Is Charles Manson getting out in 2012? Absolutely!

Today on the public radio, I heard PRI’s Matthew Bell pose a question for the program The World. “Is President Bush underrated?” His verdict: “Absolutely!” Well the answer wasn’t Bell’s, actually. But the attribution fell outside the sound bite: Bell went on to say: “At least that’s what President Bush believes.”

Now, did the story go on to be about Bush’s delusion? Or his weeble-wobbleness, take your pick? No. It was about whether Bush had been the worst president in the last 50 years. There followed some arguments:

Historians will judge Bush to have been right, etc, etc. “According to Bill Kristol.” Again the attribution was not prefaced, but footnoted. Nor was Kristol disclosed to have been a close friend and Neocon mentor. Etc.

Contrary opinions on the other hand, were introduced oppositely, by citing the source of the voice before the quote. To my ears, this has the effect of dampening the listener’s receptivity to an argument. It muddies the ear-waves to foil a pithy phrase. When you have no intention to deliver a clear sound-bite.

You tell me which grammar communicates the most vitality:

“It’s ALIVE!” says mad scientist and Island proprietor Dr. Moreau.

(or)

Avowed antagonist and legend in-his-own-mind Dr. Moreau says “It’s ALIVE!”

This technique resembles the leeway newspapers have with their headlines. Most readers won’t go past the headline, or read bellow the fold, so a newspaper can take liberties with the headline when there’s an editorial slant to deliver, warranted or not.

The newspaper business was founded for that advantage, and ownership consolidation continues with the mass media, precisely to consolidate that power.

I believe an extreme example of this unscrupulous literary device is the retraction. Newspaper publishers know they can print a falsehood, or an oversimplification, and run a correction in a later issue. Their audience for the former is a hundred fold larger than for the latter.

That’s what I think the public radio hooligans are doing with their manipulative grammar.

Here, I’ll compose an example they can use for Bernie Madoff:

Has Bernie Madoff earned our forgiveness? Absolutely.

At least that’s what Bernie Madoff believes.

Historians will ultimately look favorably at Madoff’s actions.

According to Mistress X, nephew Z, his friends and supporters.

[But] shirtless man, [a critic of Madoff], says Madoff’s scheme to defraud investors will have a lasting impact on… [trailing into complexities which exceed the bound of a sound-bite.]

Ponzi shmonzi. You be the judge.

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Eric Verlo

About Eric Verlo

On sabbatical
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