Thursday, October 28, 2004
Bigley 2.0

Am I the only person who finds the lack of attention and effort placed upon Mrs Hassan's captivity, in comparison to Mr Bigley's, distasteful? The press and the victim's family kept the hostage on the front pages of the media and the news, reinforced by the unsettling political effects that the images of this broken man projected over the Labour conference. Now we can watch in deja-va as Zarqawi proves his misunderstanding of the West by retreading the same tactics tried out with Bigley. Our attention span has moved elsewhere.

Now that hostage-taking has lost its shock value, the media no longer provides headlines for its British victims. The favourable conditions for publicising the Bigley's terrible experiences and undeserved fate have fallen away. Moreover, Mrs Hassan's family live in Iraq and, as dark-skinned Iraqis, are less photogenic than grieving Liverpudlians. The emotions are no less raw for that perceived handicap.

This is not a preference. Low-key coverage of hostage-taking is a good strategy, denying terrorists the oxygen of publicity and allowing negotiations to take place outside of the public eye, lowering the pressures under which such diplomacy takes place. Moreover, an observer may speculate that the government has learnt from the Bigley episode and prevented the mainstream media from raising the public profile of Mrs Hassan.

If there has been no government interference, our perception of the media is depressing. Bigley's chances were exaggerated by the press since his life or death had acquired political connotations. These no longer exist and Mrs Hassan becomes another motorway services sign on the way to Newport Pagnell.

(21.14, 28th October 2004)


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