Sunday, June 11, 2006

Junk news

If I wanted to present a crude and inaccurate view of the world I might write “Christians mix their proteins, Jews mix their starches and Muslims mix their oil”.

And that would be that. Three simple gross inaccuracies, helpful and infinitely useful. I could apply them over and over again. Every time a world event happened I could just run it through the filter; if it smelt of rotten meat and rancid cheese the Christians must of done it, if it made someone fat the Jews did it and if it’s full of greasy lies the hands of Muslims must have been at work. What a happy content diarist I would be. Logging one misdemeanour after another and attributing it to one of these three causes by virtue of gastronomy. Or by casting aspersions on Saudi Arabian oil monopolies. But mainly with a nod to inedibility and bias.

It hasn’t stopped some writers. Crude inaccuracy. Only last week I read that falafel selling had been banned in Baghdad. Most likely, the writer implied to the world at large from behind a news column, the work of Jew-hating fascists (whether Christian or Islamist is anybodies guess). As falafels are the only thing that bring Jews and Muslims together (the writer knowingly assured the globe with the satisfaction of having investigatively passed on hearsay from inside sources) and because the only fast-food left to eat in Baghdad is pizza and burgers (now that falafel sellers have been forced underground) this must mean (the reader is left to deduce) the Jesus killers have been driven right out. Because everyone knows no Jew will touch pizza or go anywhere near the mac franchise that is sure to spring up any day now, in Iraq. A wedge, and not a potatoe one, has been neatly driven between Muslims and Jews in Baghdad (some fear) by the murder of falafel-sellers.

People mean well, I’m sure. I hope. I can’t quite find the words to describe right now the incredulity I would like to express about having read this sort of thing in the news in the world section. A pox on "investigative journalism" – a euphemism for repeating things that other people have said reliably and word for word no matter how speculative and untruthful.

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