Last evening I turned on the TV to veg-out at the end of a busy week. Instead of my favourite NZ comedy quiz show, both main national channels were looping endlessly with news of the terrorist incident in Christchurch. Well I say 'news': mostly it was lame interviews with people tenuously connected to Christchurch or the Muslim community in NZ, and fumbling interviewers seemingly trying to fill air-time. Ticker-tape banners across the bottom of the screen, ALL IN CAPS, kept repeating the same few messages about the PM mentioning terrorism, yet neglected to say what had actually happened. I managed to piece together a sketchy outline of the incident before eventually giving up. Too much effort for a Friday night.
I gather around 50 people died yesterday in the event. Also yesterday, about 90 other people died, and another ~90 will die today, and every day on average according to the official government statistics:
This year, ~6,000 Kiwis will die of heart disease, and between 300 and 400 of us will die on the roads.
Against that backdrop, deaths due to terrorism do not even feature in the stats, so here I'll give you a very rough idea of where we stand:
Don't get me wrong, it is tragic that ~50 people died in the incident yesterday and of course I regret that anyone died. But get real. The media have, as usual, blown it out of all proportion, and turned a relatively minor incident into an enormous drop-everything disaster.
So what it is about 'terrorism' that sends the media - and it seems the entire population - into such a frenzy? Why is 'terrorism' so newsworthy? Why is it reported so badly? Who benefits from scaring the general population in this way?
Oh, hang on, the clue is in the name. Terrorism only works if we are terrified.
This looks to me like yet another example of 'outrage', a fascinating social phenomenon involving an emotional rather than rational response, amplified by the news and social media with positive feedback leading to a runaway situation. Here I am providing a little negative feedback to redress the balance but I'm sure I will be criticised for having the temerity to even express this. And that, to me, is terrorism of a different kind - information terrorism.