It is a very curious thing. Today while I went about my daily chores of mothering and being a housewife, I listened to BBC Radio 5 Live, as I always do on weekdays. I don’t listen at weekends, because I don’t like sport. A-ha! But today it is dominated by sports. Or rather, by a famous sports personality, namely the athlete Oscar Pistorius.
Before the shooting of Pistorius’ girlfriend at his home last week, I knew of the athlete only in vague terms. I heard his name during national sports coverage of various athletic events over the years. I saw him featured in the odd newspaper and magazine I was reading. I knew nothing about him other than that, and I still don’t. Yet today, while Radio 5 Live broadcast the bail hearing of his murder trial, I listened avidly for a response, and I felt relieved when the magistrate granted him bail. Why?
I have no personal involvement with this case. I am a housewife in Cheshire, UK, very far removed from the glamorous sporting circles of Oscar Pistorius. So why do I feel such an emotional connection with him and his legal trial? Why do I feel very little apart from sympathy for his deceased girlfriend, a lady who I had never heard of before last week? I am curious. I pondered these questions while I listened to the bail hearing on the radio.
Then it dawned on me. I was listening to the radio for entertainment. I choose BBC 5 Live for its news programmes, because I find them informative and interesting. And that is the key. I was entertained by the trial of this man who I had no previous interest in for any reason. I don’t do sports. Never have, and probably never will. I say probably, because my husband might finally be breaking me down on the issue of football. But let’s not discuss that here.
Who else has been listening to this trial so far, and to all the varying news reports from around the world, and forming their own opinions of what actually happened that fateful night between two people who purported to be madly in love? Millions of people I am sure. It really isn’t any of our concern. It only concerns the people it involves. But because Oscar Pistorius is a respected, loved and successful international athlete, everybody seems to want a claim on him.
I am intrigued about the fact that there seems more emphasis on the shock of what happened, rather that people outright labelling him as a murderer. My initial reaction when the story first broke on Valentine’s Day was one of shock and surprise. I was surprised more about the press reaction to the shooting. People seem genuinely concerned about why Pistorius was driven to shoot a gun and kill somebody, regardless of the reasons given so far. Not many people seem to have reacted in anger towards him. Or if they have, it is not the popular opinion of the world media. I will be very interested to see how this trial develops, not because I care about the famous athlete and his predicament, but because I am interested in public perception and the way our emotions are manipulated by social media.