Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Shock warning: warfare may be bad for your health

As I was driving into town at lunchtime today, my eye was caught by a headline on a board outside a newsagent’s. ‘Soldier dies in war zone,’ it proclaimed.

No-one feels greater sympathy than I do for the plight of our forces in Afghanistan, and I find the constant drip-drip of casualties – on and on, inexorably, with no end in sight – quite simply harrowing. Even so, a soldier dying in a war zone isn’t exactly unprecedented, is it? Not really the stuff of which a classic headline is made, you’d think.

Ideas for a number of equally inspired headlines went through my mind.

‘Schoolteacher gave us lessons in classroom, allege pupils.’

‘Witnesses claim nurse was seen working on hospital ward.’

‘Worshippers unanimous: priest gave sermon.’

Of course, in the last case, if we were talking about a Catholic priest, it might be more a matter of ‘priest up to no good with chorister.’

It feels to me that there are certain things that just go with the territory, aren’t there? They live up to expectations, or at any rate down to them, and that simply makes them banal.

In that spirit, my humble contribution to this great genre would be: ‘Headline writer tries to whip up shock over the obvious.’

Perhaps it’s just further proof that there’s little to get enthusiastic about in the local press. Sometimes it's as weak and mediocre as great swaths of the national press.


Awoogamuffin said...

I've often thought about this too, but to be honest, it's probably a good thing that we get upset about each individual death of a soldier. We don't want to go back to the military culture of using soldiers as cannon fodder.

Now we just need to whip up an equal amount of sympathy for the death of each local civilian in a war-zone, though that would require many more headlines...

David Beeson said...

The trick, of course, is not to send the soldiers out in the first place or, if we do have to send them out, get them back quickly. It's trying to use military force to build a nation that leads to the mess we're in.