Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Watching events unfold "live" on TV

Yesterday evening, I had the time and opportunity to blog... but I just didn't feel like doing so -- this especially because my mood was heavy and thus far, I've tried to generally maintain a positive (Pollyanna-ish even) perspective when writing this blog. Some twenty four hours on, I am on a more even emotional keel. However, it seems like it would be remiss of me to let recent events in the Philippines involving a bus load of Hong Kong tourists go unmentioned and unmourned on a blog that, after all, is being produced out of Hong Kong.

On Monday evening, I met up with two friends for dinner in Kowloon City. As it so happened, our choice of restaurant was one within which a television was centrally placed -- so that people could watch whatever played on the channel of choice as they ate. And that Monday evening, the customers -- and waitresses -- found their attentions drawn to a "live" broadcast of a dramatic, at times downright surreal, hostage situation that lasted for several hours and tragically ended with several deaths.

As if it wasn't bad enough to be watching such a terrible event unfold in front of our very eyes there and then, as I did so, I found myself recalling previous times that I had watched 'live' on TV events that I knew would be top news stories. For even while the only other time I've watched such an event unfold 'live' on TV in Hong Kong, it was something positive and celebratory in the form of the Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the fact of the matter is that the most hard-to-forget such experience in recent memory took place when I was living in Philadelphia on the morning of September 11, 2001. (And, as a matter of fact, I did actually have nightmares that wove in memories of 9/11 along with what I had seen and read about the Philippines hostage disaster on Monday night.)

Also, while my previous 'live' TV news experience before those ones involved watching that truly surreal car chase involving O. J. Simpson back in June, 1994, the previous two before that consisted of watching disturbing Gulf War news footage and broadcasts of events leading up to -- along with the actual events surrounding -- the June 4th, 1989, massacre at Tiananmen Square...

Returning to the subject of the recent events: I don't think it is an exaggeration to state that the whole Hong Kong has been in shock and mourning as a result of the event which has hit home because it involved Hong Kongers and also was watched "live" on TV by so many. And even while I'm not a native Hong Konger, I cannot but feel so very sorry for the victims -- and by these I don't only mean the dead but such as the poor woman who physically survived the horrific hostage crisis but now is without a husband, also outlived her two daughters and finds her son in critical condition as I write this entry.

Small consolation, I know, but many people's thoughts are with these people. I can but hope that the survivors of this terrible event which saw too many individuals lose their lives possess the courage and strength to carry on living. And that this event is not easily forgotten and be one from which people can learn from -- including in terms of not only how stupid and crazy people can get but also how heroic and caring. (I'm thinking in the latter case particularly of the man who sacrificed himself to protect his wife and the woman whose quick-thinking saved not only her two children but also another child who is not biologically related to her. May there be more people like them in this world.)


ewaffle said...

This is an example of why we stopped watching television. I don't want to see events as they unfold--or at least those parts of the events that cameras and microphones can record. I prefer to read my news.

I thought that the collaboration of the US cable and network "news" operations with the government management of information concerning the first Gulf War was as low as it could get. What passes for news now, though, makes that look like the reincarnation of Edward R. Murrow.

In the US it seems that the Manila bus massacre has not only fallen off the front pages but has already been relegated to something that happened "over there" in which no Americans were involved. Once the shock value had worn off it was no longer news.

Thanks for the excellent, thought-provoking post.

Anonymous said...

The loss of life is always sad. But one of things that makes this event especially tragic is that it seems like it could have been easily prevented. I get the feeling that there was some kind of power stand off going on behind the scenes among those in power within the Philippines government and police force.

Let me just add that I find the live coverage of the event rather appalling, especially after reading that the gunman was agitated by seeing his brother's arrest on the bus' TV.

The other thing that disturbs me about this event is that I feel like it feeds into the complicated and touchy relationship between Chinese and Filipinos in Hong Kong (this is my viewpoint as an outsider). Unfortunately, the photos that have surfaced of Filipino police officers and schoolgirls posing in front of the bus will only inflame this aspect of the event.

Let me end on a positive note by agreeing with your hope for more people willing to sacrifice themselves for others.

ewaffle said...

It seems clear that the government could have ended the hostage crisis at any time by simply telling the hostage taker that he would be rehired by the police force under whatever circumstances he demanded then simply arrested him when he accepted the terms. Which means, as duriandave writes, that there must have been a lot more going on than a desire to free the hostages.

Amy Chua in her book "World on Fire" writes of the enmity that exists between the Chinese and the Filipinos. Her grandmother was murdered by one of the many Filipino servants who worked in the grandmother's house in Manila. That is a small part of an excellent book but one that Chau herself finds important.

YTSL said...

Hi ewaffle --

Something that made the TV coverage of the Manila hostage situation particularly disturbing: apparently, the hostage taker was able to watch it on a TV inside the bus -- so this way, he could see what was going on outside... with tragic consequences.

Hi duriandave (and ewaffle again) --

"The loss of life is always sad. But one of things that makes this event especially tragic is that it seems like it could have been easily prevented."

Hear, hear.

"The other thing that disturbs me about this event is that I feel like it feeds into the complicated and touchy relationship between Chinese and Filipinos in Hong Kong..."

It doesn't help that Hong Kongers seem to know about anti-Chinese resentment in the Philippines even while not realizing that such as Jose Rizal, Corazon Aquino, her son -- the current president -- and Cardinal Jaime Sin were/are at least partly ethnic Chinese.

Diana said...

I don't like watching these things on tv live either, and yet, sometimes that is the most accurate reporting one gets--they haven't put their own spin on the event yet.

YTSL, you have quite a list of tragic events you have watched there, maybe you should take a break from the tv news for awhile, especially when they give you bad dreams.

Let's hope everyone stays calm and no one adds to this tragedy.

YTSL said...

Hi Diana --

Believe it or not, I actually don't watch that much TV -- at least not these days in Hong Kong. Also, to be fair, that list does span decades...

Still, there's no denying I've witnessed (more than) my share of tragic events unfold via 'live' TV. May there be fewer such tragic events happening -- on or off 'live' TV.