12 September 2010

Man doesn't bite dog

I'm not sure of the exact dictionary definition of the word "news" but I reckon, if forced, I'd say it was something to do with things that happen. If you watch a news broadcast or read a newspaper, the common elements to all the stories is the fact that they are generally things that have happened - legislation passed, bombs dropped or footballers falling out of a nightclub. Clearly there are a lot things that happen in the world, and it's the news's job to figure out which ones to report.

If I can stretch to another reasonably obvious thing, I'd underline this point by stating that America is quite a big country where, it stands to reason, a lot of things happen, ergo a lot of news happens. And yet this week, the news agenda has been dominated by something that hasn't happened, which is unusual to say the least. The something in this case is two hundred copies of The Koran, and the thing that hasn't happened to them is being set on fire - at least not in Gainsville, Florida. The pastor of the most ironically named church in the world, the Dove Outreach Centre, Terry Jones (no, not that one) cancelled the event - which he later clarified as, actually, postponing it, lest his sordid little publicity machine be starved of the oxygen it is thriving on.

This non-event has seemed to spark some very real events - riots in Muslim countries, which, given the resulting destruction occurred in what are some of the poorest parts of the world, rather than Terry Jones's doorstep, was rather self-defeating. It certainly made me think that, if that was what happened when you didn't burn a Koran, what forces would erupt if you did? Jones claims he stayed his hand because of assurance given him by a New York Imam that the Ground Zero Mosque would be moved - an undertaking the Imam has denied giving. Given the fact it isn't a mosque and it isn't at Ground Zero, this somehow seems in keeping with the rest of the non-story.

In fact, the only thing that has actually happened in the whole of this saga, is the global news media has reported it as a story, even if its elements are no more substantial than smoke. The reportage makes it real, not the events that haven't happened. Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised that, in the cut-throat competition for news stories to fill the rolling news schedules and acres of print and pixelled pages, hacks will turn from the real to the imagined. After all, to paraphrase Richard Dawkins, however many things happen in the world, there are vastly more things that don't happen.

1 comment:

Nancy said...

Sorry to say Hoff, that the horrid Phelps Gang did burn a copy of the Koran yesterday. But it got almost zero media coverage, which is good. Nancy