The bit underneath my blog title gives a clue as to what I'm on about today. This website never pretends to be 24-7 - I don't do it when I'm on holiday, when I've had a particularly enjoyable evening the night before, when I've got too much work to do, when the grass needs cutting, when real life intervenes, and so on.
News websites do maintain that bollocks facade of being up-to-date. The truth is manifestly the opposite. Sometimes stories are only slightly changed in the face of new information; sometimes they aren't changed at all, even in the light of important new information that overwhelmingly contradicts what has previously been reported, be it in good faith or not.
The truth, bizarre though it sounds, is that there was a time when the old-fashioned dead tree newspapers were more up-to-date than today's websites. They were updated constantly during the day, with new editions being printed and out on the streets - even with the excitement of 'stop press' or 'special edition' occasionally appearing on the front. Even when radio was around, the dead tree press, staffed to the rafters with journalists, fed by correspondents and agencies around the world, could turn a story around in a remarkably short space of time. (Quite often, they checked their facts as well.) Sure, papers didn't come out at night, but night editors were employed to keep things fresh for the morning editions. The turnaround of news was remarkable, and impressive.
And I think it beats the websites of today, churning out the same old flannel, not bothering to update from the print edition to the web edition, not bothering frequently to add new information or change a story when new facts have come to light and original claims have been proven wrong. 24-7 is a myth. News websites don't, in the main, have staff constantly updating stuff; some may well do, but many certainly do not. The general idea, when tied to a newspaper operation, is to upload the bulk of the dead-tree content onto the web once the commuters have gone to work - or upload news as it happens in short bursts, but leave content and analysis for the paper version - additionally occasionally creating a somewhat misleading impression of ever-changing news by staggering the times when stories appear on the web, just to keep the pages fresh and ever-changing. It would be like me writing 5 blog entries at 9am and then just uploading one at regular intervals throughout the day - nothing deceptive about it, I guess, just well, it's not 24-7 is it.
Which brings me to the eight-year-old suicide bomber who isn't eight. I read about it in 5cc this morning and simply couldn't believe that a newspaper would wilfully maintain a false impression of its own story. But that's what has happened.
Here's the Metro article, still proudly with the headline of
Girl of 8 used as 'suicide' bomber
Later, they gave the age of the girl as between 16 and 18.
Right, so the first thing to do is change the age in the headline, and... oh. OK, so... no? Why? In the same story, in the same words underneath, you've got that, and yet... no. Let's keep eight, because at first it was eight, and even though even the American forces aren't saying eight now, let's keep it at eight. Because... because what? Because we can't be bothered to change silly things like facts?
It's especially puzzling because the 'suicide' in quotes is correct, because the story itself says
The bomber was detonated by remote control, killing Capt Wassem al-Maamouri and injuring four soldiers,' he added.
The Americans called it a 'suicide' attack and put the number of injured at seven.
So that's right. It was a suicide attack in name. We can't possibly know whether this girl was a willing participant or not - she's dead for one thing - and the bomb was detonated by remote control.
(For the benefit of the hard of thinking, yes, bombing other people is bad. I'm not saying it isn't. The poor blogger over at The Antipress got a right old frying from folks who thought it was perfectly legitimate to lie about bombers and said he was on the bombers' side just for questioning why the eight-year-old story had come about. Jesus wept, read some of the comments and you feel like bashing your head in with a rusty spade.)
So, inevitably, we come to the Mail. The Mail who, let me remind you, have
24 HOURS A DAY
under their masthead on the web.
Their take on the bombing story is:
Iraqi insurgents use eight-year-old girl as suicide bomber
Last updated at 09:55am on 15th May 2008
Yes, last updated a day ago. Despite new information having come along much, much sooner than that. The Mail now know the girl was not eight. So they've updated the story, have they? Have they fuck.
An eight-year-old girl was strapped with remote-controlled explosives and used as a human bomb by Iraqi insurgents in a blast that killed an Iraqi commander earlier today.
Yet they do know the bomb was exploded by remote control. So is it suicide or not? There is no way of us knowing, as I said earlier. Of course it's a monstrous crime to use another person as a human bomb - though doubtless some banjo-picking nutcase, having not read what I've written, will lambast me in the comments and claim I don't think it is a monstrous crime - so why call it a suicide bomb, if that is what it might not be? But more to the point, why not just change the story now new facts have emerged? The US forces have changed their position - why not the media? What is going on here? Is it sloppiness, laziness, a fake 24-7 culture, or just not giving a shit, unprofessionally allowing a false statement to remain on your news website? Or is it simply the case that it's preferable to create a false impression, because that sits nicely with the Mail's position on things?
Needless to say, I felt sufficiently moved to submit a comment; needless to say, it has not been allowed to appear on the website. Whereas these have:
A little 8 year old girl! Have they no shame? Cowards hiding behind the skirts of children. They are not worthy to be called men. Whatever wrong things have been done in Iraq, this strikes a new low. I just hope that any British youths who regard the Iraqi insurgents as heroes will begin to look at their actions very closely after this - it could be their little sister next.
- Ruth, Poole, UK
For evil to flourish it only requires good people to say and do nothing. Where is the outcry from Muslims who think this is abhorrent? Or don't they?
- Gary, Leicester, England
The classic anti-Muslim idea. That all Muslims must somehow drop everything and condemn every single atrocity ever committed by extremists. As if white people condemn every single atrocity ever committed by whites! As if not condemning each and every atrocity means that you're giving tacit approval.
More anti-Muslim aggression:
To all the hand wringing lefties who are so quick to disparage our troops and the efforts of the Army I would ask them how they would deal with this.
The distorted religion of Islam is solely responsible for this and the Government should address this issue head on instead of appeasing them daily.
- John, Manchester, UK
Yes, that one gets through the net, but if you try and correct facts, the moderators are pretty quick to chuck your views in the bin. I should just start with some anti-Muslim hateful bullshit, and that'll get me past the Mail mods:
No religion can justify this abuse of humanity.
- Des, Leics, UK
Time and again, even as an atheist, I find myself appalled by this sort of comment. It implies that somehow Islam in general is responsible for this crime, rather than fanaticism, war or violence. It's rubbish of the highest order. Yet the Mail chooses to print rubbish. And chooses not to print the opposing view. At least with the Metro article the dissenting comments have been allowed; not with the Mail.
How much longer is it going to take for people to realize that America is NOT the bad guy in Iraq?
- Jordan, Chicago, USA
I tend to think there's room for more than one bad guy in this world, Jordan. I tend to think that newspapers who deliberately print false information, knowing it is false, are pretty bad too.