Hurricane Harvey has captured the West’s attention, mainly due to blanket coverage by the news media. It’s been hard to escape this drowning of a city, short of liberal use of the ‘Off’ button on the TV remote. While it’s to be expected that the American media would focus on this catastrophe in the home country, there was less excuse for blanket coverage from European channels, to the near exclusion of worse problems elsewhere in the world.
But why, you may ask, should we not participate in this sad spectacle of Americans forced from their homes and into the nightmare scenario of overcrowded ‘shelters’, with little hope of any home to return to once the waters have subsided? Why should we not feel the pain and suffering of others, share with them across the airwaves, or internet, our bond of love and affection for these fellow human beings in their hour of need?
There’s one good reason: deliberate media selection. Our news media selected Hurricane Harvey on a daily basis as the ‘désastre du jour’, while almost totally ignoring a hugely greater weather calamity that was occurring simultaneously eight thousand miles away from Texas, in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal. Twelve hundred people are known to have died, four million displaced, and while the BBC News did run a ‘special’ on Saturday, it was while most Brits were out shopping or watching the afternoon sport.
Does it matter? The mass media coverage of Harvey and Houston won’t change anything one iota. It still continued to rain. Prayers had no obvious effect on the weather, unless they made it worse, which is of course impossible to judge. All in all, the suffering of people in Houston was to most of us no more than a reality TV show at its best, an ongoing form of entertainment that only palled when the rain stopped falling, the crocs, snakes, and fire ants began to disperse, and North Korea carried out another nuclear test that caused yet more frothing at the mouth from Donald Trump.
The painful truth is that the media gives us what we want. The sight of a huge conglomerate like Houston being systemically torn apart by nature is way more exciting than a load of perceived peasants, far away across the globe, drowning in their own paddy fields. After all, the latter is a relatively common occurrence…
…and they don’t have a life-size Barbie doll in four-inch heels gawping at them from the sidelines. Nothing attracts media cameras like a Barbie doll in four-inch heels striding nonchalantly into a disaster zone.
Meanwhile, Kim Jong-un is becoming more and more frustrated. No amount of threats, hydrogen bombs, or missiles aimed at Washington are proving effective in gaining him the respect he desperately wants from other world leaders. One has to feel a certain sympathy for North Korea’s diminutive leader. Even without being a nutcase, having a stature as wide as it’s long doesn’t easily draw respectful friends. One only has to consider the governor of New Jersey…
…Chris Christie, to understand that.
North Korea’s leader is angry. On his doorstep for the last sixty years have been thousands of U.S. troops and a vast assortment of technologically advanced military hardware. And it’s all aimed at him. To add insult to injury, every summer the U.S. and South Korean military stage wargames just to antagonise Kim and show off their military prowess. It’s enough to make a half-crazed, short-assed, dictator execute his uncle and assassinate his half-brother.
An even bigger wasp in the honeypot is another half-crazed, wannabe dictator on the other side of the world from North Korea, who believes his nation is the best, and the goodliest, and has God on its side – despite the fact that God was nowhere to be seen in the last Korean conflict, or Vietnam, or Iraq, or Libya, or anywhere else on the planet where the U.S. has tried to plant its military jackboots, along – of course – with its accursed flag.
Donald Trump is desperate to have a war, but it will have to be the biggest and best war the world has ever seen. For Trump, anything less would be a failure. His conundrum is how to achieve it and keep America intact. China, Russia, North and South Korea, and every other nation on earth could be obliterated, yet “frankly, my dear, Donald wouldn’t give a damn.” But he promised, “America First!” and by God and the whiskers of Steve Bannon, he’s not going to let his people down.
Even as these words are being typed a ‘Breaking News’ BBC banner proclaims, “US defence secretary warns any threat to US or allies by North Korea will be met by “massive military response”. ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis is gearing up for battle.
There’s a bevy of old and wise sayings: “every cloud has a silver lining;” “it’s darkest before the dawn;” “the sun always shines on the righteous;” “there’ll be bluebirds over the White Cliffs of Dover.” They were all invented to help us look on the bright side. After all, if Kim Jong-un does manage to land a hydrogen bomb on America it’ll prove the quickest way to dry out Houston.
And just think what a media spectacle that would make.