Monday, 1 October 2012

Less is more.

In these days of twenty-four hour news coverage is has become so easy not to listen any more.   However serious or critic al or sad the situation is, if we are bombarded with it every hour on the hour, there comes a moment when we mentally switch off and it ceases to make any kind of impression on us.

The same is true of the images we see on the News/   A refugee camp in an arid desert in somewhere like Ethiopia, where countless woman and children, all haggard and dying, stare out at the camera makes such an appalling image that we reach for a cheque book to make a donation immediately.   But if we get it on every bulletin it is not long before we stop looking at it, and even begin to ask questions.  "Where are the men in all this?"  The answer, of course, is that often they are all off fighting some pointless war somewhere and are probably quite well fed.

Words have become so cheap.   Images have become so graphic.  Is there not a case sometimes for less of both - for fewer words and a chance to use our imagination to fill in the gaps?

Remember the Moon Landing?   When Neil Armstrong stepped out onto the moon's surface, he said, "One small step for man, one giant step for mankind."   I heard him speaking about this shortly before he died.  He said that he only thought about what he was going to say a short while before he said it.   Can you imagine how much less dramatic it would have been if he had waxed lyrical about what he was doing.  As it was, just those few memorable words and a picture which said it all, was enough to burn it into our memories.

Some time ago there was a terrifying programme on television in which Ben Fogle was swimming with crocodiles in the Okavango Delta in Botswana.   At one point a giant crocodile, three metres long, swam out from beneath a bank and came straight at Fogle.   He uttered just two words:  "Holy Crap!"  I think that told us all we needed to know!

And it doesn't just apply to imagery which is light-hearted.   Ronald Blythe refers to young men whose lives were cut short in the Western Desert in the Second World War.   He speaks of them dying 'with their mouths full of sand.'  For me, at any rate, that conjures up an image far more graphic than any photograph or commentary.

And think of Larkin's Toad - work.  The image throttles a worker with its grotesqueness.   A good metaphor is worth a thousand words.

There are times, of course, when the truth destroys an image we have held for years.  A light-hearted version of this occurred for me recently when I read that water voles often travel fifteen to twenty miles up river in search of a mate.   I remembered Ratty in Wind in the Willows telling Mole that he only knew a couple of miles of the river bank.   Oh Ratty, were you lying to Mole all this time?

But yes, joking apart, for me less is always more.   Please allow me the opportunity to choose exactly how much information I want to have; please allow me the chance to use my imagination.

13 comments:

angryparsnip said...

I so agree with your post today.
I hardly watch the news anymore, plus it is all awful election talking heads promising the moon but giving us dirt.
I watch or listen to the local news either morning or evening and get the rest off the computer.
Sorry about Ratty, he must have just forgot or didn't understand distances.

cheers, parsnip

Reader Wil said...

You are right! Too much information spoil the message. That goes also for our entries about Our World for instance. The news is anything but cheerful.I don't watch it more than once a day.
Thanks for sharing.

John Gray said...

I tend to read the news online
I never EVER listen or watch the news on tv and radio anymore... it depresses me

Heather said...

I think our news coverage has reached a state of overkill. Who could possibly need or want so many news bulletins every day? We need to know what is happening but do we need to see so much graphic detail? It must either horrify or desensitise us all, children included.

Cloudia said...

Well said. Better to suggest (or tickle) than to overwhelm (or choke)



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Crafty Green Poet said...

Less is definitely more that's why I like writing haiku!

I can relate to Ben Fogle's situation there too, having been face to face with hippos in the Okovango, I know you don't want to waste breath on saying much, you just want to get to safety. (

acornmoon said...

You make an interesting point here. One reason why books tell a story better than film, because your imagination fills in the gaps.

Rachel said...

I only listen to Radio 4 News at 6pm because it is as near to a "traditional" newscast as you can get. I gave up watching tv news programmes about 5 years ago. I read the paper but am pretty much fed up with newspapers too. I remember my mother giving up watching television news some years ago and I thought she was mad. I must be getting old as I now understand what she meant!

Pam said...

I have a quote by Leona (whoever she is)..'"no matter what horrible thing you're going through, when its all over it only takes three seconds to sum it up."
Obviously Leona is the queen of brevity. Have always loved the quote.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Glad everyone seems to agree - would that the News channels took this to heart. Thanks for your visit.

Gwil W said...

I don't watch the news very often because all too often what they are basically giving me is propaganda. For instance there are horror stories coming out of Fukushima nearly every week but we are being told nothing. The news is in the pocket of the international news controllers. Welcome to the future.

Bovey Belle said...

I agree with you to. Our emotions and senses are bludgeoned with the rolling news and shocking pictures. My husband is a newshound and would happily watch the news (and racing!) all day long, but I just want to know a brief outline.

News is like a naked woman - a thin veil shows what is there but still leaves something to the imagination.

Bovey Belle said...

"too" - I can spell really, it's this cheap keyboard . . .