All or Nothing

How did they do it, I wonder? Provide news coverage of WWII, I mean. I’m not confused about how they got the news stories, I’m confused about how they sustained coverage of an event that lasted almost six years from a Canadian perspective.

1939 Sep 10 – Canada declares war on Germany after invasion of Poland.
1941 Dec 8 – Canada declares war on Japan after attack on Pearl Harbor.
1945 May 7 – Germany surrenders to the Allies.
1945 Aug 14 – Japan surrenders to the Allies.
Veterans Affairs and Richard Langworth

Today, if we were faced with an actual shooting war killing tens of thousands of Canadians and wounding as many more, I swear our current news model would melt down in the first six months . . .

We’re at war!

Imagine the 24/7 coverage. The blow-by-blow coverage of the day’s activities. The endless speculation about coming events, next steps. The non-stop second-guessing over strategies and tactics and motivations. The TV interviews with experts unencumbered by any decision-making responsibility or accountability. It makes me tired just thinking about it.

Honestly, I expect that coverage would run out of steam and move on to other topics with the usual item-bridging banter of local news-show hosts.

And, of course, we’re still at war.
Now let’s look at this weekend’s Gourd Festival.
Over to you, Samantha.

We seem to swing from intensely panicked coverage to . . . crickets.

When was the last time you heard anything about the potable-water situation in First Nations’ communities? Gangs in Vancouver? Non-CO2 pollution? The Two Michaels, at anything other than a hundred-day milestone? #MeToo? The Democratic Republic of the Congo?

All of these things had their OMG OMG OMG moment (or predictable seasonal or cyclical moments) and then . . . nothing. Zero. Nada. Zilch.

And the flip side? When was the first time you heard about systemic anti-Black racism in Canada? About White privilege? About the oppression of colonialism? These are the Worst Things Ever du jour. Will they, too, be crickets tomorrow?

Do we have a society-level attention-deficit disorder? Do we need a new crisis every month, every week, every day? Have we forgotten how to work on a problem for longer than a few news cycles? How to care about some social or political ill without hyperventilating it into the Worst Thing Ever?

If they gave a six-year war today, would we be able to summon the political will and sustain the societal commitment to see it through? Would we have what it takes even to pay attention to the news about it? For six years?

Somewhere between all and nothing, between OMG OMG OMG and crickets, there is a place to stand that allows us to keep on keeping on, attending to all the things that require our attention.

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6 Responses to All or Nothing

  1. Jim Taylor says:

    Thank you. Now I understand (or at least I think I understand) why I no longer turn on the radio in the morning, and watch TV news for more than 90 minutes a day. Oh, for the calm reassuring tones of Lorne Greene keeping track of all that’s important.
    Jim T

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim – Indeed. Ted Turner of CNN has a lot to answer for, but I suppose someone else would have generated 24/7 “news” coverage if he hadn’t.

  2. Tom Watson says:

    The first casualty of war is truth. It’s only when the horrors of it come out that there’s motivation to end it.

    A speaker at our Men’s group a couple of weeks ago had been on a documentary photography tour of Laos. During the Vietnam War the U.S. dropped the “equivalent of one bomb every 8 minutes for 9 years” and only roughly half of them detonated at the time, leaving behind highly hazardous ordinances, some of which are still live today. Was that, or the incredible waste of resources, included in the daily news?

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – Nope. After almost 50 years, that’s quite a legacy – of the wrong sort. I read this week about an organization finding and blowing up (in a controlled way) unexploded ordnance from the Vietnam/American War, to make more land available for agriculture.

  3. John Whitman says:

    Isabel – your comments on how the modern media might have handled WW II sounds very much like how the media actually did handle the Vietnam War.
    With respect to Tom’s comment on bombs that didn’t explode. Those bombs were probably made by the lowest bidder. Guess they needed a better QA plan.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      John – I guess that’s right about the media coverage of the Vietnam/American War, although the press didn’t mention that McNamara and his crew were choosing the bombing targets, being so well equipped to do so. And I remember seeing journalistic video of the bombing barrage that started the Iraq War – that night on TV more or less in real-time as I recall.

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