North Korea is testing nukes. Tensions and mutual provocation between China and a remilitarizing Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands are getting worse. Egypt and Syria could implode at any time. So could Spain and Greece in their own ways. The US Federal and state governments owe US$20 trillion and rising. In Hong Kong, where a flood of inbound tourists is driving local people up into the hills and onto outlying islands in search of space, the Chief Executive has been officially declared ‘depressing’. And what’s the leading news story today? A guy in 50-murders-a-day South Africa shoots someone.
I am obviously missing something. Why are we – who are unknown to the people involved or their families – supposed to want to know about this Pistorius character? Why are we supposed to be interested that the (to me) hitherto unheard-of victim, one Ms Steenkamp, was either tragically cursed with the appearance of a publicity-seeking bimbo, or in reality had a wonderful personality? Where is the news story here? The alleged killer is a sports star; sports stars tend to be dim and make bad decisions; this one kept guns in the house; occupants of armed households are statistically more likely to be shot at home. Where, to repeat, is the news story?
RTHK Radio 3’s morning show has an unmistakable tendency on occasion to poor news sense, pushing a non-story into the top position and going on and on, minute after laborious minute, into greater and greater detail about it. Today’s treatment of this ‘Bladerunner’ Pistorius banality was no exception. It was followed by similarly lengthy coverage of the UK’s horsemeat-for-beef trauma, which is at least vaguely amusing. Horse is not merely edible: it is wasted on the sort of people who eat processed packaged lasagnas.
Then RTHK turned to Warren Buffet and pals buying Heinz. A report that could have been more enlightening had a discussion of how ketchup is originally Chinese not intruded. (Ketchup, of course, is not Chinese – tomato is a New World species, and East Asian cuisine doesn’t get that low. The word comes from Malay and means what most of us call ‘nam pla’, or simply ‘fish sauce’, and seems to have come from Hokkien. Tons here and here.)
There’s a clear pattern here. In fairness to my friends at RTHK, it isn’t always this way. But occasionally, the programme’s usual producer is away and a guy called Phil Space steps in. His aim is to pad the show out with clips on far-away events cut-and-pasted from the BBC World Service or whatever, with priority given to bulk rather than newsworthiness or relevance to Hong Kong. Thus we get lengthy tearful tributes to Ms Steenkamp’s vivacious wit, weird dollops of ketchup all over the business news, and the interminable American sports correspondent gushing however much inanity it takes to complete that 30-minute cycle as effortlessly as possible.
I’m sure it’s the result of under-funding of a low-priority, English-language station. I’m sure that during the 23 hours a day I don’t listen, Radio 3 is perfect. And I’m sure I’ll feel absolutely rotten when they email me in that slightly defensive tone of the under-appreciated public-service provider. And, as we languorously declare the weekend open, we must note that it’s a slow day today.
OK, so the guy had no legs – why are we supposed to give a damn?