Friday 9 July 2010

Raoul Moat, Gazza and the Media Circus

As I write, killer-on-the-run Raoul Moat is surrounded by armed police and riot cops on a river bank outside Rothbury in Northumberland. Going by numerous reports from the scene, Moat is armed with a sawn off shotgun, which is pressed under his chin.

Both the 24 hour rolling news and Twitter have had a field day with Moat over the last week. While reporters have been flying over the North East countryside and interviewing assorted professional trackers, Twitter has been abuzz with spoofs of Moat and critiques of the media's shabby reporting.

I've avoided getting caught up in this until this evening, after being alerted by an outpouring of comment on Twitter. When news broke that Moat had finally been cornered by the police, the media fell over themselves to get close to the action - and for once it was BBC News leading the charge to the bottom. Jon Sopel grilled an obviously distraught woman who feared for her mum's safety. This was followed by an undignified interview via a mobile with her frightened mum and then the live broadcasting of a private conversation between her and her husband. Couple this with scraps of rubbish about "Moat waving his arm", of "standing up and lying down again", reports broadcast in *night vision*, and "dramatic pictures" of Moat doing his shopping in B&Q, the depths have well and truly been plumbed.

And then, in a bizarre twist, ex-footballer tabloid favourite Paul Gascoigne turned up with a can of lager, a fishing rod and a chicken - all of which are apparently for Moat. He claimed Moat was a "friend" and that "someone must have wound him up" to murder his ex's partner, shoot her and shoot a copper he assumed she was having an affair with. But still, as this tawdry spectacle reaches its climax in arrest or suicide, Moat will surely be comforted to know Gazza is "on his side".

What can you say about the absurdity of the Raoul Moat media circus? As an event built on a week's worth of wall-to-wall coverage, tonight's climax has assumed celebrity-like attributes. Just as anyone can be a celebrity in the age of reality TV and YouTube, so anyone can be part of a hot news story. It's unfolding in front of our eyes, it's immediate, and we can simultaneously be part of a collective experience of consumption, interpretation and argument via Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and what have you. And if you live nearby, you can be part of (media) history in the making. Gazza's appearance in Rothbury brings a touch of surrealism to the proceedings, but he's only following the lead of dozens of normal, non-celebrity folk: there have been reports of outsiders turning up with deck chairs and settling in for the night.

It would be easy to denounce the journalists and editors for their coverage of Raoul Moat's pursuit, but there is something in the political economy of 24 hours news channels that transforms simple news into contrived, hyped and glamorous events. It boils down to the biases in newsrooms over what they deem as newsworthy, the shrinking budgets that privileges reporting over investigation, and the need to chase the dramatic for those all important ratings (and, of course, advertising).

In short, only a deep clean of the theory and practice of the 24 hours news media has any hope of rectifying the situation and preventing this sort of rubbish from recurring.

Image source


EFComrade said...

interesting and prompt article, this is an interesting and shameless plug talking about the role of the media after budget cuts and streamlining, its written by one of my fellow editors of the newly relaunched Radical Wales

Jim Jepps said...

Gazza is on the side of a guy who tried to kill his ex-girlfriend for daring to not to want to go out with him any more? What a guy, let's hope he doesn't get shot.

What I don't understand is why the news is willing to compare this to the cumbria shootings - which it doesn't resemble at all - but is completely unwilling to mention domestic violence - which this clear is, and then some.

Andrew Conroy said...

'...a can of lager, a fishing rod and a chicken'.


Anonymous said...

24 hr news/net will be the nail in the coffin of our society. its dumming us down -even more.
i really hope the net esp.facebook/tabloid/gossip sites crash,melt and burn one day(though ultimate virus bombs).its obscene the ridiculous detail we here about.

Phil said...

I see Moat turned his gun on himself in the end.

Jim, I too don't think Moat's crimes are comparable to Derrick Bird's either. But the media coverage of the two is.

I can't help being reminded of an interview I once saw with a psychologist in the aftermath of one killing spree. He said the glamorising of this sort of thing by the media can contribute to the occurrence of future killing sprees.

While Moat was still banged up when Bird committed his crimes prison does have television (though not playstations and jacuzzis the media like to pretend they have). It is possible coverage of the former contributed to the overall complex of feelings that led Moat to shoot three people. Whether it was the straw that broke the camel's back is now impossible to say, but if the media were in anyway concerned about the effects their broadcasts have they should tone down their coverage in future, just to be on the safe side. But they won't.

Red Mike said...

I never really seen the point for 24 hour news, I mean there just isn't enough going on that could be analysed in depth and thus be informative and helpful to fill air time.

I mean whats wrong exactly with scrapping it all for a website or Ceefax which can update with mini updates for the curious until the in depth evening broadcast?

brian said...

