Lots of cheap shots at newspapers, still. It’s a favourite topic of mine and one as perennial as the grass on account of me passing by a news-stand sometimes at work and being horrified each and every time.
[Avoid reporting on reality at all costs]
“Xothor the Devourer is approaching! He’s – well – devouring everything. I mean, what are the odds, right? Clue’s in the name I guess. Anyway, bye,” said an anonymous member of the public before pulling their head back through the door and continuing on their way. Outside, screaming.
“You hear that? Write faster you animals, you dogs!” Howled the Editor, cracking a handful of whips over the backs of the huddling, weeping journalists as they feverishly hammered at the keys of their discount typewriters. One yowled as they lost another fingertip but it didn’t slow them in the slightest.
“The only thing holding back that all-consuming eldritch horror are our stories about migrants, so type faster! Tell the people how many foreigners are coming here! It’s all that’s holding the fabric of space and time together!” The Editor shouted, stomping over to the nearest desk and ripping the still-dripping paper free and bringing it up to their face.
“MIGRANTS SHOWN TO HAVE FACES AND THOUGHTS OF THEIR OWN,” bellowed the article, followed by lots of angry, shouty words and obtuse anecdotes about the deceitfulness, clumsiness and general unattractiveness of people who were not born on the same strip of land as the author.
“Is any part of this story true?” The Editor asked, cramming the page back into the typewriter, breaking it in the process. The journalist frantically started trying to fix it.
“Well, we sourced numbers from the governme-” they spluttered, but they did not finish before the Editor smacked the typewriter from the desk, taking the journalist with it as they had had their hand lodged in its guts at the time.
“Write it again! Only lies! Only lies in the newspaper! Nothing else has any effectiveness!” The Editor said, sloping off to the end of the room and taking position behind their podium. Some of their best intimidation had been doled out from behind that podium and it had the scorch marks to prove it.
“We have a duty to the public to deceive them further! We all told them that the invocations of Xothor were the patriotic thing to do! We all told them to go out and vote in favour of their performance! We misled them about the true costs of those dark, unholy rites and the inevitable results they would entail! Now Xothor and his thousand and one ravenous offspring are consuming all in sight and it’s up to us to keep people’s minds off the problems we tricked them into causing! So lie! Lie for all you’re worth! Lie for your very lives! Lie!”
The Editor hammered their meaty fist against the podium to emphasise the importance of lying, even if most of the Journalists were too busy focussing on writing to pay much attention. The obvious anger in the Editor’s words did much to motivate them, however, and the number of vague truths in their writing dropped to zero almost at once.
Trickles of dust fell from the ceiling as the ground shook, the concussion of something detonating beyond the walls thumping around the room and making the windows flex. This spurred the journalists on more, each of them knowing it was their sworn and solemn duty to tell the citizens about the dangers posed by people from elsewhere. That and they were being paid to do it, that was also a factor.
“I don’t wish to cause undue alarm, but the fate of the country is riding on each and every one of you. If a word goes in the wrong place, if a headline doesn’t grab attention, if the general public reads your work and remains unconvinced that the major problem facing the nation at the moment is immigration and not the havoc being wrought by Xothor the Devourer and his unholy spawn then you have failed and the world itself is doomed. No pressure. I’m just saying, there’s a lot of pressure. Oh, and for the love of God don’t call them ‘refugees’, people might start remembering they’re human beings…”
Headlines and untrue front pages and frothing, unhinged editorials were churned out at a ferocious pace, spewing white-hot from the typewriters and fluttering into the air. From there they were snatched by scuttling, leaping news-whelps and fed into the monolithic copy-and-distribute machines wherein which they were copied and distributed to an uninterested and disbelieving public. From there they were promptly discarded in whichever bin was closest to hand as print was a dying medium anyway and lying in super-big text on the front page was all it really had left going for it at this point.
“What are the levels looking like?” The Editor asked, leaning back and shouting to the beleaguered technician manning the controls.
“The apathy levels are off the charts! No-one believes anything in anymore!” They replied as sparks and steam belched all about them.
“We’re trying the best we can,” the Editor muttered through gritted teeth.
What else could they possibly do? Warn the public about Xothor? Tell them what they could realistically do in the situation? They were but humble newspapermen! Slaves to the fact it was a job where earning money and maintaining a consistent agenda was more important by far than actually and accurately informing the reader. At least until they were told to change that agenda, of course, but you didn’t really need to mention that part. Their hands were tied! It was just how it worked.
Vicious, blaring headlines assaulted the eyes of anyone who happened to pass a newsstand, knocking many flat on their back with the force of their brazen falsehoods:
“NEW LAW ALLOWS MIGRANTS TO LIVE EVICT YOU FROM YOUR HOUSE IF THEY KNOCK IN A SPECIAL WAY. THEY WILL THEN LIVE IN YOUR HOUSE.”
“MIGRANTS TURN INVISIBLE IN MOONLIGHT THE BETTER TO DRIVE YOU MAD WITH CEASELESS NOCTURNAL HOOTING.”
“MIGRANTS CAN OPEN DOORS NOW. YOUR DOORS.”
None of this seemed to work though. Even when they made the newspaper one big headline with each letter blown to monstrous sizes and given its own page to occupy no-one seemed especially fazed. They just kept on living their lives, paying their taxes, going to their jobs and being consumed alive – whole and screaming – by Xothor the Devourer.
So engrossed in producing this sort of high-quality news-tripe were the journalists and the Editor they barely even reacted when the roof was torn free by a giant hand, a hideous creature older than the stars themselves looming above and staring down with infinite hunger and malice – Xothor himself!
Tugged from the clutches of a news-whelp by the sucking vacuum created by the removal of the roof a frontpage gusted upwards and was caught by one of Xothor’s lesser hands. He peered at the page and sighed, his breath itself a living being that was born, loved, lived and died in a heartbeat.
“Seriously you guys?” Asked Xothor, rubbing his seventeen temples in frustration before leaving, shaking his head. He would devour something a little more worthwhile, he felt. Not these people.