Saturday, 26 March 2011

Emotive Language

I am sitting at my computer; I have been since 5.30 a.m., listening to BBC Radio 4, thanks to a neat widget, while scanning the papers online or staring down the road opposite that leads the eye out to sea.

So the scene is established.

To the point: I just heard a review of the papers on This Morning, Radio 4's news programme 6 - 9 a.m., where the newscaster read a piece from The Independent, to whit:

'Stray cats provide a flicker of movement as they wander in the newly emptied landscape.'

'The brooding presence of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant…' [My emphases]

Now, apart from the obvious clich├ęd use of brooding to describe the presence of the power plant, what role do cats have in a factual report on the real dangers of a damaged nuclear reactor whether they flicker or not across an emptied landscape?

It requires no poet to understand the desire of the author to employ such descriptions but to what extent do they detract from his intention? The truth of the horror that has engulfed Japan requires no embellishment and it is only an inflated ego that looks to add his or her paint strokes. Or, do we readers need such hyperbole to colour our jaded palettes?

Journalism has been described as the art of painting a picture (at some point these metaphors must end) but at what point does the personal image interfere with the facts as presented?  As a student of Literary Criticism, I understand that text is all; i.e. it is impossible to remove one's self from a scene, in other words,  you, all the components that make you, will interpret a situation singularly and the language you use to describe it will never fully encompass your thought or motivation. So the idea of wilful artfulness, the desire to manipulate language to a purpose is usually pursued for one's own ends rather than as an exposition of what is presented. One is far too conscious of self to be objectively involved in the other.

Of course, there are people we read precisely because we are more interested in their opinion than their reporting; however, when it comes to news, i.e. the facts of a situation, I prefer the reporter to disappear insofar as it is possible.