What price human life?

  Chronos the 2nd 09:56 25 Apr 2013

The answer to that question is dependant on where you live according to the media and in particular broadcast media, Sky and the BBC 24 hour news are channels I will single out for my criticism.

3 people killed and a 100+ injured in what can only be described in the context of bombings worldwide as a pretty minor terrorist attack yet it got wall to wall coverage for some days yet a building collapses in Pakistan where over a 100 are killed and over a 1000 injured barely gets a mention in yesterdays news coverage by the two stations.

Prior to that, a few weeks ago, we had a guy killed falling down a 'giant' sink-hole which opened up under his bedroom and dying which again received an inordinate amount of coverage whilst much more news worthy items received little more than a footnote.

We of course have the endless coverage of mass shootings in the US, hardly unheard of in that country so why is so much time given over to reports and interviews with any and everybody the reporter happens to bump into?

So if you are white and American then any deaths are more news worthy than if you are say Asian or middle eastern and from countries in these areas?

  oresome 10:16 25 Apr 2013

Are you placing the blame for this bias on the news gatherers or the news consumers?

  spuds 10:29 25 Apr 2013

"What price the human life?" depends on the location of events, and how people are 'conditioned' to expect or accept it. Different parts of the world have very different views, and all are not made fully public, possibly because some people would regard that we all live in a civilised society (whatever that is suppose to mean).

In my travelling days of the 1960/1990's, I witnessed many endings of human life in different circumstances, from the 'Irish' troubles to those at street level in a barrio, or a public hanging, and as bad as it sounds, you do tend to get immune to such scenes.

Even here in the UK, I wonder how many people really care about someone jumping off a roof or walking/jumping under a bus or train intentionally. Yes it might hit the evening newspaper (space permitting) or even a report from the coroner's court because something should not have been?.

It can be a very hard life, but in the end we will all depart from this world, and its for each individual as to how they cope with it. Whether its a disaster of worldwide news, or just the local incident, where ever that might be!.

  Chronos the 2nd 10:42 25 Apr 2013

"Are you placing the blame for this bias on the news gatherers or the news consumers?"

Firmly in the news gathering camp, my complaint about the way in which events in the US will take precedence over other events worldwide is not a lone one. If you have ever watch the program on the BBC News channel called Newswatch where so called ordinary viewer's can air their criticisms of BBC's news coverage. The program does little than pay lip service to complaints and the presenters never ever push the various senior management who deign to provide answers, so accordingly we the viewers are always mistaken and they the BBC can do no wrong. But a common complaint is the coverage afforded to all events American.

I suppose one could argue a building collapse is a tragic accident unless proven otherwise which will probably never happen. A bomb attack is a deliberate and planned event intended to kill or maim as many people as possible.

The bombing is simply more shocking because it was planned. The fact more people died in the building collapse is irrelevant sadly in terms of marketing for popular media outlets. The popular media run stories that outrage or shock simply because it sells papers / gets viewers at the expense of other equally worthy news stories.

  spuds 11:09 25 Apr 2013

Perhaps taking this from a different angle, but building collapses come in all shapes and manners. There are some countries that have no or very little regulations on building or planning. and its perhaps a well known fact that a one floor building may soon become a multi floor building with no correct foundations or other proper services. This isn't news to the local's, its a daily possibility, with some governments completely taking any form of responsibilities for the events before or after.In fact corruption might be the basis of the building being there in the first place, and world-wide news is the very last thing those at the higher levels want.

  Quickbeam 11:11 25 Apr 2013

To be fair we did give a lot of coverage to the man that made £50 million from fake bomb detector sales, that cost a lot of lives, although I can't believe the gullibility of those that enabled him to get away it for so long.

I think with news there is always the spectacular element that sways it. Just look at the worldwide live manhunt coverage from Boston as the net closed on the 2 amateur bombers last week.

  fourm member 11:17 25 Apr 2013

I think you may have added force to your own argument by the mistake in your opening post. The building collapse you refer to happened in Bangladesh not Pakistan.

It should be an important story for the UK because the factory concerned was making clothes for Primark. (Other retailers also source their products from very low cost suppliers.)

