Friday, 19 October 2012
'sheer panic' at Glasgow airport?
The reporting of an emergency evacuation of an aircraft at Glasgow airport by the BBC today, illustrates quite well how I think the media can sensationalise such incidents. The story begins with the headline;
'Glasgow Airport: Passenger tells of panic'
The first sentence then continues with;
'Passengers on an Alicante-bound plane from Glasgow Airport have described "sheer panic" after "swirling" smoke in the cabin forced an emergency stop.'
A later quote from a survivor who evacuated with his wife and young daughters, continues in this vein;
"There was panic, people started running and I shouted 'slow down', and then the pilot shouted 'get out, get out'. It was just sheer panic, something no-one would want to go through again."
So, this seems to be the usual narrative of 'panic, chaos, mayhem' etc to describe people's behaviour in emergencies. However, later quotes that don't get such attention tell a different story to me. For instance a female survivor reports that;
"Although it was a horrific situation there was no panic and everyone remained calm,"
A male survivor who was interviewed at length by local radio is asked by the journalist ;
'it must have been very scary?'
Unfortunately he doesn't go along with this rather loaded question, and continues by saying that there was no panic, and describes in some detail how people remained calm and orderly. He even finishes by saying that he'd get straight back on a plane!
I think this shows quite well, how different narratives can emerge from disasters, and the descriptions that journalists often seek of 'panicking/stampeding' victims isn't always backed up by evidence, but that doesn't stop them trying to portray emergencies in this way. It reminds me of when I was on holiday in Tunisia during the 2011 revolution that began the Arab Spring. While I was out there, I did some interviews with the media about the situation, including one for Radio 5, where I was on live with another English tourist in a different resort who had barricaded himself and his family into their hotel room. My account of events (that we were not feeling threatened at all by what was going on and local Tunisians were hospitable & protective towards us) was not considered as newsworthy as 'terrified UK tourists need rescuing from a foreign country', and so received much less attention. My experiences in Tunisia inspired me to begin this blog and attempt in my own way to redress the balance of what I saw (and still do) as a deeply pathologising discourse of crowd behaviour in society today that is not backed up by evidence of how crowds actually behave.