Showing posts with label michael herr. Show all posts
Showing posts with label michael herr. Show all posts

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

The news pudding - spit or swallow?

This picture was taken on Hackney Road in June 2005 (The date can be seen above Ricin 'Terrer').

A month later on 7 July 2005 real bombs went off in London killing 52 people and injuring 700.

On 21 July a man tried to blow-up the 26 bus on Hackney Road not far from this newsagents in a follow-up attack.

According to reports from the scene of the failed bombing, witnesses told the police that there were "strange smells" and white crystals around the unexploded bombs.

Perhaps these witnesses thought that these bombs were similar to all the other ones that allegedly and endlessly exploded around the borough. But it wasn't all rubbish. I worked not far away from this spot for one of the papers whose bill posters are featured in the photo. I can't remember the ricin terror, the triad bomb or Europe's war with France.

But I do remember in 2001, just after the 9/11 attack in New York, when one of my colleagues asked the editor (who sat next to me at the time) what the funny looking powder on his desk was... "someone's sent me some anthrax" he said.

The building was evacuated and I remember being terrified and embarrassed. I think I sided with the serious worried people, not the people cracking jokes about death - which turned out to be a mistake. The police turned up looking bored and wandered into the building without even putting their masks on - apparently they had dealt with hundreds of hoaxes.

Judging by the photo above my colleagues and I managed to keep that fear bubbling for four years before it was justified.

Anyway, I spent ages copying out the quote below expecting it to link seamlessly with this subject. I'm sure there is a link but it's 2am and I've failed to find it. It is a depressing description of how journalism failed to deal with something real and terrifying, the main point it makes is: "Conventional journalism could no more reveal this war than conventional firepower could win it, all it could do was take the most profound event of the American decade and turn it into a communications pudding...."


In his book Dispatches Michael Herr said that conventional journalism failed to deal with the extreme circumstances of the Vietnam war - although it doesn't seem to work particularly well under any circumstances:
"And just-like-in-the-movies, there were a lot of correspondents who did their work, met their deadlines, filled the most preposterous assignments the best they could and withdrew, watching the war and all its hideous secrets, earning their cynicism the hard way and turning their self-contempt back out again in laughter."

"If New York wanted to know how the troops felt about the assassination of Robert Kennedy, they'd go out and get it.... They knew that, no matter how honestly they worked, their best work would somehow be lost in the wash of news, all the facts, all the Vietnam stories. Conventional journalism could no more reveal this war than conventional firepower could win it, all it could do was take the most profound event of the American decade and turn it into a communications pudding...." - Michael Herr, Dispatches.

Perhaps a communications pudding is all we should ever expect.