Okay, yes, I know. There were reports that a US battle fleet / carrier group / carrier was moving towards North Korea. There was the story about the doctor who was dragged off a United Airlines flight. Big, reportable things happened. For me, the week began at 0845 local time on Sunday 9th April (last Sunday, yes, but I'm trying to write in a "serious news" tone of voice), when the writer and performer A L Kennedy delivered BBC Radio 4's A Point of View ten-minute(ish) opinion piece. Kennedy's title was 'Bad News Is Good Business' and her theme was that the news industry is competitive so that the news itself has to be big, bad and attention-grabbing. Still available as a podcast, I imagine.
Storms even have names now, and they're never downplayed. There's never a day on which nothing much happens - and conversely, everything that happens is given the same (heavy) weight. The other characteristic of modern news-gathering is the extent to which we respond to absolutely [expletive deleted] everything by discussing it. I haven't checked, but I suspect that most of the terminology of Brexit, for example - hard, soft, in this, out of that - originated in the course of discussion rather than as stated government policy. We are indeed making it all up as we go along. And the biggest fiction of all is that today's event, whatever's just happened, is the thing that matters most.
We're giving meaning and structure to our lives by scaring ourselves. Ho hum. For me, the detail is also thought-provoking - more so, in fact. This week, the US president came out and praised the chocolate cake he was eating when he told China's leader that he had just launched a missile attack on Syria. Keeping the staff happy? That makes sense in a hotel business, I suppose, and perhaps in a White House - imagine the presidential cake-maker fending off interview requests (and the retired kremlinologists poring over future tea-time menus). Imagine also Trump's likely treatment of other key personnel. Then a spokesperson for the Chinese government was quoted as saying that President Trump would no longer be regarded as a "paper tiger". Message received, right? Staff happy; rival enterprise ... he's got their attention.
Then Trump dropped a MOAB on Afghanistan. If there's a language of bombs in the same way that there's a language of flowers, a Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb is an emphatic statement, especially if it's delivered after a bouquet of cruise missiles. But - is it me, or is there a slight glitch in the US government's historical memory? Yes, the MOAB also works out as the Mother Of All Bombs. But, just as Saddam's statue didn't collapse as completely as Ceausescu's, so the obvious inspiration/precedent for that nickname - the Mother Of All Battles - rather fizzled out. Mind you, the North Koreans now seem to be re-enacting a soviet-era military parade in whatever their equivalent of Red Square is called, so maybe they're not big on historical precedents, either. Peaceful collapse, right, wall came down, crowds flooding across to the prosperous South - er, West, sorry. West. I'm talking about eastern Europe when the wall came down, not ... not anything else.
Oh - the statue thing? Big spontaneous Romanian mob attached ropes and pulled, and their former dictator's statue collapsed into dust and rubble on live TV. US military staged a similar photo opportunity a few years later, but Saddam's statue was more sturdily built. He must have seen them coming, ha ha. News - events, rather - are not easily managed. Nor do events become news without help; you have to add the significance. And I suppose what that means is, the easy option is to buy the sizzle, or at least go along with it. Sometimes, going along with, say, the naming of storms requires a suspension of disbelief (on both sides of the screen) even as it enables a certain tone of voice. Forget the actual wind speed; the thing has a name and it's getting closer. Start talking. Look serious. Use the name. You in the audience - get on Facebook.
Still, never mind. Saturday's shaping up to be a sunny day. Rain in the air first thing, but it's brightening up. The radio's on about the possibility of somebody dropping a big bomb on somewhere. That line attributed to Mark Twain - history doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes - came up the other day, but I think we worry in blank verse. Yes, we have an unpredictable world leader who has proven himself capable of dropping bombs. Yes, the "he might drop a bomb" discussion will attract an audience. But think about the strategic calculation that the Chinese are making: Trump's not a paper tiger, and he's focused on a rogue state that they also find problematic. North Korea is reliant on large inflows of aid from China, I believe. Send in the kremlinologists - oh sorry, they're already here.
These days, the lessons of history - those precedents - aren't scary enough. Maybe the lessons of fiction would be more in tune with the way we think now. Years ago, many years ago, I read the thriller On The Beach by Nevile Shute. Maybe I'll look it out. Given where I'm likely to be this afternoon, maybe that would be just the book to have tucked into the picnic hamper along with the charcoal and all the other components of the sizzle.