Browse any major news website today and apart from the distressing stories about Gaza and Iraq you’ll inevitably find a section devoted to the oddball and the quirky. Like the feel-good story that rounds off the six o’clock news these snippets of near irrelevancy are obviously designed to soften the blow of the often-gruesome reality at large.
Take the current SBS news site, which you might expect to focus extensively on current world events. That it certainly does, but amongst the stories on MH17 and the Ebola breakout you’ll soon see items like If A monkey Takes A Selfie Who Owns Copyright? And No Apology From Newman Over TV Genitals Flash. Dig further and you’ll discover a whole section devoted to the oddball with titbits like Surgeons Remove 232 Teeth From Indian Teenager and Abandoned Duckling Adopts US Man As Part Of The Family.
At least the SBS site makes some attempt to coral most of the frivolous into its own distinct section. Meanwhile, over at news.com.au the daily reportage is a complete grab bag of the serious, the trivial, and the inescapable celebrity pap. How this tabloid lucky dip affects the way we process the news is certainly school for thought given that these internet news sites are rapidly becoming our primary source of information.
It’s a common argument that the inclusion of trifling and insignificant news items along with the more serious news dilutes the validity of the real issues and allows us to feel ‘not so bad’ about the death toll in Gaza or the slaughter in Syria. It’s a seductive way to detach us from reality and make us feel good rather than bad when we trawl these news sites.
The extreme example of this kind of news reporting was the now defunct World Weekly News, published in the US from 1979 to 2007. A supermarket tabloid which pushed the envelope of believability to new levels of absurdity, it was essentially entertainment but maintained a loyal band of readers. Some no doubt enjoyed it purely for its preposterousness with stories like Fat Cat Owns 23 Old Ladies, Five US Senators Are Space Aliens and Jesus’s Sandal Found In Central Park. Others we suspect found at least an element of truth in headlines such as Cuba Launches Shark Attack On US and Moon Drifting Towards Earth.
What the World Weekly News did establish was a formula that fiction is often a lot more palatable than the plain ugly truth and that the only thing that gives us real hope in this horrible bad-arsed world are headlines like Elvis Is Alive And Running For President and First Photos Of Heaven. And so as we live through another turbulent day of worldwide wars and famine, we are all left to ponder – if a monkey takes a selfie who owns copyright?
THE HIT LIST: Funky dance grooves are back in town as original DIG members, Tim Rollinson, Rick Robertson and Alex Hewetson combine with a great rhythm section and the very soulful Michelle Martinez for another great night at Foundry 616, Ultimo on Thursday August 14. It’s a great opportunity to relive those halcyon days of the ‘80s and ‘90s when jazz, soul, funk and dub all got together on the dance floor.