Never mind the earthquake, feel the voodoo

It's so common in comedy shows that it's a cliche - major disaster happens in foreign country, UK news agencies only take notice if British people are involved. Submit a script with that situation in and someone's bound to say, "Do we need to include that tired joke? It's been done about eight-million times before."

But it seems that tired old cliche is still actually relevant. As TabloidWatch pointed out yesterday, every daily newspaper on Thursday ran with news of the terrible earthquake in Haiti on the front page somewhere. Well, every daily except the Mail, which considered news about Gary McKinnon, the McCanns and a free Poirot DVD more important than a disaster that claimed thousands of lives. The earthquake was relegated eight or twelve pages in, depending on the edition apparently.

Perhaps the paper thought it would redress the balance, with the earthquake being top story on the website yesterday - but guess what the original headline was to that top story. I've given you a massive clue in the opening paragraph there. Here goes:

Ugh, right? Never mind the thousands - possibly half a million - dead, there are 16 Britons missing. The headline's changed now, but the page title at the top of your browser at 'Haiti earthquake: No food, no water... and gutters running with blood' will show what it used to be (for now anyway)..

Looking down the list of links there in the original layout, you can see the Mail's initial priorities for reporting about the disaster. Get in first with the mention of missing Brits, and then wham! On to the violence and voodoo and how celebrities have been affected. Focusing the actual hundreds of thousands of people who actually died and the millions of other affected people gets bottom billing.

The violence and voodoo article itself, 'Haiti: Rape, murder and voodoo on the Island of the Damned' crams every crap cliche about the place into one article. It glosses over the threat of US invasion in the 90s (it also calls what Aristide himself described as being kidnapped by the US in the 2000s as Aristide 'fleeing') to call Haiti 'the Island of the Damned' and focus on killer gangs, rape, cocaine, cannibalism, lawlessness and voodoo, voodoo, voodoo.

And I don't know about you, but something about the second and third sentences in an article like this sits wrong for me. See what you think:
The first independent black state, set up 200 years ago after a rebellion by African slaves against colonial France, the mountainous island is home to exotic birds and animals and mist-shrouded tropical forests.

But it is no paradise for the country's nine million people.
The first independent black state, voodoo, rebellion, voodoo, cannibalism, voodoo, lawlessness, voodoo, murder, voodoo, dictators, voodoo and voodoo. The three pictures used to illustrate it are all voodoo related. It's as if Andrew Malone researched it armed with a brief history provided by the US, DVDs of 'The Serpent and the Rainbow' and 'Live and Let Die' and an action figure of Papa Shango.

All fixed now though, with the headline change and the demotion of the Malone article away from top billing. Well, nearly fixed, since almost every other paper today includes the earthquake on the front page. The Mail has a serious and important paper for company today in the Star. A generic bit of health bunk is more important - and don't forget that Poirot DVD!

Thanks to Megan Lucas for the excellent shot of the Mail site front page. It's also provided material for MacGuffin's excellent continuing coverage of the Mail and the Haiti disaster at TabloidWatch.  Lenin's Tomb also worries about the emergenge of similar race based myths to those that came out of the Hurricane Katrina disaster.  The one he uses as an example is used in the opening sentence of the 'Haiti Earthquake...' story.


Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

I think the Fail is our equivalent of insular American press.

It surprises no one that it turns its back on a global disaster that puts its petty and bigoted concerns into sharp context.

sianandcrookedrib said...

god that's awful. just awful. i have no words.