Political Confusion and an Hysterical Media

As part of their Covid 19 lockdown, South Africa’s government – bless ‘em – have banned the sale of alcohol and tobacco.

Even by the standards of the ANC, this seems like suicidal madness. Quite apart from the revenue in taxation that they will be losing, in times of crisis and God help us this is a crisis, ordinary people turn to the basic comforts of life and to wilfully deprive them of those is asking for trouble.

Mind you, British American Tobacco have mildly suggested that the ban is rescinded by today (Monday) or they will take the government to Court. When one considers that BAT is one of the richest companies in the world and the South African government owe trillions of Rands in international debt, I am not sure that this is a case that the government can win.

Meanwhile in Fraserburg, a peaceful little town in the Karoo and a haven for tourists because it is so quiet, the people have rebelled against the ban and had their own riot, smashing up shops and causing a great deal of damage. If that can happen in pretty, peaceful little Fraserburg, it can equally take place in larger conurbations and the consequences will be far worse and very long lasting.

I wonder if the ANC government of Mr Ramaphosa will calm down and try a bit of common sense for a change.

What is it about senior politicians, wherever they are? Do they all have to be lobotomised before taking office I wonder? They seem to work with a supreme lack of common sense so perhaps that part of the brain is taken out before they can damage whatever party they represent?

Take Britain’s Health Secretary, the lugubrious and ineffectual Mathew Hancock. When taxed yesterday about the story that even if the general population is allowed out of lockdown in the near future, everyone over seventy – regardless of physical fitness – will be kept incarcerated, the self-important Mr Hancock told the questioner that this was completely wrong and referred her to a government website that he assured her explained everything.

That particular government website blithely tells us that everyone over seventy years of age, regardless of health or physical fitness will be required to stay indoors and self-isolate for the foreseeable future!

Does Mr Hancock read his own party propaganda I wonder?

When I was a teenager – many, many years ago! – I wanted to become a journalist. I studied the way the household names of journalism worked and admired their coldly factual reporting. In later life, I did eleven years reporting as a contracted freelance for the British Sunday Express on the Zimbabwe farm invasions. During those traumatic years, I tried my best to be even-handed and factual, even when that was not easy to do.

That job rather tore me apart but I did it to the best of my ability until a new News Editor wanted me to report on the antics of Chelsy Davy, the girlfriend at the time of the Royal Biscuit – as he was then. I assured that editor that I was not that sort of reporter and walked out.

Now I watch and read about the coronabug and find myself appalled at the way modern reporters on all media outlets are wallowing in tragedy, not merely reporting it as it happens. And it is not just me. Last week, David Goodhart, a senior member of the think tank, Policy Exchange, wrote the following, ‘On too many nights, the news bulletins at 6pm and 10pm run along tramlines: here’s something about Covid-19; here’s someone who died; here’s a sobbing relative or frontline hero telling you to stay at home, save lives and protect the NHS.

Do we really need to be shown so many interviews with the terribly distressed relatives of those who’ve lost their struggle with the virus? During my years as a policeman, I delivered many death messages in the course of my duties and know how people react on these occasions. I have been shouted at, insulted and attacked on at least three occasions. I have cried with many bereaved relatives so I know how it affects people. Now I am bombarded with ‘news items’ on how individuals react to news of deeply personal deaths. Surely we all know what grief does to us? It makes us weep; it makes us despair. I’m not sure it’s the job of news programmes to endlessly confront us with seemingly non-stop images of raw mourning and loss.

Why is this happening damnit? Traditionally in British society, grief is a private thing, something to be managed and got through with the help of friends and family. Repeatedly showing it as items three and four of that night’s news seems well more than a little exploitative and ghoulish.

Then there’s the finger-wagging we get from some newsreaders and, heaven help us, weather forecasters. I don’t object to being told to stay at home by a government minister or a public health official. That’s their job, and they have the authority to do it.

But since when did newsreaders have the right to tell us how to behave? One evening last week a weatherman told us it was going to be a beautiful day before bossily adding: “But remember – you mustn’t break the rules!” 

Who in the name of all that is holy does that turnip think he is? Just who appointed him as lockdown enforcer? Stick to the news, please and stick to the weather. Watch that finger-waving – and please, stop engulfing us in tidal waves of raw emotion.

That is not journalism. It is pure sensationalism and somewhat sick.

Then we have the creation of a creepy cult of state-worship, celebrated at eight o clock every Thursday evening – this in a country where church services and normal public gatherings are banned!

Again, the media are full of photographs on Fridays of various ‘celebrities’ and senior politicians clapping heartily, often in very close proximity to each other. How can this be news and when did we last hear an anti-government voice on the BBC, now little more than a servile state broadcaster.

I wonder how Kate Adie, John Simpson and the other genuine news reporters of times past would have handled this collective hysteria?

Then there is the Blood Transfusion Service which seems to have joined in the general wave of bigoted prejudice against all of us who have celebrated our seventieth birthdays. Try asking them why. All you will get is a computerised voice that tells you that the ban on over seventies giving blood is ‘for their protection’ and ‘based on government advice.’ What government twonk has given that advice, we are never told.

Having lived most of my life in Africa I have never been allowed to donate blood in any case, but the infuriating assumption that arriving at seventy means instant, doddering senility is offensive and just as bad a prejudice as all the others that are rightly banned.

So why is it allowed – and presumably encouraged by this doddering government damnit?

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