Monday, September 10, 2007

So Called Reporters

Here is a fun way to waste time while reading news reports: Count the number of times that you hear reporters using the term "so called" in reference to any actions taken by the Administration. In a forty minute scan of CSPAN, CNN and MSNBC, I heard the term "so call surge" about a dozen times.

What the reporters are doing is employing a propaganda technique called "purr words and snarl words." The point of purr words and snarl words is not to state one's opinions clearly or honestly, it is to attack one's enemies at a subliminal level.

The technique is not about strongly worded statements in open discourse. Purr words and snarl words is a technique for subtly injecting opinion into what should be objective reporting.

I do have some sympathy for those who use "so called" to modify the term "War on Terror." The name "War on Terror" is somewhat propagandist itself. Modifying the name "War on Terror" with the snarl word "so called" can be seen as an ironic attempt to express one's disapproval of propagandist techniques.

This game of calling the Troop Surge a "So Called Troop Surge" is a bit idiotic as the word troop surge is an accurate description of an increase in troops.

What people should do in response is to take down the names of all the reporters who use the term "so called surge" and start referring to them as "So Called Reporters."

For example, we could say "The So Called Reporter Anderson Cooper is reporting tonight on the failure of ..."

Please note. I am not attacking AC's journalistic qualifications. I am simply mentioning that he over uses the snarl word "so called."

If a lot of people started referring to these folks as "So Called Reporters" there little tiny egos would self destruct, and maybe in some distant future we could have reporters who value objectivity over spin.

10 comments:

Justin said...

They're referring to it as the "so-called troop surge" because it has never officially been called a "troop surge" by the Bush Administration, but that's the word everybody else has always used.

The propagandistic title that President Bush gave to this operation back in January was "The New Way Forward." Nobody appears to have bought that line.

If George W. Bush called it a "troop surge" then the press could call it a "troop surge" without any need for qualifiers.

y-intercept said...

I would buy that, except for the unfrotunate fact that just about every government operation has a silly operational name.

I checked speeches from Bush (June 14 Radio Address). Bush uses the term "the surge."


Gen. David Petraeus (known to the left as General Betray-Us) uses the words "the surge" consistently in his reports (PDF).

The US does not have a Department of Language; However, the fact that both the President of the United States and the person in charge of the operation use the words "the surge" seems to indicate approval of the term.

I would say the only reason that left leaning reporters are using the term "The So Called Surge" is for anti-Bush propaganda purposes.

As for the operational name. It appears that Bush used the name "The New Way Forward in Iraq" when the idea was first put together as a proposal. Later addresses are using the operational name "The Way Forward in Iraq." You can see this evolution of the name in Bush's radio addresses.

Your justification for using the snarl word would only make sense if the US had an official department of names, and if the administration itself was not regularly using the term "the surge."

The so called reporters who are playing the purr word snarl word game are doing so because they themselves are propagandists.

Democracy Lover said...

Unfortunately the media are not good propagandists - at least they are not original propagandists. They generally spew forth the propaganda handed them by the "official sources". Now and then we get a concession to reality with the use of the words "so-called", but that is only when the misuse of the English language by the White House is so egregious that even a dutiful sycophant finds it repulsive.

Pick any story in the major media and you will find the overuse of the words "official sources". Why is this? We would all agree that reporters should be able to protect their sources when revealing them will expose them to reprisals or worse. Why should they use only anonymous sources when they are talking to government officials who are intentionally talking to the media on orders from their superiors? Where are the investigations about whether the "official source" is telling the truth? Why is it that after getting incorrect information for years from an official source, the media goes right on printing stories based solely on that source?

I would appreciate reporters who did their jobs and told us which "official sources" are telling the truth and which are lying and what their damned names are! Until then, we have a press that is biased - toward "official sources" and those sources are not liberal.

y-intercept said...

