The lessons learned when huge areas of the Midlands, the North and Scotland were flooded by several feet of water in 2007 have all been forgotten. Presumably much of the media were still at school at the time or have very short memories because the scale of that flooding was unprecedented, as was the cost, both personal and financial, to those affected.
This time one quality major national newspaper, (the Telegraph) found a 26-year-old who described apocalyptic scenes as she walked in south London. “I realised that nothing was open, and there was hardly any phone signal,” she said. “All the traffic lights were down, but there were no police present, which meant it was dangerous to cross. Cars weren’t stopping either. No one knew what was going on, and, given it’s a Friday afternoon, it’s the last thing you want to encounter. It was like witnessing something out of an apocalyptic film.”
Other news outlets gave advice on what you should do if the power goes. Check on your neighbours, how to stay safe in a power cut, it’s important to stay safe and calm said one supplier. Another reported how Brits suffered in the dark for hours; another was happy to tell readers how they may be able to claim cash!
Regional news outlets were much the same and, to be honest, I am totally fed up with this self-induced drama and panic from the media and the type of adults whom Maggie Thatcher once described as just ‘frit’! The words ‘shock, stunned, devastated, unprecedented’ and so on have become totally and utterly debased by a media which seems hell-bent on describing events in the UK that at one time would have gone unremarked.
Parts of the community expect the emergency services to have all the answers, be stoic and professional. Some chance of that, if reports of events in Whalley Bridge described by residents have any credibility, and why should emergency service personnel be any different to the rest of the community? Trained, micro-managed and controlled, often by politically correct, common purpose management, hell-bent on identifying any transgressions of ‘health and safety’ or some other ‘policy’ dreamt up by Human Resources or some faceless wonder in a government department.
So let’s take a look at the Blitz generation, the people that are venerated when it suits some politician who has done nothing more dangerous than riding a motorcycle or parading around a factory clad in Hi-Viz goggles and safety helmet while being paid what many would consider to be a fortune to do it before moving on to another government department where they again become an instant expert on whatever policy is flavour of the day.
In 1940 deaths across the UK by bombing were later reported as nearly 24,000. The figures for the next year were similar. Whole streets were ‘devastated’, people were often buried in the debris for hours and days and suffered ‘devastating‘ psychological trauma sometimes for years after. There was often no power, water or gas for days. The courage and heroism of the civil emergency services who carried on regardless, often without any sort of regard for themselves, and often seeing and witnessing things that really were ‘apocalyptic, unprecedented and devastating’ often without comment, truly conveys the real meaning of the words used so lightly by the media today. This description for example: ‘Since 1939 children have been brought face to face with death on an unprecedented scale.’ (The Guider Magazine) When communications were down children on bicycles delivered urgent emergency services messages during air raids often returning with a mangled cycle and injuries to themselves. Just a little more dangerous than crossing the road in south London during a power cut then.
‘Shocking,’ – another favourite modern media word. Parents of 13-year-old boys were not shocked then, as they demonstrated trip wires designed to dismount or kill Nazi motorcyclists, nor were their mothers when they were shown leaflets at the post office giving instructions on guerrilla warfare. After the war many children were ‘confused’ on returning home from being evacuated to safer areas and rightly so. Many displayed behaviour problems and had difficulty adjusting to their families which often took years to dispel.
As for the blackout and ‘power cuts’ one Red Cross nurse described working alone and remembered the awful pre raid silence and the total darkness.
Crime increased though and a spate of murders in London was hushed up, deserters from the military caused problems, the black-market and climbing crime rate showed it was not all heroics or ‘blitz spirit’.
And then came the peace and ‘austerity’, something else trumpeted by the modern media and well-healed politicians often without an inkling or real understanding of the word or its effects.
It may be a good idea for the media, particularly the broadcast media and politicians to think for a moment not of themselves or the next headline, but of the disruption and cost to organisers of events, the effects on production and retail sales, the disruption caused to the lives of ordinary people who in the main are not hysterical or frightened of their own shadows and who would like to hear see and read reliable media reports. Maybe then the media may once again earn the respect of the public, you know ‘guys’ the people who earn the money to pay for what you produce.
The media needs to stop the braying, the opinion reported as fact, the exaggeration and playing to the lowest common denominator, sensationalism, along with childish and biased TV reports all are now wearing more than a little thin.
One night in the ‘70s, when I was a young man, while in a large pitch black and silent factory, two cats fell screaming and fighting from a roof in front of me. To say I was startled was an understatement, and I said so. My colleague, whom I found out later had jumped as a trooper into Arnhem during the famous battle, didn’t turn a hair. “Get a hold of yourself and get a bloody grip,” was his only comment – some advice our sensationalist media and many of our childish and pampered generations would be well advised to heed.