A long retirement holiday, our eldest daughter’s wedding, moving house and settling in; our period of silence has been busy enough, helped by few papers, little radio or TV and definitely no internet. Meanwhile the world rolled on. Reviewing events it is apparent that in my absence the media continued to manipulate as avidly as ever.
In 1898 the USA and Spain fought a squalid little war in Cuba. Newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst sent artist Frederic Remington to Cuba to supply pictures. Remington cabled home that nothing much was happening, Hearst’s reply was “You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.” The story, perhaps apocryphal, was certainly prescient. With insatiable rolling news demanding continual action we find events being blown up out of all proportion.
More than a century later we encounter the travellers who refuse to travel. The “travellers” in the illegal encampment at Dale Farm near Basildon seem to have adopted as their motto “Have caravan, won’t move.”
This was a nimby squabble suitable for a headline in the Basildon Bugle (or whatever the local paper is called), a local matter best left to local magistrates and illegal residents to sort out amongst themselves. Instead we find it transformed into an international circus complete with camera crews, posturing celebrities, rent-a-crowd middle class anarchists, and claims of human rights abuses. There was even a nutty French professor thrown in for light relief. Thank goodness no-one told the Dalia Lama about it.
The BBC emphasised the supposed gravity of the affair by sending in Fergal Keane, a serious journalist whom we are more used to seeing clad in a helmet and flack jacket reporting atrocities from war zones.
The “travellers” were offered alternative housing by the council but it was refused on the grounds that it was “bricks and mortar.” Seemingly it is acceptable for a “traveller” to reside permanently if he lives in a caravan which does not move for ten years, but it would be a violation of his rights and an ethnic insult to offer him an ordinary house for those ten years.
The wildest accusations went flying and were eagerly seized upon and amplified by the media. The most popular accusation being that this was an example of “ethnic cleansing.” The morally self-satisfied progressives who make such wild accusations should be forced to visit the victims of all too real ethnic cleansing in places like Bosnia and Ruanda and apologise profusely for demeaning their genuine suffering. The fact that “wicked,” “evil,” “racist” and “unconscionable,” Basildon Council had been subsidising 25 families on the illegal site with as much as £53,625 a year in housing benefit never penetrated the consciousness of the progressives and their compliant media outlets.
It is estimated that the affair will cost the council taxpayers of Basildon upwards of £8,000,000. Meanwhile presumably similar costs for the highly paid lawyers on the traveller’s side are being paid by the rest of us via Legal Aid despite the fact that some of the “travellers” are property owners back in Ireland.
The media not only report news they decide what constitutes news, and when necessary for them they create the news. It was ever thus, “You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”