Chasing Ambulances In The Cold Of Winter

When I was a young reporter just out of my teen years I used to chase ambulances just like a dog chases a ball. It was the high light of the night shift after I had graduated from the boring round of court reporting to the newsroom proper.

What young reporters learned at an early age was blood and gore sold newspapers so we would gave the public what they wanted. Sometimes we would sit in a parked car outside the main ambulance station while at other times if a ” contact” in the service was working we drank tea in the office waiting for that all important call to come through.

The contacts had splendid code names like Matt Dillon,  the fictional hero of the chart topping Hollywood cowboy series “Gunsmoke” Then there was Oscar Wilde , I am sure we all know who he was. What we were waiting for at dead of night was a serious car crash. Preferably a fatal one.  On getting the appropriate tip off we would speed to the scene totally oblivious of the fact that we too could become just another accident statistic.

Chasing the fatal crashes gave us at least two hits in the papers and TV. The first being the carnage of the crash scene with the blood and gore pictures. These would inevitably be followed up with pictures and background on the dead obtained from grieving relatives.

As news has become a 24 hour round the clock affair  and the collection of it ever more sophisticated it seems nothing in he public taste has changed. What we apparently crave for is still blood and gore in ever increasing helpings.It comes in friendly bites of a few minutes at a time sent packaged to an audience which wants to be appalled but laps it up with enthusiasm at the same time. But by providing just what is wanted today’s reporters have in the main done a dis-service to the public they are meant to serve and inform.

As soon as it became apparent that the latest round of fighting between Hamas and Israel was more than a minor skirmish the press descended on mass to Gaza’s hospitals and waited.  In the blink of an eye Hamas obliged the world’s waiting press corps. They planted their weapons , unguided rockets of which every one fired was a war crime, in the heart of the local population. A blood bath not surprisingly ensured.

Day after day fresh pictures filled our screens. Weeping and wailing women and children covered in blood. Who could not be concerned and upset. I certainly was. The only surprise was few if any of the reporters seemed able to put what was happening in context. All the time, as the hospitals filled up, Hamas continued to fire its rockets, ambush Israeli soldiers from tunnels built from cement which should have made houses and schools….but no one noticed and no one said anything. We were transfixed by the daily death ritual which filled our TV screens and newspapers, and we lapped it up.

No one asked where the dead bodies of Hamas fighters were. Surely even soldiers as ” incompetent ” as Israel’s who were allegedly firing at anything that moved and bulldozing anything that didn’t, must have by the  law of averages killed some Hamas terrorists. And though there were plenty of Hamas rockets streaking  into the skies no one was ever seen firing them.

This is lazy journalism at its height. Israel has thus far claimed to have killed 800 Hamas fighters. That would be at least 50% of the dead. Surely someone , even if Israel’s figures were exaggerated, must have filmed some of this action.  It seems like the journalists are working under threat and fear and only a very few on leaving Gaza seem willing or able to admit it. The rest like vultures continue to haunt the hospitals waiting for the next disaster. Why has little been made of the rockets fired from the main Al Shifa hospital or the summary execution of 20 Gazans who protested to Hamas about the continued fighting.

So what is really happening to the West and its conscience? As Israel continues to get blamed for the ever rising death toll while at the same time told it has the right to defend its people some in the intelligentsia are claiming that Western society has reached its nadir and will collapse from within.

It was the leading twentieth century thinker and philosopher Arnold Toynbee who postulated the theory that all dominant civilisations  were inevitably  bound to fall. Put simply the theory was that great civilisations were like the weather subject to seasons. They blossom and rise in the Spring, bloom in the summer and then go down hill  through the Fall until they reach winter. Then unable to defend themselves either by strength of ideas or military might fall prey to more hungry and aggressive peoples  knocking at the gates of their homelands.

Toynbee started life as an Anti Semite and died a Philo Semite. He stated that the Jews were still in the spring of their civilisation and were very much central to the future of man kind. The question is as The West is asking  Israel  to tackle pure evil with one hand tied behind its back is this a signal that Western Civilisation has entered  the winter of its life? If so where will the new world leadership come from? More to the point where will the Jews fit into this new order should it come about. As we muse on the modern rules of proportionate war the generals and the soldiers who died defeating the beast that was Nazism must be turning in their graves.

Be it fighting Nazism or Islamic fascism half measures will not do and if the leaders of the West wish to prove Toynbee’s theory all they need do is to continue to ensure that Israel can only fight evil like a party with a handicap in a computer game.Not only discouraged but hampered. If you ask me its feeling pretty cold out there.








About the Author
Adrian Needlestone quit sixth form at 17 to follow his dream to become a journalist. So desperate was he that he accepted a wage of £6 a week for six days work as an office boy at what was then London largest independent news agency, The Fleet Street News Agency. After making tea and buying sandwiches for six months he was given the opportunity to cut his working week down by one day and cover the East London Crown courts in those days known as Quarter sessions Courts. The bread and butter work was the local paper contracts the agency held with the occasional national story being cream on the top. During 18 months covering the courts stories in the nationals became the norm rather than the exception and he was quickly switched back to the main office in Clerkenwell to work with the news team. At the age of 21 came his first big break when Murdoch took over the Sun newspaper and promptly hired the agency’s news editor and most of the senior staff. In a leap of faith the agency head promoted him to news editor but confided many years later that it was the “cheap” option which if he sank that was life and if he swam so much the better. Seven years later after working regular evenings on the Mirror and the Mail he joined the Evening standard on the news picture desk. From there he moved on to the National Enquirer in America, the News of the World, BBC national radio and ran the news section of the Derek Jameson TV magazine programme on Sky. After 25 years in the business he decided to slow down and turn his hand to business but he never enjoyed the success in that world to match his career in Fleet street. Semi retired he has now taken to the internet and is writing a blog as well as simultaneously trying to write three books, one about his time on the News of the World which he hopes to launch through Kindle in about six weeks.
Related Topics
Related Posts