Friday, 23 January 2009

Dispatches examines the Israel-Gaza conflict- the truth and the solution?

First published at

Jon Snow’s Dispatches on Channel 4
last night tried to address the question of whether the reporting in Gaza had been able to get to the truth.

Of course, it hasn’t. As we know, foreign journalists have been barred from entering the highly populated region, but they also claimed that the Israelis had been planning the assault for months, and planning how to control the media.

The argument for this can be rationalized. The Israelis believe that Western media treat them unfairly. They believe the 2006 war in Lebanon illustrates this; the media had free reign, and showed much of the violence and death that occurred there.

They believe they were treated unfairly, because they believe the violence is justified, in view of their own feelings of security.

Many of the images flooding our screens have come from journalists already living in Gaza due to the restriction on reporting from the frontline, and the scenes are devastating. Instead of focusing journalists on the attacks from Hamas on Israel, Israel has accidentally engineered it so this footage is in the foreground.

Both Muslim and Jewish families were interviewed in the programme, both arguing that the Western media was favouring the other side. Both arguing that people wouldn’t be able to get to the truth.

They gave a general audience no credit for being able to accept that on both sides people would be trying to show things in their own favour, and so would probably not come to a decision, indiscriminately who was right, or rather, who was the most wrong.

Furthermore, they were not even entertaining the idea that they themselves, no matter their allegiance, might not ever really be receiving the entire truth.

And that the opposing sides ‘truths’ might be mutually exclusive.

A key question was whether the media was justified in showing graphic images of dead bodies in Gaza, those of children, and particularly that of a charred and disfigured body of a five-month-old girl.

In the UK, they, with the exception of a highly edited version shown on the Channel 4 news, did not show it.

Was it too graphic, offensive, inappropriate, or was not showing it too sanitized, not a true reflection of reality?

Although possibly fulfilling their role of informing, although another question is, how informative can selecting to show graphic or less graphic scenes be to the public, how empowered could the public feel with any information to make a difference?

Clearly from how the United Nations tried to intervene quickly, with limited success, and the eventual agreement of a ceasefire which appears to be being breached on both sides, even international peace-keeping bodies cannot ultimately dissuade those who really want to kill each other, from doing just that.

What showing graphic images does highlight is the plight of those that are needlessly suffering, to the people who can’t do a lot about it. If those who are committing the attacks can live with the knowledge that that is what they are doing, then how could anyone persuade them they are wrong? If indeed they are wrong.

The truth is an admirable goal of a journalist, but what is needed is a solution. A solution that is most likely hinged on the efforts of the incoming President Barack Obama.

But is an agreement what either side wants? Their ideals and aims are in such conflict, and even if an official agreement is reached, what is to stop one person with their own cause going against that for what they believe is right?

Monday, 12 January 2009

At a time of frugality, TV ads recruit major stars

First published at

What do Carol Vorderman, Charlotte Church, Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper, Dame Edna Everedge and… er… Ringo star all have in common? If I didn’t know, I’d be struggling!

But eagle-eyed TV viewers amongst you (it’s probably just about the only thing you can rely on in these uncertain times) will have spotted them, geriatric Rock legends to national treasures all on adverts on British Television.

Why, you might ask, are such culturally important figures trying to flog me everything from magazines to insurance, to highlighting the terrifically important fact that Norwich Union has changed its name?

Vorderman can be forgiven. Having been asked to take a whopping pay cut at Channel 4, she opted, or was coerced into making her final Countdown.

Joining the dole cue with the rising numbers of 18-24 year olds and recent graduates would probably have been a bit demeaning. So she’s advertising Reveal Magazine instead.

Charlotte Church is advertising Virgin Holidays, making use of those famed vocal cords when not being slated about or recording her Channel 4 show of the same name. Bet she isn’t even a virgin…

With the birth of that second baby you’d be forgiven for thinking she needs the extra cash. But with two celebrity incomes? If she isn’t just selling her soul, we should all be worried.

Ringo, Iggy, Alice, where has it all gone wrong? Norwich Union, or Aviva, have obviously found your price. But was it a high price at a time when we should all be tightening our belts, in which case, shame on you for indulging their decadence, or a low price, as even international superstars can’t ride the gravy train forever?

Did you have all your royalty cheques tied up in Iceland Ringo? Were you fooled by the friendly hedge fund salesman Ig?

Or was it a bright-eyed marketing guru who came up with this age-old way to shift crap, but this time in a bleary-eyed country that is just waking up to a very harsh financial reality?

We don’t need anything else. We all need to be a bit more frugal. We’re done with our celebrity fragrances; the smell of the fear of financial meltdown serves us all with a constant reminder.

We’ve all borrowed beyond our means, apparently no one saw it coming, and no one’s quite sure how we’re going to pay it all back. And still the perverse mind-games, using celebrities to endorse brands so us normal folk can dream that one day too, might we have to change our name to become a star, because what Ultimate Fighting World Champion is called Gaz Thomas?

I’d be surprised if these celebrities are joining the bread line just yet. And I bet they can all sleep at night in their Egyptian cotton bed linen on the 50th floor of the apartment in New York with the security guards at the door.

But cheers for rubbing it in!