Thursday, 5 January 2006

Obituaries for the living

Prognostication of news
With great interest I note the number of times the media has published the obituaries of persons still living as rumour defeats the patience to apply meticulous methods to the gathering of news.
Only too recently, we had the episode of the West Virginia mine disaster where reports of death and life were confused on the numbers of who was dead or alive.
So, it is with poignancy that I heard the admonition of the director of the Hadassah Hospital to act responsibly in the dissemination of news concerning Ariel Sharon and his condition; stating that any changes to his status would be announced promptly by the hospital only.
This was done in disputing the fact that rumour was already pervading the air of the demise of Ariel Sharon, however, he lives; as he tethers at the portal of the great beyond as those who really have their prayers answered pray for a miracle of restoration.
Miracles or debacles
From what one has observed, miracles mean many things to diverse people and the majority opinion lies with the desperation of a situation beyond which there is no hope, whilst the other lies with the expectation of change where hope and faith in God drives the powers of nature to restore strength to what was considered impossible.
Many get their miracles, either by being overwhelmed with helplessness that submits to despair or by being overjoyed with realisation that prayer is really meant to work or else it is useless.
What comes around…?
Just about 14 months ago, as Yasser Arafat was being transported to Paris for treatment, the Israeli cognoscenti predicted he would not return, I observed also the placards in Lebanese Palestinians that called out “Death to Sharon”.
No love lost amongst the children of Abraham, it seems; what a world of compassion we live in, where to be magnanimous is to be foolish and to be bitter is to be human. As a race, we humans have still got a long way to go.
One is not against the preparedness that greets the expectation of a great man’s passing as obituaries are drafted, edited, refined and primed for publication. The news network death vigil that accompanied the passing of Pope John Paul II over 4 days in March/April 2005 gives one pause for thought.
It was like the networks were the ECG machine connected to the dear Pope’s vital systems which were to trigger the outpouring of waves of news analysis and death tributes just as the last breath was about the depart the nostrils even if the heart still had one last beat to pound.
Publish and be mocked
Despite the mistakes of the media in the poor reporting of events, one can almost bet that Ariel Sharon would probably be declared dead long before he has departed just as news networks can call elections for a candidate long before the numbers are properly tallied. American Election 2000, for instance.
No doubt, the mouse is primed to click on the publish button as soon as truth or rumour pervades the atmosphere; that it would be so gratifying to really see Mr Sharon shame all those writers as he rises like Lazarus to take his people to the promised peace that has so far eluded the promised land.
If this mistake does get repeated, one might just advocate a news certification and verification standards body that would eliminate the unpleasant competition for publication in anticipation of consequent fulfilment.
I now know, I do not really want to be the first to know.

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