Talking with the friends and family of Charles de Menezes is a record of compelling history and so it is being recorded.
The 23-year-old Brazilian shot by British police last week in an Underground subway car sent money to his family, television pictures of whom show an old destitute couple living, not in squalor, but, let’s just say, in a way that gives a much more realistic view of The Simple Life.
And since de Menezes appears to be a completely innocent man in all of this, a profile of him seems as appropriate as any soldier who has also died in this perpetual-motion machine known as the war on terrorism.
What I have not seen – though I haven’t dug deep into the BBC – is the policemen’s side of all this.
But rather than jump to a sinister conclusion of bias (against the police, I suppose), I look to the far more practical possibility. It’s quite likely – and almost a guarantee – that the policemen are not talking because they have been told not to do so.
Therefore, it’s a sad state of affairs that stymies good journalism, and good journalists’ attempts to offer the views of both sides. The first to be blamed here when this “unbalanced” journalism comes up are the journalists who don’t get the complete story. But I think most people who’ve tried to call the customer service line of a big company or tried to get through to someone with real authority, have come face to face with The Stonewall.
When someone doesn’t want to talk, they don’t. Quite often, until the pressure mounts and people realize it won’t be forgotten or shooed away, talking to a newspaper reporter is less of possibility than the idea of Citizen Q getting the info. Why? One is credible and read by thousands at once, while the other is just one voice, who, if the public relations need arises, can be, roundly dismissed.
Now many newspapers, in light of this, have taken a larger perspective of looking at the overall balance of Topic A or Issue C, rather than requiring absolute balance in every article. Depending on the seriousness of the issue and the seriousness of any claims being voiced, a newspaper is not going to let “no comment” stand in the way of the first story. And continued “no comment” most often reflects badly on the person not speaking. The old axiom, “If you’ve got nothing to hide why are you hiding?” comes into play.
If there is no comment to a specific question, sometimes, it is indeed for a good reason. Most often that not all the facts are known. But a blanket “no comment” to any questions is counter-productive. As a result, usually the “no comment”s break down quickly and out comes the public relations effort; which I believe, in my heart, always cheapens any issue at hand.
Quite often a press release gets issued or a living press release – a spokesperson – with pat, rehearsed lines comes forward to “give their side.” Quite often that is as illuminating as the inside of box of double fudge oreos and just as useless for proving information “nutrition” from which the public can benefit.
So, the London Metropolitan policemen as individuals don’t seem to be heard, but don’t jump to conclusions.
We’ve seen how that turns out.Powered by Sidelines