Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Flat earth news

I’ve blogged before about how the media works itself into a frenzy about some forms of violence, while marginalising or ignoring altogether road violence. Last month I cited a classic example of BBC London news car supremacism. The attention lavished on drivers alleged to have been ‘unfairly’ given parking tickets is in stark contrast to the indifference shown towards pedestrian and cycling fatalities. It’s just another example of Flat earth news

When it comes to transport fatalities, the media is primarily interested in train crashes and plane crashes that involve Europeans or Americans. These are of course two of the safest forms of transport there are. The media, except at a local level, has very little interest in car crashes or the deaths of cyclists and pedestrians. The recent New York plane crash, in which no one died, is a top story and was treated as being as far more important than what was then happening in Gaza (or anywhere else in the world).

I watched a TV reporter in Mumbai solemnly talking of “the scale of the carnage” during the November terrorist attacks. But there is a much greater carnage in India which barely registers. Just take crashes involving Indian buses.

In 2001, 31 people died when their bus crashed head–on with an oil tanker and exploded on a highway in Coimbatore. In 2006 At least 64 people were killed in two separate bus accidents in northern India. In April last year a bus in India crashed killing at least 44 children and three adults.

And now Thirteen schoolchildren and a teacher have been killed when a vehicle carrying them collided with a truck in western India, the police said.

BBC News explains that

Road accidents are common and claim hundreds of lives every year in India. Most are blamed on reckless driving, old vehicles and poorly maintained roads.

BBC News would never dare to explain that “reckless driving” is responsible for a very large percentage of British road crashes. But it’s okay to say this about Indians.