News and Fiction

I just got back from a visit to my dad in the UK. Because he is essentially bedridden, he watches a lot of TV, so I saw a great deal more of it than I usually do. The big news in Britain on Monday was the trial of Dhiren Barot, accused of being a top al Qaeda man, with big plans to make big bangs. None of these plans were ever actually carried out, for which, of course, we are thankful!

The press didn’t have much material to use in its hours of coverage: one photograph of the man and some court transcripts. They’re not allowed to film the trial, so they showed a photo of one of the barristers, superimposed on a computer-generated courtroom.

One of Barot’s ideas for causing mayhem had been to rent three limos, stuff them with gas cannisters and other explodables, and blow them up in garages underneath some of London’s swankiest hotels. To illustrate this point, the BBC showed footage of a white limosine, with an anonymous figure (head cut off by the framing of the shot) putting green gas cannisters inside. In other words: not having anything real to show, the BBC did a “recreation” of an event that never took place. At least they did not go so far as to fake up an explosion.

It seems that the line between news and fiction is getting mighty blurry.

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