of racism, and one that is acceptable to most customers who buy i-phones, or the latest trendy trainers?
So if this is just the beginning, then where does it end?
Pulling down and defacing statues has caught on quickly, following on from the same thing happening to Confederate Statues and war graves in America a couple of years ago, as well as this week. One commemorating an 18th century slave trader in Bristol was thrown into the water, and those in honour of Cecil Rhodes and Churchill in London were defaced last weekend. Having statues that supposedly honour such people (Churchill was a well-known racist) is questionable, I agree. But is it not better to learn from their mistakes in the past, and allow them to remain to remind us?
I would suggest it is.
Because when you begin to eliminate history, you start to re-write it. You conveniently forget that African and Arab trade slavers existed long before any white men became involved with them. In fact, many still exist in some countries today. I don’t see anyone protesting about that history, or those current events. What about the Egyptian and Roman empires? Both were built on slavery, and expanded by the use of slaves. Should we pull down The Forum in Rome? Demolish The Coliseum? Have any of those demonstrators pulling down statues ever enjoyed a holiday to Rome, or Egypt?
The Pyramids are said to be one of the seven wonders of the world. Mausoleums to pharoahs, built on the blood and sweat of countless slaves. We know that, we learn about that, and when we go to look at them, we appreciate that. Let’s blow them up though, because surely they commemorate cruelty and slavery? Let us topple the statues to Tiberius and Caligula, and cast them into the Tiber. If it’s good enough for one slave empire, why not for all of them?
How far back is far enough?
And what about churches, and western religions? Most built with the huge wealth of countries who dealt in slavery, or stole natural resources like gold from countries in South and Central America. They killed the people there that opposed them, (who were also slavers of course) before enslaving others to work in their mines and goldfields. The wealth generated was given in large part to the Catholic Church, who actively used to oversee all those operations on the pretext of bringing religion to heathens. So when we admire European cathedrals, and the amazing statues and relics stored within, let’s not forget where the money came from. Exploitation, and slavery.
Time to pull them down perhaps?
On the news today, I heard that the film ‘Gone With The Wind’ is no longer to be allowed to be shown on television in Britain. How long before they start banning others? What about all those Hollywood epics about Egypt? And the films ‘Young Winston’, or ‘The Darkest Hour’? They are about Churchill, so let’s ban those too. And what about books? How long before Margaret Mitchell’s book of ‘Gone With The Wind’ is banned too? She got an award for that, so let’s take that back hile we are at it. Then it would seem logical to ban ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’, ‘Huckleberry Finn’, and any historical book that has a contemporary view on black people that has since been identified as racist?
An Asian reporter on BBC News declared this morning that he feels ‘uncomfortable’ about reading the ‘Tintin’ comic books with his young son, due to the way some characters are portrayed. Save his embarrassment, just ban them. Then everyone can start to forget history, and begin to change the facts to suit this new and different agenda.
Fortunately for me, I will likely be dead before all that has happened.
Over the past weeks, anyone watching the TV news, or reading a newspaper, will have noticed two main stories. First and foremost, the fiasco in America concerning the appointment of a Supreme Court Judge, and the allegations of historical sexual assault that followed his nomination. This may well be very significant to people in America, and the story naturally picked up on the #metoo movement that began with the Harvey Weinstein case. I can see that it has a broader appeal, given that it allows abused women to finally speak up, and hopefully stop such things happening in the future.
But it was also the main feature on the BBC News here, every day for weeks. Not only that, but they relayed the entire hearings live, for hours on end during the afternoon. It got so that a newshound like me was wondering if anything else was happening, anywhere on Earth.
The second story that was pumped out by the media in the UK was the constant division in our political parties, caused by the Brexit arguments, alleged anti-semitism, and the circus that is the politics of Northern Ireland. Of course, we are interested in what happens with Brexit. We might also be interested in whether or not we can expect the awful Boris Johnson to become our next Prime Minister. But in the middle of Brexit squabbles, and the unforgivable actions of an unrepentant Judge in America, it seemed that little else was happening.
