Tuesday 9 June 2015


The main thing I took away from his programme was the extraordinary power the media can have - and by 'the media' I mean everything from BBC News to Hollywood - to significantly change our perceptions of the world.

And sometimes falsely and dangerously so.

Up till 1975 sharks were mere bit part players in films (the odd Hemingway adaptation excepted), and no one was unduly scared of them.

Then came Jaws. 

Suddenly sharks went from being barely thought about to becoming one of the ultimate baddies (the terrifying mouth that rises up from the depths of our nightmares to bite us to death while we're chillaxing on a surfboard.)

Harmless entertainment? Well, not for the sharks apparently. 

After the film of the book, there was a massive spike in trophy hunting of great white sharks, and other large sharks quickly found themselves victims of collateral damage in the huge ensuing hunting spree (off Australia, South Africa and North America especially).

In some of their favourite haunts 90% of large sharks were wiped out, and persecution has continued till this day....

...largely, the programme suggested, as a result of the fear generated by that film.

If true, that's a truly extraordinary thought, isn't it?

And it one that appears to have haunted the author of the book, Peter Benchley, to his grave.

He was so shocked by the carnage his fictional novel apparently brought about that he (a) devoted much of his later life to writing factual books sticking up for sharks, (b) protested about the hype and sensationalism that surrounds media reporting of shark attacks and, above all, (c) campaigned for shark conservation.

The lesson I draw from this (however pat you may find it) is that demonising something - whether an animal, a section of society, a political party or an entire country - can have terrible consequences (however unintended).

Feel free to draw your own analogies regarding BBC reporting.

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