As to the difference between a bomb and an 'accident' (I'll call it that for now because it is too soon to say if criminal neglect was involved), I posted to the Boston bombing thread links to stories about other bombing deaths on the same day that got largely ignored.

You can make all manner of arguments along the old 'dog bites man - not news, man bites dog - news' line to try and justify the extent of the coverage of the events in Boston, where bombings are unusual, versus Iraq, where they are not.

As to the 'gatherer' versus 'consumer' argument, I think that is much more difficult. The news gatherers would argue that they are responding to what viewers are interested in but viewers could say that if the news doesn't present items then how can they become interested.

  Chronos the 2nd 12:01 25 Apr 2013

I think you may have added force to your own argument by the mistake in your opening post. The building collapse you refer to happened in Bangladesh not Pakistan.

I realised that but not having an edit button on these forums I left it as I knew someone would correct my error, not that it makes any difference to the main thrust of my thread.

I and many other people are getting tired of the limited BBC television coverage of world news. All the time the wall to wall coverage of the Boston bombings was going on and on I wondered if the rest of the world had ceased to function.

  fourm member 12:12 25 Apr 2013

'not that it makes any difference to the main thrust of my thread.'

Absolutely not.

'I and many other people are getting tired of the limited BBC television coverage of world news.'

The reality is that the shabby deal done by this government and the BBC over the licence fee has made it much harder for the BBC to cover the world even if it wanted to.

  rickf 12:12 25 Apr 2013

I did see the coverage of this on BBC24 and I thought it was a fairly wide coverage of the events. However, you have raised an old chestnut "If you are white and American....." with the emphasis on the White, on the decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan. That debate went on for a long time regarding the relative value of life being placed on race and colour.

  Flak999 14:06 25 Apr 2013

I believe that this issue is referred to as the "Hierarchy of death" there is an interesting blog piece in the Telegraph today that expounds upon this very issue.

For the benefit of those who can't get past the paywall I will paraphrase from this article.

With regard to the Boston bombings as opposed to say, deaths in Iraq or Afghanistan. we are affected by “cultural proximity”. Americans are like us. We speak the same language, have much in common with them. We feel close to them as we don’t feel close to Iraqis or Bangladeshi's. Moreover, we have come to expect that there will be bombings in Baghdad, while the idea of an event like the Boston Marathon being targeted by bombers is shocking.

All this is true. It is more natural for us to be more moved to tears or anger by what happened in Boston, just as it is more natural to mourn the death of a friend than the death of a stranger; and yet that phrase, “a hierarchy of death”, is disturbing. It is disturbing because it hits home, When a child is killed in Baghdad/Bangladesh the bereaved parents grieve just as bereaved parents do in Boston, yet somehow their grief is lessened by cultural difference.

The USA has for years been engaged in a war against the Islamists. As in most wars, it doesn’t matter who started it; each side blames the other, and each seeks to revenge attacks made on it. The war began before 9/11, and has been pursued vigorously ever since. Recently the favoured American means of attack has been by pilotless drones. These are targeted at known or suspected terrorists, especially their leaders, but there are other victims too. It is estimated that between 1,900 and 3,500 people have been killed by drones in Waziristan, one of the tribal provinces of Pakistan. Some of the dead – no one knows how many – were civilians, among them women and children.

There should be no surprise if deluded but devout young Islamists strike back. It would be wrong and wicked to say that America was asking for something like the Boston bombing to happen, but, if you are engaged in a war, you must expect that there will be casualties on your side, and some of these will be civilians – and women and children. Drone warfare has, it seems, become less discriminating. According to an ex-CIA man, Richard Blee, “In the early days, for our consciences, we wanted to know who we were killing before anyone pulled the trigger. Now we are lighting these people up all over the place. If we are going to hand down death sentences, there ought to be some accountability.” But is there?

It’s common to describe terrorist bombings as “cowardly”. I think President Obama used the word with regard to Boston. But if these deluded brothers, one now dead, the other wounded and facing a life in prison, possibly even a death sentence, were cowardly, what word would you use to describe the act of killing people thousands of miles away by projectiles directed by someone sitting in front of a screen safe in Middle America? A bomber pilot risks death; the director of a drone doesn't.

But he kills just the same!

This paraphrased extract is from Allan Massie's blog in yesterdays Daily Telegraph.

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