But it was.
The war continued in Syria. Soldiers and civilians were still dying there, and in Afghanistan. American interventions in Niger, Chad, Mali, and Somalia were all going unreported, and the Saudi/US war against rebels and civilians in Yemen continued to supply potentially horrific headlines. Things were getting no better for the Muslim minorities in Myanmar, and the flood of economic migrants to southern Europe continued unabated.
Supreme Court appointments and Brexit arguments may be worthy of the news, I don’t doubt that. But they should follow more serious world events, not lead them. If this doesn’t change, we will not only be in danger of being misinformed, as is often claimed, but uninformed, which I think is even worse.
This is usually a quiet time on the world political scene. The lull between Christmas and New Year also seems to operate in international affairs. But look closely, and there is a lot going on.
Street protests and rioting in Iran. Not something we have seen much of since the days of the Ayatollahs, but strangely coincidental to recent murmurings regarding North Korea, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia. One minute the US is condemning Iran for aiding North Korea, and the anti-Saudi forces in Yemen, the next they have a ‘popular uprising’ on the streets. Come on, pull the other one. Rarely have I seen such a blatantly obvious CIA/Mossad inspired operation. If they can’t get them by going through the front door, they go round the back. Treating Iran as if it is some kind of hopeless principality in the middle of nowhere is sure to backfire on those involved. That country has a population of more than 80 million, and a well-equipped military too. And it is 640,000 square miles in size, so not Grenada.
North Korea is having talks with the South Korean government for the first time in a long while. Mr Trump has claimed the credit for this happening. That’s worth a belly laugh. Anyone with the tiniest understanding of those countries will be aware that each side views the other as neighbours and relatives, and not as enemies. They have always wanted to talk, but outside pressures have constantly interfered.
If you believe the news, Europe is all about the Brexit issue, and the UK leaving. But behind the headlines, parts of Europe are very worried about elections of anti-EU politicians in their countries. The Czech Republic has elections this year, and in Italy, some right-wing parties are forecast to do very well too. The Hungarian leader, Viktor Orban, is set to gain a second term in 2018, and that country also has its share of far-right, anti EU politicians. Even in peaceful Sweden, the right-wing Sweden Democrats look set to increase their influence in the coming year.The Polish government has been defying EU laws, and will no doubt continue to clash with them throughout 2018. The real truth is that the EU is on the verge of collapse, at least in its current form, as the stranglehold of France and Germany is resisted by more and more of the member nations. They have a lot more than Brexit to worry about, that’s for sure.
And let’s not forget Russia. Most of it may not be in Europe, but its influence is widespread, and Vladimir Putin looks like he will get another overwhelming majority in the elections this March.
So when the news reports ‘not much happening’, you can be sure that there is.
I managed to go the whole of March without posting anything on this blog. I thought that this was because this was a quiet time, and not much had happened. There were the well-covered incidents in Brussels, which needed no further comment from me. Of course, had I been living in a different country, I might be aware of bombs and suicide attacks, destruction of buildings, and ongoing loss of life on a daily basis. If I was an American, I could have been consumed by the primaries, and the fate of Sanders, Trump, or Clinton.
I realise that it isn’t a case of less news, just more of the same. Wars continue, elections rumble on, and it seems that the facts become more blurred, the opinions more varied, as the days pass. We become inured to it all. Watching the TV news about a bombing, or terror attack, they focus on whether or not any of the victims was associated with this country. If one hundred people are killed in Pakistan, or Kabul, it is only deemed worthy of mention if one foreigner was among the victims. It becomes the norm to gloss over the deaths of dozens of children or other civilians, as long as they were all ‘locals.’
The refugee crisis has dropped from the headlines, to be replaced by the non-news that our Prime Minister has been fiddling his taxes. Surely that went without saying? A junior minister is asked to resign over allegations that he might have suppressed newspaper reports about his relationship with a dominatrix. Nothing new there, let’s face it. The UK steel industry is on the verge of collapse, as Chinese imports flood the market. We all knew that, a long time ago.
