Friday, March 8, 2013

The Violent Language of Journalism

I'm out having a cup of coffee and just spotted this headline in the Greenville News but it could have been any paper in the U.S. It reminded me of one of my peeves.

What's with journalists' reliance on violent terminology to describe mundane political events? In the world of journalism, politicians do not criticize one another, they "attack" their opponent. When the person criticized, I mean attacked, responds, they are not said to respond. No, too bland. They "fire back". In this headline, Senator Rand Paul's comments were not criticized. They did not draw a response. They drew "fire". Horrors. On the Senate floor? Was anyone hurt?

I'm sure I'll think of others, but here is a starter list:
  • Political battles
  • War on Women
  • Fired at
  • Returned fire
  • Attack ads

Evidently, the world of politics is a violent place, at least it is in the minds of reporters and editors. But they will also write the occasional editorial decrying the negative tone of political discussion and calling for civility. I'll hold my fire.

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4-11-2017 Update: A United Airlines passenger this week was dragged off a plane prior to takeoff because he refused to vacate an overbooked plane when instructed to do so. Normally, this might not attract much attention but another passenger caught it on video and posted it online on Social Media. It got a lot of attention but no self-respecting reporter would ever write something as benign as "it was shared and heavily criticized on social Media." No, in journalist-speak when someone is criticized online in a series of Tweets and Facebook postings, that is said to be "a firestorm". To firefighters, a firestorm is "an intense and destructive fire (typically one caused by bombing) in which strong currents of air are drawn into the blaze, making it burn more fiercely." To journalists, a firestorm can be a series of critical social media comments, interactions, and shares.