Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Who blew that up?

Here's a photo from the ABC news website. Fascinating isn't it? Something burning and a big column of black smoke being given off, plus lots of people standing around having a gander.

If you click on the link and go to the ABC web page, you can click on the photo to see a much larger version. I tried that, and still couldn't work out what it is.

The picture is helpfully captioned:

More strikes: Israeli warplanes have continued to pound Gaza (Reuters: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)

Ok, that may be so - but what the hell is happening in the photo above? It doesn't tell us what is burning. For all we know, this might have been taken on the 5th of November at a celebration of Guy Fawkes Night in Gaza.

Alternatively, it might be the results of a prank gone wrong in a Hamas bomb making factory - something along the lines of the photo below.

Abu: "Hey Farook, Mamood is arming the explosive vests. I'm going to sneak over there and scare him."

Farook: "Huh? You sure that's a good idea."

Cue crowd of curious onlookers, who have come to witness the demise of Abu, the well known prankster.

Now I am not going to try and claim that this is a photo of the aftermath of a normal road accident where a petrol tanker has slammed into a taxi driven in typically Middle Eastern style. I have little doubt this shows what happens when Israeli ordnance meets Hamas.

But I am curious to know exactly what it is we are supposed to be looking at in this photo. The only reason we might be looking at this photo is because an editor at the ABC has a hard-on for fires - like the owner of the TV station in Switching Channels (which is a great movie). The owner has one simple demand - that they have a story about a fire on the news every night. "Everyone loves a fire", he keeps saying. "Have you got me a fire?" The news crews are driven mad with the daily search for a fire - any fire, anywhere - that they can broadcast at six o'clock.

So here we have our Gaza version of "everyone loves a fire". We don't know what is burning. We don't know why it is burning. We don't know what caused it to burn (although we can guess), or how long it burnt for. We don't know what efforts were made to put it out. We just have a pretty picture of a fire, something that we can go "Oooh-ah" to.

The news is secondary. The visuals are all that's important. Like I said, this might have nothing to do with Israeli air strikes, and be the result of a traffic accident, or a fireworks display gone wrong (although you'd probably have to be nuts to believe that......although you can never be too sure, given what Reuters has done in the past).

It's fire porn, plain and simple. Who cares about the what, why, where and so on. Just enjoy the pretty picture. And don't ask so many difficult questions.

[Forgive me if you think I have too high an expectation regarding my desire to see news organisations deliver news, rather than pretty pictures that have no meaning.]

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