Thursday, 18 April 2013

Too much information?

I need you to help me here by putting the case for or against this  craze for what so often seems to me to be too much information.  Maybe my views are old-fashioned.   I try to keep up to date by chatting to younger people, by reading the newspaper from cover to cover (The Times since you ask), by listening at least once a day to the television news (any more than once a day means that you get the same story repeated over and over again).  But sometimes I am appalled by some of things I see and hear.

At yesterday's funeral of Mrs. Thatcher - and whether you agreed or disagreed with the amount of money spent on it, her politics or any other aspect of the funeral had nothing to do with it - I just do not think it was appropriate to show George Osbourne in tears.   I hastily add that I am not - repeat not - a Conservative and do not agree with the present government over anything that I can think of.   But one's feelings and one's ability to control them should not be a matter for millions of people around the world to speculate upon.

And then we come to the terrible Boston bombs.   The image of that lovely family and the knowledge that it had quite literally been blown apart by the bomb simply because of where they had been standing was an image that will stay in my mind and I think was quite rightly published.   But as for the images shown on television and as for the thousands of spectators who took photographs of the carnage on their mobile phones I really do not know what to think.

Could you stand and take a photograph of somebody bleeding to death and lying in the road?   And yet - and yet - maybe some of the photographs will prove useful in identifying the criminal or criminals who did it.   And as is quite rightly pointed out in The Times this morning, these photographs and film footage also show dozens of ordinary citizens running to help rather than running away.

A couple of days ago there was a photograph of a man standing helplessly by the bodies of his wife and child, killed by a passing vehicle in India - and nobody coming to his aid.  It does rather beg the question - did the photographer go to his aid after taking the photograph?

I know there are arguments for and against - and I know that all the imagination in the world can't possibly bring up the image of the terrible slaughter of terrorism or warfare.  Maybe photographs help - but there is such a thing as overkill and I wonder whether perhaps the whole thing has got out of hand.  At the beginning of the conflict in Syria we saw miles of footage of the suffering of innocent women and children in their towns and villages and in their refugee camps.   Now we rarely see one.   Maybe we saw so many in the beginning that we began to stop looking at them.   For whatever reason the cameramen have moved on - they seemed to gather like crows round the dead rabbit - now they have found another 'kill'.

One of the most poignant photographs in The Times today - for me at any rate - is the photograph of Simon Weston on his way to Mrs Thatcher's funeral.   Simon Weston - the man whose face had to be literally rebuilt after the terrible fire on the Sir Galahad during the Falklands War.  A small photograph saying a lot.  Maybe we are often bombarded with so much information that we become
impervious to it.


Tom Stephenson said...

I remember hearing a war photographer say how awful it was to have to photograph a starving child rather than comforting him, but if he didn't do it, nobody here or elsewhere would know about all the others who needed help too. This is how Red Nose day became so successful.

There's a difference between selling the images of disaster and trying to help by using your profession as a photographer or journalist. As for 24 rolling news, the genie is out of the bottle.

Arija said...

I am very disturbed at the violence overload we are all subjected to. It only serves to desensitise to the real horror of death and maiming. People taking videos at accident and bomb sites are just ghouls. Taking a video in the aircraft landing in the Hudson river can be helpful to air investigators but showing a camera and microphone into the face of people just having suffered some great loss is just indecent.

Gwil W said...

I like the photograph of the flower now at the top of your page.

There was an unusual case a couple of years ago here in Vienna where a boy fell into a river and drowned and everybody stood around on the bank taking photos with their telephones. Then there was the expected outcry. Where was people's civil courage? Why didn't anybody try to rescue him? And so it went on. But in the end the question remained unanswered.

There are iconic photographs that say more than a proverbial thousand words. But they are in the minority.

Today everybody has a camera in his pocket. And I think it is good so. I have, for example, read of many cases of criminals being caught on camera and video by the actions of quick witted witnesses.

Hopefully in Boston too.

John Going Gently said...

We have sadly been desensitised by these terrible images over the years.....
I remember that terrible shot of the napalmed girl running down The road in Vietnam , that image was instrumental in changing the American public's attitude to the war......

Today would it have the same effect and power?
Who knows.....

Gwil W said...

As you say, that photo did change attitudes "to the war" but unfortunately it did not change attitudes "to war".

Crafty Green Poet said...

You're right, there are so many horrific photos that we become desensitised. I agree too, that an individual should be allowed to shed tears without someone pushing in to take photos,

Elizabeth said...

Have no real opinion about people's need to record things.
There have always been 'rubberneckers' at tragedies --public hangings, road accidents etc --they now all have cell phones attached to take photos
so we are neither worse nor better.

What I'm really disgusted about this morning is Congress's refusal to impose background checks on gun purchasers. How mean of us to deny the rights of the criminally insane .....
All about money of course.....
Have a good day!

Heather said...

I suppose it is a case of 'seeing is believing'. However, the press seem to revel in disaster and their zeal in presenting it to us ad infinitum possibly desensitises us and does more harm than good. There must be a way of informing us of events while achieving maximum public response to help those in such dire need of comfort and assistance.

angryparsnip said...

I think as @John Gray said, we have been desensitized. But I think we need to seen what happen not just the same news over and over again.

For me what gets me is all the news channels "Naming" of the tragedy. The Boston bombing has it own heading with photo background... it is the "Twin Bombings" "Terror at Waco"
Just like a movie hook. Awful.

In the US all hysterical news of North Korea and their idiot leader.
How everyone in Japan and Korea are
living in terror.... well my family lives in Japan (friends in Korea) and no one is in hysterics, yes the government is alerted but no doom or gloom. No running screaming in the street. This is what North Korea does.
But in America it is high alert blah blah blah. Terror in Japan !
Yes, I am glad we have Guam and the Aleutian Island on alert but please report the news don't make it up, spin it or add to it.

Great post today.
cheers, parsnip

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

I think that photos can help situations and bring attention where it is needed. But senseless sensationalism - and the US media is rampant with it, they only want viewers, not results - is useless and hurtful. Let's have truth in photos - how about innocent women and children being gunned down by the US in the last two Fake Wars - wars started for no other reason than to make money for the ex-president's buddies and cronies - and of course the ex president made millions off the war for his own companies. How about that? Show what horrors we as Americans do - and all in the name of money - that might help to stop the crimes we commit for money. We are a shameful people.

Rachel Phillips said...

Too much information. Sometimes it is possible in a blog post to give too much information too.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thank you for joining in the debate.
I do like it when I find a subject which gets people talking - and I seem to have done so this time.

MorningAJ said...

Years ago I remember my mother complaining about what was in her newspaper. I suggested that she could buy a different one. She was horrified.

If people didn't buy the newspapers or watch the TV, the reporters wouldn't cover the topics they do.