What about the countless refugees? The wars? The ongoing struggle against ISIS? According to our media, this no longer seems to be newsworthy. If one of the states in the USA votes for Sanders, they quickly rush to inform us that he has no chance of winning anyway. When Trump is equally successful, they point to his inability to secure those votes in the actual election. Clinton might just as well spend the rest of the campaign in bed. She has already been elected, by the media.
A glance at the current BBC new headlines will reveal some waffle about our forthcoming EU referendum, (we will stay in, according to the polls) the minister referred to above, and more about the Panama financial leaks. Trump is complaining that he is going to lose, and a paralysed man has benefited from an implant, allowing him to once again play the guitar. You have to scroll down, to read about an earthquake in Myanmar, that affected nearby India. Read further, and you will see why this warrants a mention. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are holidaying ‘in the region.’ We are relieved to be informed that they were ‘unaffected.’ Scroll down again, and you might well miss an investigation into mass killings in Nigeria, surely the next place where religious wars will spiral out of control?
On the sidebar, we are treated to a video clip of a Czech police officer hitting fifty-one cars when he was drink-driving.
I saw an interview about news reporting some years back. One of the pundits claimed that “We get the news we deserve.” “If you don’t question, don’t complain, and accept what you are told, how will you ever know what’s really happening?” Maybe that man was right.
Or perhaps it’s just been a bit quiet lately.
If you are a royalist, or just one of those who think that they do no harm, and work hard, then prepare to be offended. Best stop reading now.
For most of today, the media has been consumed with the subject of the expected birth of a child to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. (Even typing that makes me laugh) The legions of the world’s press are gathered outside St Mary’s hospital in London, hoping for that first photo of the couple, and their new baby. TV reporters are interviewing anyone who appears, asking if they would like to see a boy or girl, as if it made any difference to anyone, except the parents. Countless times, they have gone over and over the fact that the child will be third in line to the throne, irrespective of gender. Crazily coiffured royal pundits have been dragged out into the heat of London today, to comment, for a fat fee, on any number of inane subjects, supposedly relating to this baby.
Politicians, from both the government and opposition, have been quick to offer their delighted salutations, and to be seen sucking up to the royals, and their millions of fans around the globe. Foreign visitors are particularly prized, especially Americans, or Commonwealth citizens. The reporters take a special delight in showing how much the royal family is loved in America, and still admired by most of the people in our former colonies. Of course, this is ridiculous. Just because a handful of camera-keen tourists, and some foreign news programme executives make much of this ‘event’, is no reason to assume that their opinions are shared by the majority in their countries.
Within the last couple of hours, the birth of a boy has been announced. He was actually born at 16.24, but then a lot of people would not have been home from work, busy mums would have been looking after their own youngsters, and the nation would not have been sufficiently ready to receive the full splendour of the announcement. Better by far, to wait until a grateful populace had eaten their evening meal, and settled in front of the TV. Then, all stations could cancel whatever else was going to be on, and go ahead with the report. It is interesting to note that this was also delayed until after the main soap operas shown here had finished. That would have been a step too far, to alienate those viewers.
The hordes of reporters had been placed in every and any possible vantage point. Outside the hospital, outside Buckingham Palace, even in the area where Kate Middleton grew up. Cambridge was featured, even though the connection is tenuous at best. The questions now become even more ridiculous, once the actual news is known. ‘How much champagne do you think will be needed?’, asked one journalist. The significance of the names is discussed, as if the very continuance of the country depends on the choice. The whole thing is a sickening pantomime of sycophancy.
Given the actual state of this nation, the chance to divert the public from what is really happening, by virtue of this royal farce, is a real boon to a government under siege by its critics. The saddest thing, is to see the ordinary people buying into it in their droves. I just feel ashamed of the royals, the journalists, and the pundits; and deep inside somewhere, I think they are a little bit ashamed too. Not much though.