I agree with 2nd comment, you have Gazza there, not a real Role Model of an individual who has his private life of drunkness, wife beating well publishised in the media. I think again he was there purely to also get media attention.

Jim Jepps said...

Phil, I 100% agree that the media reporting has been utterly deplorable and irresponsible.

However, men killing their partners and/or ex-partners is a regular occurrence and I think this is the most important aspect to the affair which can be obscured if we start saying the media gave him ideas. He was a violent misogynist and I'm not surprised he hung out with scum like gazza.

Matt Newman said...

Reminds me of Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC who ripped up a Paris Hilton script on air because she felt it was not worthy of being reported on, and certainly not as the lead story.

At least some (albeit a tiny minority) of people in the business are prepared to take a stand against such shocking 'journalism'!

Boffy said...


I agree with the comments about the media. I must admit I watched a half hour of the coverage, partly because unlike the 80% that passes itself off as such, this WAS "reality TV", even if some of that reality was surreal. As my son is a Film Cameraman, I take more interest in the technical side of media nowadays, and I said to him that I noticed that at the very minute the police had moved people back, and were setting up a line, cameramen were pushing their tripods right up to the tape so as to push as far forward as possible.

I was glad that the woman who handed her phone to Sopel, did say to him that his request was a bit impersonal, but she did still hand it to him. Is this because of how we are now being shaped? I read something a while ago, about psychologists looking at how people view themselves as lucky or unlucky. One was someone who has been in a traumatic situation like a bank robbery, who feels that they were unlucky. On the other someone with the same experiecne who sees themselves as being lucky, because of the ability to sell their story!!

In the US surveys show most people see the way to make money not as through work, but as through getting compensation, winning the lottery, being on a game show or TV etc.

My concern is that as the TV Reality shows have thankfully seemed to run their course with the ending of Big Brother, and with 24 hour news coverage, there may be more attempts for people to become famous, make money by getting themselves on TV with dramatic stunts. We've already seen it. The balloon kid in the states, and the kid who was kidnapped by her mother and hid under the bloke's bed in this country, in what was a copy-cat of Madeleine McCann's disappearance.

we've seen with "You've Been Framed" that people will make up their own fake videos of people having "accidents" to get on the TV and make a few bob. With TV news relying more on people filming live events on mobiles and cameras, I would not be surprised to see a mushrooming of similar events.

Newspaceman said...

Jim Jepps - surely if Bird's rampage was caused by the "lost love" of a prostitute and this case by another "lost love" then there are comparisons.

Also, his ex girlfriend told him her new lover was a policeman - maybe not a good move if he was so violent and had a grudge against the police (the reason for the latter being common knowledge).

The media love this type of story simply because it instills fear and anger, the type of emotions loved by those who "farm" us as humans. See herding in animals. In the Bird story they went so far as to suggest that a man who drinks himself is dodgy. Now it will be body-builders. Soon it will be anyone who does not fit the automated, worker-slave, "media created" stereotypical ideal human.

Your television is a Trojan horse.


Anonymous said...

Journalism has become a joke in it's superficial sensationalism. It used to be I would enjoy watching a politican squirm under the incisive questioning of the interviewer. Now it is very much the journalist I do not trust, hell bent on tugging on the heart strings of the ill informed viewer or reader and having little care for getting to the truth of the matter.

Anonymous said...

Media coverage not helped by an Temporary Chief Constable making the most of her 15 mins of fame and with a most inappropriate stupid grin on her face most of the time, pandering to the meeja. Thank God there were some real coppers about to get on with the job.
As to the press, well it has already been said- what a shower- thoroughly undeserving of the privileged access they get.

Boffy said...

Can I just put in a good word for Moat. Its odd that on the Left we come to the defence of some criminals, who we can see as being created by society, and yet others, we do not. In fact, I'd go further as a Marxist, and a Materialist I would argue that we are all "created". Created by our physical make up, which we had no control over, and also created by our experiences, which in class society are also largely outside our control. That applies to people who are mysoginists, and rapists as much as it does to burglars. In fact, whilst I would not be rushing to excuse his actions, or politics, it explains as much why a Hitler is created as a Marx or a Mother Theresa.

To be honest I wouldn't be surprised if Moat had some undiagnosed psychological problem that he should have been given assistance with long ago. He may well have suffered from ASD. Given that there was large scale support quite rightly for the guy facing extradition to the US for hacking into the CIA's computers, who suffered with Aspergers, I think before people rush to judgement they should remember that most crimninals of one sort or another suffer from some kind of mental disorder.

Anonymous said...

I do not know a gun pressed to your chin so what do you do shoot him twice with a tazzer, hell of a shock to the system, so what do you need when your on the run a gun for shooting food, a bloke on the inside to give you a drink, and a fishing rod for the moments when you have time to fish and get some food. Bloody great idea or life on the run

Brett Gerry said...

What is the real truth behind the public's reaction to Raoul Moat?