The recent heavy coverage of terrorism by the mass media has me feeling a mix of emotions. As someone who has never trusted the media, primarily the news, I tend to retreat to a feeling of indifference when they attempt to stir up emotions and reactions from viewers.
The over analysing former media studies student in me tries to decode the signs and signals they try to use to create feelings in the audience. I think of how they use certain camera angles and the sequence of shots they choose to use in order to make the British public malleable to their agenda. It is this that detaches me from everything and I am not sure how constructive it may be when I am meant to be feeling sad about innocent lives being lost.
Initially, when hearing of the recent attack in Manchester I was saddened. I had just woken up in a hotel room with my family ready for the final day of our short break in a different country. It was as though someone popped the holiday bubble we had formed the day before and my mind was fixed on the problems at home. As someone who regularly goes to concerts and events, this heartbreaking story felt almost personal and for once I could imagine myself in their position. Then finding out that a lot of the victims were children, youngest being only 8 years old, made the tragedy even harder for myself to think about. While going on with the rest of my day, I had no idea of the extremes I would return to in media coverage and representation in the UK…
It was as if I was strapped down to a carousel that was just getting faster; constantly showing me images of children that had lost their lives, stories from their friends and families and mug shots of suspected attackers. This constant repetition of stories and images honestly altered my feelings towards the event. I had turned from a saddened lover of music and concerts to an emotionally tired person who can see through the excessive emotive language and techniques the media always use. The constant zooming in on young children crying and interviewing family members that had recently lost a child…the inhumane way of portraying this heartbreaking story is what has induced the indifference I feel.
I think I could detach myself so easily because the incident was so far from where I was and was in a place I had never been. Until the ‘terror attacks’ reached closer to home (Terror attacks in quotes because I never have been too fond of the phrase. The media tend to pick and choose when they want to use this phrase and it is commonly used when the person inflicting violence is not white. But i digress). I found myself not immediately feeling sad for the recent news but more fear and tension. This reaction also seemed similar by the news. Yes they still constantly zoomed in on those mourning the deaths and interviewed family members of people who had been killed or are missing since the attack, but they also added in questions of feeling fear and what should the government do in terms of security. After watching this it was almost impossible to not feel anxious when boarding a train and just waiting for any suspicious behaviour on the platforms. If you thought 2 minutes waiting for the next train in London was long before, it feels even longer when you’re suspecting the handbag next to you might be full of explosives…
The only thoughts that held me up from slipping into living in fear were that this is what the media want me to feel. They want me to feel scared of leaving my home. It was mistrusting the news outlets and trying to uncover their agendas that gave me control over my own feelings and surroundings. If I had left myself dependent on every word from these new outlets I would lose control over my own thoughts and feelings.
The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.
If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.
– Malcolm X
It is with these Malcolm X quotes that I present the final section of my discussion. As a British citizen it is now expected of me to feel scared of my surroundings and have an image of who the villains are in this country. I want to know why I should feel scared now that ‘terror is at an all time high’ but not when innocent young people are being murdered in my area regularly. What is the cut off point when something becomes a major issue? What categorised as a terror attack exactly? Does a beard qualify you as a terrorist? Do the lives of innocent black people killed matter less than the lives of innocent white people? (There, I said it)
I am conflicted in deciding what I should care about more. The media pick and choose what news to broadcast, how to represent it and what news is not worth broadcasting. Mistrusting these corporations allows you to be detached and analyse the news for yourself, it is beneficial in not being sucked in but also leaves you numb to tragedies.