The past few days have been a bloody one in Nigeria. Bombs have exploded with varying degrees of disaster and the sites, a grim harvest of littered remains; no thanks to psychopaths. An uncouth sect having an unwavering hold on the nation makes for a sorrowful living. It is equally benumbing that those entrusted with Nigeria’s security are not even taking their tasks seriously.
The National Security Adviser, an officer imbued with vast reaches, gave a very lazy, simple, reductionist analysis of the crisis that you wonder why he takes his job so lightly! The President’s ‘paddy-paddy’ way of backing his discretion-lacking kinsman shows that these gentlemen have resigned Nigerians to their fate. Seemingly, we are all in a cross-hair, waiting to be picked off at will and splayed by the bomber. In a wicked twist of fortune, the bomber looks as if he is winning the propaganda war.
The amount of publicity the bomber has received in the media (I shall no longer call them by their name because of the point this article strives to make) has been befuddling. Since the bombings of media houses in Abuja and Kaduna, there has hardly been a day that the bomber has not made news.
A conversation I had with my professor in my undergraduate days in a journalism class replays in my head. He spoke on how the media have the power to aggravate a situation through their reportage. I asked if a counter-effect was possible if the media downplay the crisis in their reporting. He replied that there are things the media cannot help but report. In the past one week, newspapers have put the bomber’s side of the sordid tale in its sphere of influence.
I hate to vomit in the common bowl of the press wisdom and spoil the party but, these bombers are villains and the amount of exposure they have received is uncalled for. Consider this: Bombs explode and people die. Shortly after, while people are still mourning their lost ones, the story hit the airwaves with the bomber flagrantly ‘justifying’ the attack. I wonder how those who their loved ones died in the attack would feel reading the bomber’s rodomontade. His reasons are not just frivolous; he demonstrated a nauseating amount of inordinate triumphalism that is worrying. I have asked over and over again, ‘By reporting him so prominently, is the media (un)willing collaborators in the bomber’s agenda? Are they helping the bombers display their trophy?
By acting as PR agency and announcing the bomber said he would attack more people again and again, are the media not helping him spread his plan of creating an atmosphere of fear?’In an ‘exclusive’ interview the bomber had with a newspaper where he complained he was not dead and yet was reported so, the paper, continued in the very next sentence to say its own media house, “… had continuously reported that Abul Qaqa was not arrested contrary to reports and that it was Abu Darda, another member, that was arrested.”Now, what’s that?
Is this self-adulation at being the one who is ‘embedded’ with the bombing sect and has the ‘right’ news ‘exclusively’? Or is this a pander to the bomber’s murderous whims to sustain this mutually beneficial relationship? What did the paper mean by quickly extricating itself from whatever the fallout of the bomber’s complaints are? Is the newspaper trying — and very tamely too — to say that the dead are collateral damage of ‘bad’ reporting? I hope a time would come when we would critically examine the relationship between a bomber and journalist. How come bombers grant ‘teleconferences’ but security agencies are almost clueless as to locating them?
Even the President says he cannot find them to negotiate with! Should we not even wonder, if the bomber whispers to the journalist he would bomb a place and he should prepare for another ‘exclusive’, will the journalist risk their relationship by reporting to the Police? Will the journalist not secretly wish it to happen so they can ‘break’ the news?
I make all these criticisms conscious of all the complexities in the terrain and which the journalist has to continuously navigate. Like my professor said, there are some things the media cannot help but report. I totally agree and respect that but then, what we glorify is equally very important in the over-all scheme of things.
It’s largely an ethical issue and while I’m not dictating to anybody how they should say what they say, I think media houses should play down on publishing the bomber’s press releases and grant them less interviews. But beyond the Old Media is the New Media. Thanks to science, a lot of us have become adept i-reporters with our smartphones.
Like all new technologies, it is being abused. In the past few days, I have wondered why people no longer feel any sense of revulsion as they post pictures of mangled flesh, dead and bloodied bodies from these bombing scenes on social networking sites. No, I don’t get fazed by violence easily but there is something that is wrong with people displaying gory pictures and expecting ‘friends’ to view and comment.
Have people thought of how increasingly deadened to this violence we are likely to become when we view pictures of wasted humanity over and over again? And the more it no longer matters, the harder the bomber will have to push to shock us more and more. One of the pictures of the bombing scene captured several people standing side by side with the Police and other rescue agents, recording the scene with their mobile phones.
We must ask them, to do what with it? Is it to replay same as a form of voyeuristic entertainment? Even much worse than recording the scene was the fact that they were contaminating the attack site which the Police should have cordoned off in the first place. In the end, we are all guilty of the ascent of the bomber in our national imagination. Each and every spin, slant and reportage accorded them is a plus for their numbing murders. And yes, we have to send them to Coventry. That is one way to dam their growing hold on the media. The media should not give in to cheap blackmail and became a compliant proxy.