Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sleight of Hand

Though this blog exhibits little political commentary, manipulation of language in the media is an issue felt strongly about by me. It is said that writers (myself included) have the capacity for twisting language to express their points; and it is essential that the general public be aware of how they’re being coerced to believe one truth over another. With that goal in mind, we may better incorporate more high-quality verisimilitude. This is the fourth sentence of the first paragraph.

A particularly blatant instance was observed by me in David Frum’s article Wall Street Didn’t Cause Crash of ’08. I suggest this be given at least a light skimming before proceeding further. (Pauses in hopes that readers are actually inclined to read the article, even though they probably won’t.) I won’t discuss Frum’s main point; I’m interested in how he provokes the reader to accept his own hypothesis over other theories explaining the crash.

Scroll down to the fourth paragraph. (Pauses again with the objective that this will actually be done by the reader.) Here, Frum addresses a common explanation for excessive American debt before the crash:

Some like to tell a story of irresponsibility: We borrowed too much because we were self-involved yuppies who just could not deny ourselves the latest flat-screen doodad for our McMansions.

He opens with the phrase: “Some like to tell a story;” which strongly implies both the uncertainty and incredulity of what follows. This explanation thus becomes a kind of mythic folklore lacking legitimate grounds. And Frum goes on to use goofy, exaggerated language that distances the reader from that very legend. “Flat-screen doodad” evokes a ridiculous, wasteful image of the modern technology enjoyed by millions of Americans, while “McMansions” creates a cartoonish, materialistic view of middle-class suburbs. “Yuppie” is another loaded word used chiefly to portray Americans as greedy; and as if this weren’t negative enough, Frum intensifies it by utilizing “self-involved” as a modifier. All this hyperbole in a single sentence; and nothing in the article comes close to matching it. As if that weren’t enough, he follows by admitting that “Maybe that describes some people.” Thus, he acknowledges that some Americans were irresponsible while simultaneously discouraging the reader from accepting this hypothesis as truth. Now, cut to a thoughtful, easy-to-read, statistic-filled explanation for why the crash really happened, and Frum’s illusion is complete.

It’s silly to adhere to the belief that only one factor caused the ’08 crash. To truly understand it, one must consider hundreds of different phenomena, not blindly accept one bipartisan explanation. Whenever you read—especially news articles—be wary of which facts writers want you to ignore to give their own opinion more credibility. I direct interested readers toward [The following link leads to an nonsecure website. It has been blocked by the Erochikan Quality Control Team and the blogger issued a warning] for more info. I also hope it’s clear that the blockquote is part of paragraph three; otherwise I could be in trouble again. Itterasshai.

No comments: