I usually enjoy Alex Pareene's columns, he seems to be a true Ravingleftatic. Today he commented on an article in Politico that was written terribly. It reminded me of two articles I reviewed here based on their terrible writing/and or journalism. It's fun and easy to pick out terribly written articles on all the major news aggregators, but I'd like to comment on a thought I had after reading Pareene's diatribe.
I'm an amateur writer, clearly. And I've noticed it in my own writing. If I know I have to write a piece for submission somewhere, I unintentionally beef up the "sound byte" text. You know the stuff that you expect to see in articles, and hear on TV? Pareene quoted a good example:
"Rival Democratic and Republican jobs bills failed in the Senate on Thursday, the latest sign of the partisan gridlock gripping Washington as Americans look for relief from high unemployment and a sagging economy."
Let's parse this:
Fact: Rival Democratic and Republican jobs bills failed in the Senate on Thursday
Filler: the latest sign of the partisan gridlock gripping Washington as Americans look for relief from high unemployment and a sagging economy
Now it turns out, says Pareene that even the Fact portion of that statement is incorrect. But look at that vomitous, regurgitated, claptrap in the second half of the sentence. If I didn't have much to say, and I had to submit an article, I'd use terms like "partisan gridlock," "plagueing America," "the Washington Elite," feeling up a "sagging economy," supported by "the tax payers." This is careless, terrible writing. And that is the subject of this post: there is an urge in all of us to regurgitate that which we think our audience expects to hear. Even if we don't believe it, or agree with it.
Next time you watch a comedy, and that comedy shows a news broadcast, listen to the words the writers have chosen, (not the content, the words, the phrases) they're all chosen because we've been trained to know "newspeak." All we need to hear are certain key phrases and we go on point like a dog guarding the house. Our brain's instantly say, "this must be news," "this must be true," "Who can I tell?"
But our audiences aren't dumb, even when we treat them that way. And reading such terms in an article that purports to report and not opine, are misleading. It assumes facts! Already in that article, we are told without getting a chance to argue that partisan gridlock is real, it's bad, and that it's equally spread across the entirety of the political scene. Reinforcement of these Fauxnorms is dangerous in a highly contested political climate such as ours. It's a bit like the old joke: "Do you still beat your wife?"