Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

No News is Good News.

I woke up thinking of that old saying today.

Ever since the events of 9/11 in New York in 2001, I have had something of an addiction to 24-hour rolling news. I often think I might miss something, if I don’t watch it at least a few times a day. Since Brexit, it has become extremely annoying to watch, especially as during the last five years or so, it has also become apparent that the BBC (the news channel I watch) has definitely been dumbing-down the content, and showing worrying signs of bias on many important issues.

As well as that, actual live news is often replaced by opinion pieces, or the use of so-called ‘experts’ who appear on screen pontificating on some issue of the day. Then there is the heavy focus on certain celebrity stories and sports coverage, as well as the long-term adoration of the British Royal Family, and the hordes of hangers-on who surround them. The result is that on the BBC News 24 dedicated news channel, News is actually just a small part of the output.

When I went away to visit relatives and friends in the south of England last week, I had decided not to watch any television, or to look at sites on my tablet. This meant that for the first time in over seventeen years, I had no idea what was happening in the outside world. I didn’t look at the weather forecast, the local news in Essex or Kent, and paid no attention to what might have been happening in Westminster, or The White House.

Last night, I had a quick look online, in case I had missed a war somewhere, or the collapse of the government in Britain.

So here are the ‘beetleypete headlines’, as far as I can tell.

Boris Johnson is trying to close down parliament to force through his ‘no-deal Brexit’. This has happened in the past over other issues, so for me it is a bit ‘seen it before, so what?’

Some government ministers have resigned in protest. ‘Yawn’.

The Queen didn’t stop Boris. Well, she can’t actually do that. Going to ask her for permission is just ‘being polite’. Britain fought the English Civil War in the 17th century so we didn’t have to ask a monarch what we could do.

Boris Johnson is an arrogant conceited man who doesn’t care about anyone but himself and his rich cronies. Well we already knew that, didn’t we?

Some members of parliament changed parties. That has happened since the first parliaments here, and political turncoats are part of our history.

The ‘peace deal’ with the Taliban has been cancelled. Like that was ever going to work in the first place.

India and Pakistan are squaring up to each other. That has been happening since before I was born.

Hurricane Dorian is causing chaos. Sorry to hear that, and I hope all my friends in the path of it are okay.

The Democrats in America still have no viable opponent to challenge Mr Trump. No change there then.

Iran is being accused of all sorts, and Israel and Hezbollah are on the verge of hostilities. Hardly ‘news’.

Brazil is destroying the Amazon in the lust for mining gold and farming for beef. We should have stopped them a long time ago. It’s probably too late now.

Five days with no news, and that’s all I can come up with. Nothing really changed, and everything that was going on before I left on Tuesday is still going on.

I have to come to the conclusion that I didn’t miss anything at all, and that my obsession with The News has now been purged from my system.

Not knowing

During our longer than expected break this week, I didn’t access the Internet. I didn’t read a national newspaper, watch the news, or bother about what was going on outside of the quiet peace of the Suffolk countryside. This from someone who has rolling 24-hour news on for most of the day, and spends hours reading political commentary posts online, as well as those posted by bloggers.

I chatted to my relatives about ‘the old days’, and caught up on family news that I didn’t know about.
We drove over to the coast, and wandered around a timeless seaside town that hasn’t changed much in my lifetime. We ate food together, had a few drinks, and played with the three dogs. The others enjoyed lounging around in the huge hot tub (not my thing) as I brought them drinks from inside the house. Then we strolled on the edges of the fields that surrounded the old farm, tucked away almost a mile from the main road, down a stony driveway.

Not once did I concern myself about the EU, the antics of Mr Trump, weather disasters, North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, or the in-fighting in our own government. I didn’t catch sight of the buffoon of a Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, or the maligned Socialist opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn. For three whole days, I was cut off from my normal life, and the events in the world that usually consume my every waking moment.

And nothing happened. There wasn’t a nuclear war anywhere, and America didn’t invade a single country. We continued to argue with the EU, and the Prime Minister stayed the same, without being ousted. No famous actors died, and we didn’t have any serious coastal erosion, or weather events here in Britain. On the smaller scale, there were no family dramas. Nobody ended up in hospital, or contacted us on mobile phones in a panic. In fact, there wasn’t so much as a head cold to worry about. I started to realise why people used to live the life of a hermit, and I came to a conclusion. When you don’t know about what’s going on, nothing goes on. You are better off not knowing, it would seem

I should go away more often.

I have finally got to the end of ten pages of emails. If I missed any of your comments, or didn’t get to one of your posts, I apologise. For the time being, beetleypete is back to normal.

Guest Post : Not Terror Related

This is a guest post that I received from Ed Westen, in America. I keep urging him to write a general blog, in addition to his excellent ideas about how to change the monetary system.

Not Terror Related

I got to thinking about what to put in a blog. If I were doing one, this would be today’s entry:

I have noticed a trend in murder reporting. Reporters and anchors affix the words “not terror related” to some tragic events. Listening closely, it is as if they are saying, “This man/woman/child was not killed by terrorists so it is OK.” What they seem to miss is if a member of a gang committed the atrocity, it is terror related. Terror is the whole basis of gang membership. What they seem to miss if it is a domestic murder, more than likely it is an abusive spouse. Abusive spouses are terrorists to their family. Indeed, even road rage murders are terrorist events.

Yes, there are groups that advocate terror as a way to advance their ideology or cause. Historically such groups advocating terrorism such as the IRA and Israeli Revolutionaries just to name a couple, have been active. Generally, groups we have experienced in history limited targets (victims) geographically to a country. The only difference between our historical experiences and the current ones is that the current ones seem to call for striking out at everyone that isn’t fully committed to their cause. In other words, the whole world.

