THERE is a long tradition of blaming the bearer of bad news.
In ancient times official messengers would fall foul of those unable to contain their rage at being told something they did not want to hear.
A more enlightened approach came when China, years before the birth of Christ, invented a chivalrous code that forbade the execution of messengers sent by enemies.
The frothing hordes on social media today show no such restraint.
They have directed their fury and frustration about fuel shortages at the pumps not at the source of the problem, but at journalists telling them it is happening!
To be clear, the media did not start the panic-buying. We reported it after it began, and continue to do so because it is an evolving story of enormous interest and importance.
We are also reporting it because people need to know about things that are happening in their communities. They need to know the reasons why those things are happening, and whose decisions may have been responsible.
That is how democracy works. Newspapers like the Hereford Times tell you to the best of our ability what is going on so that when the time comes to vote you have had the information you need to make an informed decision.
Perversely, the thinking of some is that if the situation on garage forecourts were not reported the problem would simply go away. Of course, this conveniently ignores the fact that news was likely to slip out anyway through word of mouth… or (heaven forbid) on social media.
“Don’t tell anyone that there’s a shortage of lorry drivers affecting deliveries to filling stations and there will be no panic-buying. Everyone will be happy,” they argue.
This is a chilling line of thought.
It essentially demands that the media paints a rosier picture of reality for the common good.
Presumably, if it is not willing to do it voluntarily it should be compelled to do so.
And so this obnoxious reasoning would have us helter-skeltering into authoritarianism. State-sanctioned propaganda instead of news, a cowed society where inconvenient truths are stifled… perhaps along with those who dare speak them.
Be very careful what you wish for.