Red Alert! Snow of Death!

Photo: Justin Huggler

London in the snow (Photo: Justin Huggler)

Nothing, it seems, distinguishes sane, normal, well-adjusted people from journalists quite like snow.

By lunchtime today, London was covered in a soft blanket of snow. Snow on the rooftops, snow on the windowsills, snow covering up the officious no parking signs outside old Spitalfields market, snow being tramped in between the stalls on people’s feet, snow on the spire of Christ Church, snow dancing in the wind. London transported, it seemed, to its Dickensian past.

Down in Artillery Passage, a group of Japanese businessmen were shaking the snow from sodden umbrellas, sending a fresh shower of it over passers by, but nobody seemed to mind too much. People grinned at each other as they passed. A well-dressed man slipped, almost fell, and looked up with a sheepish smile. The pubs were doing a roaring lunchtime trade, the windows steamed with condensation, blurred laughing faces beyond.

And yet, on television, and in the newspapers, journalists seemed to be reporting from another world. One in which snow was deadly, one of the most terrible things known to man, which was spoken of in hushed tones of awe and fear.

This seems to have become an annual event. Every year, when it snows, the media reports chaos and misery, while all around people are enjoying themselves. I remember a couple of years ago spending an afternoon sledding down Hampstead Heath on an old tea tray. There were so many of us out on the Heath we had to queue up and take turns. But I got home to news reports of “misery in the capital”.

I suspect that most people, whatever their age, threw open their curtains on the fresh snow with a certain degree of childish glee. Not so the men and women of the media. No, they looked out upon the wintry wastes with grim satisfaction in their hearts.

This was the terrible moment they had been predicting for days, when Britain would face SNOW HELL. And this year, they have been aided and abetted by the Met Office, and their melodramatic “red” warning of heavy snowfall in Wales.

A “red” warning, there was no stopping the media after that. It was Red Alert! And the BBC’s man in Merthyr Tydfil responded to the challenge.

Even he and his cameraman, he told us, had difficulty getting to Merthyr, “and we have a 4 x 4”. So the viewers could imagine, he said, how hard it would be for other motorists. Yes, because no one who lives in the Welsh Valleys has access to a 4 x 4.

But, he assured us, the authorities were working round the clock to keep services running. “Another of the services still working is the NHS,” he said.

Well, that’s a relief. I was expecting the entire National Health Service to shut down because of snow. After all, it is a Red Alert.

He ended his report intoning that people are “determined to ride out conditions until the worst is past”, but disconcertingly, as he said this the screen showed pictures of a small child toboganning and laughing with glee.

London in the snow (Photo; Justin Huggler)

London in the snow (Photo; Justin Huggler)

It was clearly becoming increasingly difficult for the media to keep up the pretence everyone was unhappy. But we didn’t need his own pictures to subvert the BBC’s Welsh Cassandra. We already knew the media were talking nonsense.

Because even as they boomed out the message that all was dire, they were being overtaken by a wave of happy tweets about the snow. People were posting pictures of fun in the snow on Facebook.

It just doesn’t work any more. The old world in which newspapers and television set the agenda is gone. We are now all so connected we know what is really going on, and we know how people are reacting to it.

Increasingly, journalists look like a bunch of crazy people, pointing at the sky and screaming “Snow! Snow! Snow of Death!”

So it was reverse-ferret time yesterday, as the media resorted to that old emergency procedure, where you suddenly start reporting the opposite of what you were saying earlier with no explanation.

The Daily Mail website, which had been gleefully predicting  disaster all week, turned it round like old pros. “Britain refused to be beaten today despite waking to a heavy blanket of snow that spread over the country during morning rush-hour,” it said. “Families raced out to make the most of the white-out, building snowmen and frolicking in the drifts.”



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  1. I love reading something that actually makes me laugh out loud. Excellent!!

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