May 162011
 

Two issues are high on The Australian RSS feed agenda today.

The first and possibly the most inane is the alleged attempted rape by head of the International Monetary Fund – Dominique Strauss-Kahn – of a house maid in a swanky New York hotel. It must be big news for The Australian because I’ve received six RSS alerts in three hours to six different articles on the same subject (now eight as at 19:30 hours). Does this startling piece of ‘news’ impact on Australia or Australians at all? Not a dot. Did he or didn’t he? Who cares, certainly not me. Was he naked when the housemaid entered his suite? Again, who cares? Why is the matter such a big deal? Could it be due to the fact that Strauss-Kahn – former leader of the French Socialist Party – just happened to be rumoured to be standing for Presidency, currently held by a Conservative? Highly probable, especially given the editorial leanings of The Australian, but again…do the allegations impact on Australians in any way shape or form, sufficient to have a likely seven separate angles on the issue alerting me to something I regard as a non-event?

The second ‘big deal’ of the day thus far (1330 hours AEST) seems to be the macabre focus on the final text messages & phone calls out of devastated buildings in Christchurch as a result of February’s earthquake there. Now, call me callous, but isn’t the airing of these extremely personal and intimate messages completely irrelevant to the process of determining why a certain building fell over and the one next door, perhaps, didn’t? This sort of thing is simply voyeurism taken to the ‘n’th degree. It’s in line with the American sensationalising of those last moments across the ether of people killed in the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in New York City and onboard the doomed jets. What is this fascination the media have with the last words of the departed? Does the airing of such things have an impact on our daily lives? Does it help to resolve political, economic or social ills we’re all having to cope with? Is it genuinely necessary?

The answer to the why’s and wherefore’s of these matters appearing in our news media rest on the concept of entertainment, or rather infotainment. It’s information, yes, to be sure. It’s also entertaining, although to whom I can’t begin to imagine. I mean to say, just how many times does one need to hear or read about a 62 year old French-born former politician’s anti-social dalliances? So he’s head of the IMF! Big-Fucking-Deal! Where’s the news in it??? Now, if it could be proven that Wayne Swan did indeed ‘engage’ a male member of staff during the early 1990’s – a nasty piece of scuttlebutt I’ve heard aired recently – then perhaps there might be a fleeting piece of interest / amusement in that for Australians, but undoubtedly the media would feed on it for at least a fortnight or perhaps longer. Indeed, it might even bring a government down, but again, what possible interest can there be to Australians in an ageing businessman’s alleged naked assault of a staff member of a posh New York hotel? Further, who really wants to read about, or worse, hear about the final moments of earthquake victims who would, in the main, have died horrendous deaths? The so-called ‘news media’ obviously.

All of which draws me to the real focus of this piece. The death of a young man, who should have known better but young men rarely do, in a rabid piece of social media narcissism called Planking. There are several articles in various rags today about the young fool who inebriated himself, then proceeded to off himself by falling from a high place. Planking, as the internet has it, involves lying across objects and places in a horizontal manner, and having your feat photographically recorded for the amusement of other, similarly narcissistic idiots. This piece in The Drum sums up my feelings precisely. So, what does the media do? Attempts to sensationalise the matter by seeking, and obtaining the PM’s perspective. Whoop-de-fuckin’-do. Two things wrong with that. One, who gives a shit what Julia Gillard thinks on the matter. Two, feeding the chooks by obliging them only further denigrates the PM’s already parlous perspective on matters of REAL import. Lords know the media plays the political game better than the politicians. Does the media do anything at all about playing down this most stupid of all juvenile pranks? Of course not. There’s ‘yarn’ in it, so why would they shoot the goose laying the golden egg? The story is told over and over ad infinitum across all media outlets and has been for the past two days. The young man died in the wee hours of Sunday morning, and yet here we are, late afternoon Monday, and it’s STILL being touted in the media by one or another outlet on the pretext of seeking the PM’s opinion, or the police commissioner’s opinion, or the bloke who was holding the camera’s opinion.

So, my question is simple. Is it news to belabour us with the sexual foibles of an ageing Frenchman; the last poignant and intensely intimate expressions of those died in an Earthquake, or sensationalising of a piece of adolescent absurdity resulting in death? Where’s the real news? Where’s the revelations which affect us all, that we all genuinely care about and need to know about in the course of our daily lives? Do I care about a young man who lost his life being drunk & stupid? Yes I do, because it’s the futility of that loss which impacts upon me. The stupidity is simply a part of human nature, just as voyeurism is a part of human nature, but that doesn’t excuse media outlets of pandering to those flaws in the human condition. None of it is news, all of it is regrettable on any number of levels, and yet we accept such deluges of banality on a daily basis as media output du jour. Where is the responsibility? Where is the domestic focus, and seriously, who gives a shit what politicians think about this or that piece of social senility?

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