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With the impending arrival of ‘Signs’ and the appearance of the alien/disc formation of August, the British media have gone overboard on circle coverage. GEOFF HINTON sums up some of the recent hoo-hah…

There has been an inevitable saturation of crop circle coverage in the UK media these last few weeks, as newspapers and TV companies fell over themselves to cover the ‘Signs’ movie, tying it in with reportage of the actual crop circles themselves, the Crabwood alien formation providing much of the spark. We use the word ‘reportage’ in the loosest sense, of course.

Much of the coverage has been predictably and badly uninformed, which is par for the course, and more than one source reported that the vast majority of this year’s UK crop formations only appeared in the 10 day run-up to the release of ‘Signs’, with the obvious sceptical inference. In fact, most fields had actually been cut by this time. As attentive croppies will know, there has been a steady stream of crop formations since June, so it would seem these types of comments are actual lies, rather than poor information, in much the same way last year’s claims that crop circles only appeared after the Foot and Mouth disease restrictions were lifted were also nonsense.

On the good side, the ‘Daily Mail’ had another spread of colour crop circle photos, which seems to have become an annual fixture now. However, some other newspapers that wouldn’t normally bother to cover the crop circles at all also devoted several pages to them this time around. ‘The Sun’, for instance, unbelievably Britain’s biggest-selling tabloid newspaper, actually had features for several days running between 26–30th August. The stream of pieces began with a theme taken up by more than one global journalist this year, that crop circles are reaping a cash bonanza for Hollywood and, er, farmers. The piece didn’t mention that of the few farmers who charge admission to a field, most give much of the money they collect to local charities. The next day was predictable silliness (‘The Sun’, for non-UK Swirled News readers, is hardly known as a serious read), with, of all people, George Bishop of the Centre for Crop Circle Studies showing how circles could be created in your own garden using a lawnmower! (What WERE you thinking of, George?) The next day’s coverage became more constructive, if hardly more serious, with a spread of crop formations from recent years entitled ‘Crop Idol’, in which readers were invited to vote for their favourite designs by (and here’s the real motivation – ker-ching!!!) phoning in to special numbers. The winner was announced in a tiny column next day – this year’s Stonehenge formation won. For readers who could tear their eyes away from the naked breasts to the left, the final feature reported how one individual had shaved his head in a crop circle-type design.

However, this coverage was at least marginally entertaining and left some space for mystery, whereas the supposedly more intelligent broadsheet papers took what they obviously felt to be the ‘high ground’, ‘The Observer’ running a truly horrid piece which was a hymn to the human circlemakers alone, reporting on how a collection of plankers, including Team Satan and Doug Bower, had a jolly trip to the cinema to view ‘Signs’. Bower is treated as the father of the whole phenomenon, with no acknowledgment that the phenomenon predates him by several centuries. He can’t be that old. Other broadsheets took similar approaches.

Meanwhile, the movie magazines conducted their reviews of ‘Signs’, which has received a mixed reaction, with little mention of the phenomenon itself, almost as if unworthy of comment. One piece describes crop circles as the “laughing stock” of the paranormal world, which pretty much sums up the attitude. ‘Uncut’ magazine did, however, include a small panel of ‘facts’ about real crop circles, but as it was clearly knocked up over a cup of coffee one morning, it was unsurprisingly inaccurate.

‘Empire’ magazine, the UK’s leading movie journal, truly goes to town in their forthcoming issue by offering a ‘Signs’ competition in which readers can win a slap-up dinner with Team Satan, the UK’s official circlemakers. What on earth does the National Farmer’s Union think to this obvious incitement to vandalism? As Allan Brown remarks, what’s the booby-prize – a week with Team Satan?

As for incitement to vandalism, the BBC’s digital channel for kids wins the prize for this - several Wales-based schoolkids were invited recently to take part in a live crop circle making competition… Get ‘em into it young, go on.

Of the UK television pieces, there’s been so many snippets it’s impossible to keep up with it all, with the BBC, ITV and Sky all covering crop circles for one reason or another, both nationally and locally, although no special programmes seem to have been prepared, unlike the USA, which birthed several documentaries.

Being at the heart of all this has certainly been exhausting, and many circle researchers are now looking forward to a welcome period of peacefully hunkering down for the winter. Certainly, it is unlikely, unless something truly spectacular occurs, that 2003 will rival the intense media interest, however ghastly at times, we have seen stirred up by Hollywood’s superficial but loud stimulus this year.



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