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Broken News

So, we woke up in London to discover that first one, then two viable improvised vehicular explosive devices (that’s potential car bombs to you and me) had been found overnight. What followed was a new low on, I am sorry to say, BBC News 24, in terms of mindless, breathless repetition and mangling of the language. It was not English.

The BBC was shamed by the competent, calm and entirely professional manner of Detective Peter Clark, London’s anti-terrorist police chief.

I was interested to see a sign in a shop in the Haymarket where the car bomb was found which read “Thinking of buying a property overseas?” — a sign of the times I’ve noted here recently, and perhaps a trend that may accelerate. It stayed on the screen for a very long time as every known detail was repeated ad nauseam. Every so often there was something new. “We’re getting reports now that there were 16 litres of petrol in the car.” A significant improvement on the previous “significant quantity” mentioned repeatedly! Not 15. Nor 14. 16 litres.

Londoners interviewed were fatalistic, stoic. “If your number is up, it’s up”, “Life has to go on” etc.

If you looked for a little stoicism in the media, however, you’d have needed a microscope. Frank Gardiner‘s understated manner was a luminous exception.

How many times did we need to hear that it was “A test for Gordon Brown”? What kind of test is that? The “Can he appear on camera and regret this and call for public vigilance” test? Or was it the “Does he have a Blair-like ability to emote on camera and come up with memorable little phrases that catch the public mood?” test?

On and on it went, the BBC doing Al Qaeda’s work for it, trying in effect to scare the public. I could understand it if a bomb had exploded and people had died. Giving whomever it was the oxygen of publicity anyway seems craven to me and likely to invite more attacks and hoaxes. “London on edge” is what the media want, and they’ll make it up if they have to, and repeat it endlessly and paraphrase it and interview people about how on edge they are. The word for this is complicity.

Car bombs explode and kill dozens of people every day in Baghdad, and unless British or American soldiers are killed this is not newsworthy any more; a footnote at best.

Meanwhile, there has been nothing in the British media that I’ve seen about the recent Washington Post stories about Dick Cheney. There’s been plenty about an American celebrity recently released from jail. I cheered to read today that a US news reader declined to read a story about this person. Elsewhere, I read that the news in the US was as follows: iphone iphone iphone iphone Bombs in London iphone iphone iphone iphone iphone iphone iphone iphone.

When the news is broken (“breaking news” is usually a sign that it’s happening) I look for a story that is being under-reported but which will prove to be vastly more important in the long term. This story about genetic transformation (also here) is probably it.

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