The press is far better at propaganda than you think. Purr word/snarl word attacks are often the most effective forms of propaganda. A newspaper that precedes all Republicans with the modifier "conservative" while using no modifier for the liberals can turn public opinion. Conversely, a paper that preceded all Democrats with the label "liberal" while using no modifier for the Republicans would turn the election in the opposite direction.

You do have a good point about Bush's propaganda. Conservatives seem to like their propaganda overt, while progressive prefer it to be subliminal.

Democracy Lover said...

You realize of course, that all of us on the left find that all the mainstream media is skewed somewhere between center-right and far-right. There are no mainstream national media that represent leftist viewpoints. Our media is strictly in it for the money and that is not subscriber money or viewer money, it is advertiser money. They present the news, analysis (if they bother to do it) and opinion that the advertisers want to hear.

y-intercept said...

The right has the same view. If you ever looked at what is taught in journalism school, you would realize that reporters lean way to the left.

The difference between the left and right is that the right likes its information clearly stated. The left likes it dished out subtlely. This leads to the bizarre situation where rightwing propaganda is generally overt and easy to detect, while the lefty stuff is pretty much underhanded crap like projection, logical fallacies and paradox.

Democracy Lover said...

While most journalists may be liberal in their personal views, they work for conservative publishers and editors, and journalism school teaches them to be "objective" and not favor either side even when they know one side is lying.

I would rephrase your last paragraph. The right likes simple solutions and simple catch phrases that make people think all problems are simple, black and white choices. The left prefers to examine problems critically and often discovers they are complex and do not lend themselves to simple solutions and catch phrases that play well with focus groups. That's why right-wing propaganda is readily accepted by the uninformed.

y-intercept said...

Come on. The left is the one that is looking for the simple naive solution to all problems. The left has the illusion that you can solve problems through paradox. The Dialectics uber alles. The solutions are tired and predictible:

MAKE GOVERNMENT BIGGER.

RESTRICT THE ABILITIY OF THE INDIVIDUAL TO ACT.

SURRENDER CULTURE TO A GROUP OF ELITES

The Dialectics is like heroine for intellectuals. Because you have paradox at the foundation of reason, you feel that you are so all mighty, powerful and balanced. The predictible end result of this paradoxical thinking is a society that is extremely unbalanced and factured.

The reason that folks on the right prefer clear statements is not that they are simpletons. (Well, there are some who are simpletons).

The reason the intellectuals on the right prefer simple declarative statements is that clear and verifiable.

Once you have clear declarative statements you can start using those statements to build extremely complex and very subtle analytic model.

You can tear down analytic models with dialectics. However you can't build anything with it. Dialecticians can put forward an illusion that paradise on earth will sprout forth from the Killing Fields of the revolution. You can hold the illusion that we will be in a state of bliss once health care is nationalized. However, the dialectician can never achieve that bliss because the foundations of all their little self-contradictory statements is rotten.

Before the revolution, society is in crisis. After the revolution, society is in crisis. So dispite the fact that the smarmy pre-revolution intellectuals promised a paradise, what happens in the post revolution times is simply a dictatorship.

The Dialectics is extremely seductive. It makes you feel that you are the smartest person on the planet. The pat system of simple declarative statements prefered by the Right appears simplistic. But you can build on it, and you can right the wrongs that occur in society. Ultimately, it ends up having greater depth, while Dialectics will predictibly implode into a nihilism.

Democracy Lover said...

I don't know where you learned all this dialectic stuff, but I've been a lefty for decades and have never heard any of this except from you.

I think you are imagining that the progressive left in the US conforms to some academic idea you picked up somewhere. It does not. Even your ALL CAPS high points are not accurate. Perhaps your ideological stance is blinding you to the truth of the progressive position on the issues.

y-intercept said...

Marx's foundational method was called The Material Dialectics.

Odd, that you've been a lefty for decades and never bothered to learn the foundations of your belief system.

Of course, in Marxism, only the inner core of the party uses the dialectics, you then have a layer of brownshirts who propagate the propaganda.