Yes, we have struggled to deal with terrorists historically and today. I would suggest that if we view terrorists as a criminal conspiracy and set up a police force with which to deal with their criminal conspiracies, we might have a chance of dealing them a fatal blow. Such a police force would need units in every country in the world. Such a force would need an extensive online presence. Such a police force would need access to military assets on a demand basis. A police force would have a lower daily profile than do military strikes with personnel or with drones, although the latter would be utilized when pockets of terrorists warrant. So, there is some similarity to the present use of force. However, a police force would be more flexible in finding and dealing with the terrorists’ outreach on the internet. Such a force could remove some of the recruitment power of extensive strikes that murder civilians (the correct term is collateral damage. The correct term in this case, will be our downfall). Such a force will involve infiltration of the terrorist groups by operatives. Similar to undercover operations made popular by television in programs such as “I Led Three Lives,” “The Mod Squad,” and “Donny Brasco,” such infiltrations will be key to eventually minimizing the group’s leadership and outreach.

While we still have the mob and we still have vestiges of most criminal groups, police functions have served us well. Yes, we have a long way to go with gang eradication; however, policing is a more flexible method of attacking such criminal conspiracies than is a military force.
So, for being OK, no murder is.

Ed Westen. 2016.

Too much News: Pistorius and the BBC

To readers outside the UK, I apologize in advance. This may be of little or no interest to you.

I am an avid watcher of TV News. Ever since dedicated news channels arrived in the UK, I have been a fan. I like to be aware of what is going on, and to keep up with world events, and home news. This is even more important since I retired, as I do not have the benefit of chatting with work colleagues, and the usual discussions and opinions that are the result of general conversation. I can think of many occasions when constant news updates are important, and even some where it is acceptable for the coverage to be uninterrupted, as happened with the events of 9/11 in New York.

At the moment, there are many things going on around the world, and here in the UK, that are of interest or concern to me. The ongoing war in Syria, which could destabilise the whole region. The situation in Ukraine, that could lead to a limited war in Europe. At home, we have the forthcoming EU Parliament elections, the economic problems, and issues over benefits, and the NHS. So, what do the BBC News broadcasts offer us? Unlimited coverage of the trial of a South African man, accused of killing his girlfriend. This trial, and the murder that preceded it, may have been of more than usual interest, as the accused is a well-known athelete, who has appeared in the Paralympic Games. Perhaps a short overview, followed by news of the eventual verdict, would have been in order. However, the court ruled that parts of the trial could be televised, and the BBC jumped on the bandwagon, becoming part of the media circus that wanted to show us these proceedings.

For those of you that know nothing of the Pistorius trial, here is a brief outline of the events. On Valentine’s Day, 2013, Pistorius and his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, were together in his house in Pretoria, the capital of South Africa. He shot her dead, as she hid in the shower, firing many times through the glass door. From the beginning, he admitted the shooting, but claimed that he believed that she was an intruder. Despite the fact that he realised she was not in bed, that an argument preceding the shooting was heard by witnesses, and that she could be heard screaming behind the shower, it never occurred to him to ask if it was her. He just shot through the glass. Surely one of the worst defences ever presented in a murder charge? It is so obvious that he killed her following some sort of jealous argument. Given that he had to put on prosthetic legs, get his pistol from the bedroom (all in the dark) and then shoot through the door of the shower cubicle, who could possibly believe that this was an accidental shooting, in fear of an intruder? If he was not a well-known athelete, and backed by substantial funds, this laughable case would have never been presented.

Trials in the UK are not allowed to be shown on television. Even photographs are not allowed, so we have long tolerated sketches of accused persons, and notable Judges, in our media here. From TV and Cinema, we are all well-aware how these trials proceed, and the technicalities that surround them. We are conversant with the system of defence following prosecution, how witnesses give evidence, and how juries make their deliberations. We do not need to see it played out in its entirety on TV news. It is just pointless. What makes the Pistorius trial even more ludicrous to show on news programmes, is the fact that he is not allowed to be shown. There is a delay in transmission as well, presumably to allow for ‘editing’. What we are left with, are views of the judge, the barristers, and an occasional witness who does not object to being televised. We hear the answers from the accused, as well as his crying and whining, but do not see him in the court. We are deprived of seeing for ourselves, being able to judge his sincerity, or otherwise.

Instead, we have a succession of journalists paraded before the camera, offering their interpretation of his behaviour, and their version of those parts of the trial we are unable to see. Pundits are wheeled on, to offer speculation, background detail, and such minutiae as how long a tea break will be, or what the accused had for lunch. I can see no justification for the tedious and blanket coverage  of this trial, other than the ‘excitement’ of being able to show events ‘live’ from a court. The BBC is a public service, funded by a licence fee which we all have to pay if we own a TV set, whether we want to or not. It should be more responsible with how it spends that money, and not waste it with this interminable coverage of a foreign trial, in a country thousands of miles away. For balance, I should add that Sky News also broadcasts exactly the same output, at the same time. But this is a satellite channel, and we do not have to pay for it.

Many of us, myself included, have written in to the BBC to complain. They defend their actions by stating that there is huge public interest in the case, borne out by visits to their website, and audience figures for the trial reports. What they conveniently forget to mention, is that if you turn on the news, or visit the website, this is the lead story at all times, so we have no other option but to unwittingly become part of those audience statistics.

The BBC was once an institution to be proud of. Compared to some other countries television, it still is, in some respects. Sadly, in seeking to be more populist, less intellectual, and to gather audience figures, it is now just playing the game of telling us what we need to see, instead of allowing us to make up our own minds. It needs to get back to reporting the news that is happening, instead of becoming part of the institution that creates news that they want us to watch.

I suspect that the film and TV rights have already been sold, and the book launch will quickly follow the verdict.