"NIGELLA OUSTS EINSTEIN IN SCHOOL SCIENCE" screamed the headline in the UK's Sunday Times yesterday, ranking as one of my favorite headlines of the year. It seems that "hard science" as represented by Einstein will soon be replaced in British schools by "soft science" such as healthy eating, as espoused by Ms Lawson. In the accompanying photos Ms Lawson is brandishing a bunch of tomatoes as plump and ripe as her ample bosom, while Einstein is merely scribbling some scientific formula on a chalkboard.
OK, so this is a Murdoch-owned paper with all that implies. However, on my brief trip to London I also opened The Guardian and saw a double-page photo from New Orleans that was so harrowing I was instantly struck by the realization that we would never see such a photo in the US press. Discussing the apparent censorship of news coverage here with British friends I could only explain the differences on grounds of public taste. The US press is loath to offend the public with images that might disturb or be deemed distasteful or have been specifically embargoed by the Bush Administration. It seems to be too risky a proposition in this political climate. In Britain, the odious reputation of the press allows for some more honest images of both war and disaster. Of course this "freedom" is a double-edged sword and brings a shameful gutter press alongside good reporting. Yet even there most of the complaints the BBC receive increasingly concern "disturbing" images on the news and one friend, highly placed in the BBC news hierarchy told me "I hardly know what constitutes news anymore, or what the point of it is...."
I suspect it's more than compassion fatigue, I think it is a visceral response to too much war and the powerlessness the majority of us feel in both countries about a hopeless war that has no obvious end nor an acceptable outcome. Journalists, bloggers and readers on both sides of the pond are weary. Another veteran newspaperman confided that with the ascendancy of news on the Internet scooping dailies, he has had enough and is thinking of switching to fiction. Lets hope we will always be able to tell the difference.