Sunday, September 14, 2008

Of Terror and Clichés

It’s so easy to fall back on clichés. Every time some moron sets off a string of bombs, headlines scream “Terror re/visits XYZ”. Seriously? That’s the best you can come up with? There are people dying out here… Human beings being mauled and mutilated by the remote hand of another... Does that not warrant a slightly greater effort?
The friendly elves inside Microsoft Word tell me ‘terror’ has a number of synonyms. Fear, horror, fright, dread, shock, panic, alarm… reads the list. Yet, we consistently choose to go with ‘terror’. Of course, you could argue that “XYZ in panic” just doesn’t cut it.
Then again, when serial bombs hit a city, how many people (not affected first-hand) hear about it, unless via TV? From personal experience, I’d say people are largely so self-obsessed, that it’s a vague concern. The people who are truly afraid, are those who watch too many news channels cover the same thing, watch too many gory pictures of blood splattered across the road (or wherever else) and wonder if any of their friends and family were part of those injured/killed.
When the blasts hit Delhi (using that since it’s the latest) I can imagine people continuing to buy groceries, taking a walk, meeting friends, partying hard, or whatever else it is people in Delhi do on a Saturday evening.
It’s only later that the panic button goes off. I can bet that the city will come to a crawl over the next few days. I know it happened here, almost a month ago. Now, that, is funny.
Why would you step gingerly over a mine that’s already exploded? If the city’s been attacked, it’s been attacked. Staying home for the following week is not going to change that. In fact, terrorists, or glorified cowards, tend to be like lightening. They prefer striking where you don’t expect it much, and rarely strike the same place in quick succession. Think about it. Delhi was last bombed three years ago. And by a different outfit.
Besides, staying home after what the papers call a ‘terror attack’ (Something to think about it: if terror and panic are synonymous, does that mean Delhi underwent a panic attack yesterday?) people tend to watch a lot more news. “Where else? Who else? How many? And thanks be to the great spaghetti monster I decided against getting that video game CD just yesterday!” becomes “OMG! That could’ve been me. Where next? Are they planting bombs in my balcony? Can I cross the road? What if I’m their next target?” and so on and so forth.
True, I may have been exaggerating a little. But, isn’t that how it works? People tend to get more freaked out when they realise the extent of the damage. Their safe cocoons are broken into, and no one is safe. Therefore, it’s obvious. Television is too disturbing. So the next option, the newspapers. And with such standard headlines, I doubt how much of an impact they make. I doubt how much of the people’s fury, or even sympathy, these headlines evoke.
I hear you say, but that’s not a newspaper’s job — to evoke fury or sympathy. True. But, if you want to get technical, doesn’t newspaper reportage tend to be only from one perspective, irrespective of what that perspective is? If absolute objectivity reigned, we’d probably have headlines like “Delhi bombed again”… but that wouldn’t sell any copy, would it?


arvindiyer said...

You know far too much. And you think. That is bad news when you are working with television or newspaper. They need mindless people. Coz they have mindless people and ppl who have lost their mind watchin/readin them!!!

Zeph Keyes said...

I'm flattered.. not many ppl would agree with you tho.. about the "u think" bit, anyway:)