“I would like less news…” Five simple words in a Tweet from the crime writer Linwood Barclay and a very polite plea indeed (well, he is Canadian after all).
Barclay is unlikely to be granted his simple wish, made in the aftermath of Nice and everything else; Munich and everything else; and, well, just everything else.
It is hard not to agree lately. Some days you wake up to hear news of a tragedy in which masses of innocent people have died. And you think how awful that is. Then you realise that this isn’t the familiar tragedy from yesterday. No, it’s a whole new tragedy. And for a moment your brain whirs and stutters. How much more of this can you take; how much more can the world take?
As if to illustrate the seemingly bottomless enormity of the news, I had this idea late last night, and found Barclay’s Tweet (which he had mentioned in Harrogate last Friday, raising a sigh of recognition from the audience). As I prepared to switch off the laptop, the headlines popped up: Japan knife attack leaves 19 dead.
Once again I had been sucked into the vortex of too much news. I have always been a bit of a news addict, wanting to know and to keep up with events. Partly this has been down to my line of work; partly because being informed has always seemed important to me.
But lately I have begun to wonder. Not about whether or not we should stop reporting on the endless cycle of gloomy events. Well not exactly. How could I advocate such a withdrawal from keeping an account of what is happening in the world? But still. The news does seem relentless in its awfulness of late, the tragedies queueing up as if in some sort of gruesome contest to win the bad news cup or something.
As I write the radio burbles dejectedly in the background as the BBC Today programme prods the day’s news. I don’t think I could ever not be connected to the news. I am too deep into the ink and the words and the pictures; too drawn in by the roll of history on the hoof.
But still. There is an awful lot of bad news nowadays and sometimes it seems just so relentless. Does all this news make us better informed; or does it reduce us to being impotent observers having a nervous breakdown on the sofa?
I would certainly like less news of terrible terrorist incidents inflicted on the innocent by those unhinged by a perverse version of religion. Will the demented likes of Isis be the end of us all; or will the rest of the world, the mostly decent majority, find a way to deal with this problem without making matters tragically worse?
I would like less news about many things. But most of all I would like less news about Donald Trump. His dark-hued vision to the Republican convention in Cleveland last week touched on the “too much news” vein, but only in an obscenely manipulative manner.
He ranted about the general growing fear of violence – a fear he has helped to stir up for his own ends, and never mind statistics that say he is wrong – and then made an astonishing claim.
He promised that violence would end and safety would be restored overnight simply by electing him as president. A statement so boastful, vain and idiotic that you wondered if you had heard properly. No details, of course; no explanation of how this would happen: just a bald statement that it would happen.
Yes, I would like less news about Donald Trump. And I pray we never get the awful news that he has been elected president. That really would be an excuse to go and hide in a cave somewhere.
I’d like less news too about Sir Philip Bloody Green, knighted by the Tories and now an embarrassment all round. And how odd that the Daily Mail should bang on about “Sir Shifty” while generally upholding the cut-throat capitalism he represents. And it is rich for Theresa May to plead for responsible capitalism when her party has historically been in thrall to whatever form of capitalism works.
But still. To end here is some good news. The Solar Impulse aircraft has just completed the first round-the-world solar-powered flight. How great is that. For once man’s ingenuity is being used to a good and higher purpose. A small step but a big one too. I’d like more news like that, please.