Behind the lines on the newspaper

In the modern world, we have no excuse. We can’t say we don’t know what’s happening in Juba, South Sudan, or Aleppo, Syria. It’s there, in our smartphone in our hand, provided for our entertainment discretion; ignorance is no excuse at all. Fail to help, and we show we have no moral compass; Fail to help, and we fail ourselves.

It is curious to think that the sky was the same for everybody, people under the sky are also very much the same–everywhere, all over the world, hundreds or thousands of millions of people just like we are, people ignorant of one another’s existence, held apart by walls of hatred and lies. 

In Nineteen Eighty Four, George Orwell describes a situation similar to that of our present day crisis,  he says

April 4th, 1984. Last night to the flicks. All war films. One very good one of a ship full of refugees being bombed somewhere in the Mediterranean.

The public of Airstrip 1 attend a film night, the media has been finely combed and wrung out of all ideas that the party actively discourage, making it an ideological product of the state designed for entertainment. The film is an insensitive satire about the horrors of a refugee crisis, however, the audience find a delight in what we in our civilised world would argue to be a horrific topic. Orwell creates an image where a boat full of children is bombed and the enthusiastic reaction of the crowd that follows.

Then there was a wonderful shot of a child’s arm going up up up right up into the air a helicopter with a camera in its nose must have followed it up and there was a lot of applause

While most of the crowd cheer the film on with delight, a mother with her child is noticeably upset about the discretion of showing the film publicly in front of her child.

a woman down in the prole part of the house suddenly started kicking up a fuss and shouting ‘they didn’t oughter of showed it not in front of kids they didn’t it ain’t right not in front of kids’

Every day the media publishes hundreds of articles and reports that raise large flares of controversy. They are always open to everyone so the public think they have a choice in the viewing of certain  media. We think that the articles are there for us, provided for our viewing discretion. However, we have no choice but to consume and accept these often brutal ideas, media feeds us horrific stories that are not portrayed as entertainment yet provide it; as any successful corporation does.

U.S television companies state that violent movies are of higher quality on a particular weekend (a positive demand shock), or soap operas become more widely available in a given year (a positive cost shock). In both cases, as the comparative statics indicates, the resulting media effect estimates incorporate both a direct effect and a substitution effect.

In our faces, daily, the best-selling newspapers and magazines or internet sensations are delivered to us and we indulge in the entertainment, but refuse to admit it. We assume these stories to be true, in fact, we have no choice in what we view and know very little about what is true, this is the same situation that we observe in Orwell’s society.

And it wasn’t bots spreading most of the falsehoods, they found. It was real people doing most of it. Usually ordinary people, too, they found: so-called ‘verified’ users and those with many followers were not usually the source of some of the most popular untrue viral posts.

On September 2nd, 2015, 31 years after George Orwell’s dystopian predictions of Nineteen Eighty Four the body of Alan Kurdi, a (3-year-old) Syrian refugee washed up on the shores of Turkey. Photos of the young boys body soon became articles for news companies and media all over the world, political powers responded with ‘never again’ but the response of the public sat more shallow. Everyone became affected but this image and the world became angry at their ignorance of the crisis, many swore to try to change this situation with powerful leaders promising to try to help in the Middle east; but nothing has changed. Within hours the image had gone viral and become the top-trending picture on Twitter with the hashtag #KiyiyaVuranInsalik (humanity washed ashore). The photo of the boy in the sand sold media all over the world and lined the pockets of reporters in every country, through entertainment sold to the public we gobbled up the tragedy like a Chocolate Eclair and we did nothing. 

25 Million copies of the press release were sold; 10 Thousand people dead.

Believing that we were in any way different to what Orwell warned us from in his novel is fallacious, we sell media as entertainment to the benefit of the viewers and the producers which puts us in line with the immoral actions of his dystopia. Orwell’s media was controlled and sieved through to feed the public with only the states truths published to influence the public. Modern News-photographs or footage, when used in the context of reporting, can galvanise public opinion and become tipping points in changing attitudes, awareness and political responses to events such as conflict or crisis.

If you want to get attention, only few things beat a blatant lie. In fact, the simpler, cruder and more obvious a lie is, the more people engage emotionally. We just can’t resist our outrage, we find it hard to ignore obvious lies. We pay attention.

If it matters, it produces controversy. Lives matter, knowledge matters but entertainment is taking people away from their lives where there is a little chaos and putting them in a context where violence becomes a form of cinematic enjoyment. We are all under the same sky, part of this world, if we fail each other then we fail ourselves. Orwell spoke of a broken society where media was broken down into ideological products of the state, today we face the prospect of millions of deaths fed to us by corporate films and bias news articles yet we still don’t think we have a place in this crisis. In the society of Nineteen Eighty Four refugees are seen as a helpless cause from which the middle classes of the Party can find entertainment in the form of film, In our world the word “refugee” is considered something to be dirty, something to be ashamed of. We have seen advances in every aspect of our lives, except our humanity. There are 65.3 million people who have been forced out of their homes because of war, the largest number in history; that number is still abstract. 1/5 of the population of the USA has been forced out of their homes because of war, now the number becomes realistic, now you can see what is actually behind the lines on the newspaper.


Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. You’ve demonstrated that you’ve understood my earlier feedback about ensuring that your piece is grounded in the text of Nineteen Eighty-Four and I think your argument will be stronger for this. You’ve also started to modify your use of language to pull it back from ‘persuasive speech’ mode towards a register more suited to a feature article. This is all positive.

    In the area of language. There are some strengths in the vividness of your expression and use of imagery and metaphor, but equally, this is hampered by some poor syntax and word choice (syntax is the organisation of words in a sentence)

    For example: “Everyday the media publishes hundreds of articles and reports that have large flares of controversy.” – in this, the phrase “flares of controversy” is vivid and original – but the use of the verb ‘have’ makes your observation a little too non-specific. Does a person ‘have’ a flare, or do they raise one, or project one?

    Some of this may reveal itself through a good reading aloud of your work, which I heartily encourage.


  2. Achievement Achievement with Merit Achievement with Excellence
    Produce a selection of fluent and coherent writing which develops, sustains, and structures ideas. Produce a selection of fluent and coherent writing which develops, sustains, and structures ideas and is convincing. Produce a selection of fluent and coherent writing which develops, sustains, and structures ideas and commands attention.

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