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The [Friday] Papers

Let's talk about the importance of language. It may seem like it goes without saying that journalists should choose their words carefully, but the evidence is before us every day that the news business is rampant with careless usage, and prone to the manipulations of others' agenda-driven language choices to frame - and often constrain - public discourse. (See, for example, Frank Luntz).

Journalists also often lazily fall back on what I call journalese, the handy cliches, frames and narratives used to avoid the effort involved in more thoughtful coverage that more closely aligns with reality. Instead, we get political consultant-speak like "investments" for spending and "revenues" for taxing.

I bring this up today - well, I bring it up a lot, but I bring it up today in particular because of some of the posts featured on the site right now.

In the Books section, I picked up a piece from The Conversation on how "warspeak" permeates our everyday language. Now, when I first saw this piece I thought it might be a bunch of hippy-dippy nonsense concluding with a call for us all to simply put good vibes into the universe to solve all our problems. It's nothing of the sort. It's a well-written, well-argued article that shows just how much - way more than you realize - of our language uses the terms of war, and how that impacts our discussions.

In the Politics section, I picked up a piece from Common Dreams on something that has bugged me for a long time: the way the media, at the behest of politicians like, say, Rahm Emanuel, use the terms "moderate" and "centrist."

To wit:

"Centrist" implies that the positions held by Democrats who tow the corporate line are mainstream, whereas progressives, who advance the interests of the vast majority of the electorate, are depicted as "far left." Issue polls, however, reveal that it is the progressive agenda that is decidedly mainstream.

A poll taken last year revealed that, prior to this year's health insurance/pharmaceutical industry propaganda campaign, 70% of all Americans, including 52% of Republicans and 84% of Democrats, supported Medicare for All. A separate 2018 poll revealed more than eight in 10 Americans - 81% - supported a Green New Deal. A whopping 82% of Americans want the federal government to negotiate lower prescription drug prices.

"Moderate" conveys the deceptive notion that those who tow the corporate line are being reasonable, whereas those who aspire to achieve the progressive agenda are - at best - utopian dreamers. The "moderate" descriptor is also used to depict corporatist politicians as "realists." This, in turn, positions the "realist" to derisively dismiss immensely popular progressive policies as unattainable "pie-in-the-sky."

Now, I'm not sure I would use "corporatist" in place of "moderate" and "centrist" - though I'm not saying I wouldn't. Maybe what we're really measuring, though, is how much change a candidate wants: "moderates" want a little change - you could argue a "moderate" amount, and therefore the term is correct. However, the way "moderate" is used, as the Common Dreams writer notes, is not only as a way to describe political positioning but temperament. Moderates, however, can be just as zealous, ideological and downright nuts as anyone else. For example, "moderates" essentially represent the status quo. I would argue, along with virtually the rest of America, that the status quo is, well, nuts. Take our current health care system, for example. No, really, take it. And flush it in the ocean. Guns, the same. And climate change? How "moderate," when taken to mean "reasonable," is it that we're not only doing nothing about our immolation of the planet but actually going backward? If allowing civilization to kill itself off is "realistic," I wanna be crazy.

"Realistic," of course, is a political synonym for "cynical." It means, "Come on, people are too greedy and corrupt to really believe in using public policy to impose doing the right thing." Except when it comes to, say, the behavior of the poor. Then the wealthy and powerful impose all the "morality" they want.

Those arguing for "realism," of course, just want to keep their schemes and scams going, be it the idea that it takes "grease" to make government's wheels turn or the highly disingenuous argument that corporations are people with free speech rights that include virtually unlimited campaign contributions.

We're quite familiar with these kinds of arguments in Chicago, like, say, when even some "reformers" defended patronage (in the form of party merging with government) because it allegedly resulted in more efficient garbage pick-up, despite thousands of municipalities the world over that proved otherwise.

When I first came to Chicago in 1992, I quickly learned the nomenclature, including the term "goo-goo," a derisive term for someone who believed in "good government." I was baffled: Who isn't for good government? Ohhhh, Chicago isn't!

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A ton has been written on this topic with far more depth and eloquence than here, but it's my way of providing a little introduction to those pieces on the site today - and to remind you to think about the words you see used in the news. And think about how a subject is framed - for example, is a policy choice described as two narrow competing choices, or a wider array of possibilities? Is one choice conveyed as "utopian" or "catastrophic" in order to promote the "reasonable" option? How do the word choices reflect the viewpoint of the reporter (and/or the editor), and/or the of the news subject? Is the reporter (and/or editor) adopting the language of those being covered, or using clear, truth-telling language?

As I've written before, Alex Jones is right about one thing: There is a war going on for your mind. (And if you read the "warspeak" piece, you'll see the irony of me using that line.) Journalists unwittingly - or not - contribute to that war far too often, instead of sidestepping it and/or settling it. Journalists too often "report" using the frames, language and even values of those they cover, instead of maintaining the values of their own profession to observe the actions of others. And by and large, they're not really interested in changing, so it's up to you to mentally defend your mindspace and pierce the madness to find the truth.

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New on the Beachwood . . .

All My Happiness Is Gone
Friends are warmer than gold when you're old
And keeping them is harder than you might suppose
Lately, I tend to make strangers wherever I go
Some of them were once people I was happy to know

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The Ex-Cub Factor
From Jake Fox's fashion line to Crimson Tide's Scotty.

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Stop Using The Terms 'Centrists' And 'Moderates'
Deceitful conceits.

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Why Everyday 'Warspeak' Matters
We're all in the trenches now, and most of us don't even know it.

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TV's Heart Attack Problem
'What kind of person do you imagine having a heart attack? Is it a middle-aged white businessman clutching his chest? That can have serious consequences.'

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Beverage Category Ripe With Opportunity
'Understand path to purchase, uncover unmet needs and develop and grow beverage strategies.'

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24 Hours With The Game Show Network
Family feuds, mommy mayhem, card sharps and animal trainers.

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ChicagoReddit

Divvy gets you closer from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

View this post on Instagram

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A post shared by @ sketchhousepress on

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ChicagoTube

The Canoise - Something I Could Do b/w Born In Chicago - 45 Single.

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BeachBook

Weeping Girl Left Abandoned By ICE Pleads With 'Government' To 'Let My Parents Be Free.'

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Revealed: How Monsanto's 'Intelligence Center' Targeted Journalists And Activists.

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Ethics & Organizational Culture.

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TweetWood
A sampling.

Because no victims at the hospital wanted to meet with them.

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The Beachwood McRibTipLine: Civility not required.



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Posted on August 9, 2019


MUSIC - Coming Music Movie Attractions.
TV - 24 Hours With The Game Show Network.
POLITICS - The Importance Of The 1619 Project.
SPORTS - The Ex-Cub Factor.

BOOKS - The GOP's Favorite Serial Killer.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Tribune Tower's Luxury Living.


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