Offbeat 20 November 2015

I’m one of your news sources. My job is to update news on a local website three times a day. I handle international news, local news, sports news and business, and some other bits and pieces. I start the gig shortly after five in the morning, 364 days a year, including Christmas and New Year, but with the exception of my birthday.
I have done it for years now. I am maniacal about getting stuff done on time. Aside from early sports, my commitment to you is driven by the time-honoured tradition of the early papers: I will provide you with the sort of dreadful international news that is as much an eye-opener as that first strong and fragrant cup of coffee laced with sweet, sweet sugar.
If the coffee isn’t strong and fragrant, maybe you should change your blend.
I repeat the exercise most mid-mornings and afternoons, with the exception of Friday afternoon and weekend afternoons, when other people jump in to help.
The stories I gather have an undercurrent. What I try to impart is the way the world is shaping, particularly through nightmare climate change, the horrible rise of fundamentalist Islam and the myth of uninterrupted economic growth.
When you stand in the middle of a baking-hot desert that was once a rain forest, surrounded by psychotic lunatics in suicide vests, with the knowledge that all you have to your name is a phone that you can’t really afford due to the exchange rate, I want you to come to the admiring realisation, that I was right about the nature of the apocalypse.
I will probably be there next to you, with a grin, waiting for a last high-five, but my mobile will be a cheaper brand. As far as the apocalypse goes, I think zombies will be a happier outcome. I can’t imagine them burning hydrocarbons in the quest for growth of equities driven by another surge on the back of a new round of dumb mobile phones.
Of course I can’t give the full bunch of analysis that I go through to get to these points I am making, only sometimes. News needs entertainment value. Mostly, all I can do is paint a picture with dramatic stories.
This week’s story was the French attacks, a minor milestone in the ongoing river of suicide bombings and mass killings. The analytic component that I have not yet shared is the ancient religious roots of the Salafist perpetrators, though I have from time to time gathered news on the apocalyptic nature of their goals, Think Jonestown here, but with lots of weapons, in case you missed that story. Who needs to waste Cool-Aid when you can die for you beliefs in battle or lethally distributing your organs with a suicide vest.
One of the things that stood out this week was various comments that similar massacres are common in Africa and the Middle East, but not touted with a flag overlay on Facebook. If you didn’t see the flags or the counter comments on Facebook, add some different friends to your collection. To that I will add that the Nigerian girls didn’t arouse much ire from the company itself.
The French thing died down quite a bit on Wednesday with the death of Jona Lomu. As I sat and thought about the rapid transition, I realised that there is an economy to news that assigns a value in popular consciousness. The passing of Jona Lomu has the same news value as the Paris massacre, and both are far more valued than tens of dead in places like Lebanon or Nigeria.
Value supplants value in the shifting realm of news. The Paris massacre and security for the critical Paris climate talks will probably overshadow the content and semiotics of the actual talks.
I have never been a dedicated sports fan, but of late my mind has begun to take refuge in updating the sports. I’m a United fan, nowadays. Louis van Gaal is better for my composure than yet another massacre.
In the wake of Paris there were reams of words written by impassioned journalists of every stripe. Here’s my impassioned bit…
“World, you are like a timeshare salesperson at the gate. I need you to go away and leave me alone. I am weary of you now.”


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