I believe the English language is being destroyed by superlative adjectives. When I was young, pretty much everything you wore or ate could be described as small, medium or large. With the popularity of fast food restaurants (thank you very much?) we now have extra large, 2X and 3X in our clothing sizes. But those restaurants have even taken this to a higher level…we now can order SUPER-SIZED! Extra large just doesn’t cut it anymore, its got to be super-sized. How about that Big Gulp?
Another item I have noticed about the destruction of the English language is how we differentiate our celebrities. During my youth, we had movie stars and television stars. That’s what they were called and that’s what they were. But now, if someone is being referred to as just a movie star, they are being denigrated. You have to be a SUPER STAR or you ain’t diddly by the standards of today. Other terms I have heard to describe celebrity performers are A Lister or Uber Star. A Lister? When I was attending school, I usually had a B+ average. Most people would think that was pretty good but do you think any celebrity would be referred to as B+ lister? Uber? Isn’t that German? It’s not even Spanish. What’s with that? Isn’t there a cab company called Uber? Are all the drivers German?
But now that the political campaigning season is underway, the media is tripping all over itself to describe the speeches and confrontations of the candidates by manipulating public opinion with their use of superlative adjectives. For all practical purposes and with the media intent, the candidates could all be blaze orange-colored deer prancing through the woods during the start of the hunting season with bulls eye targets conveniently painted over their vital areas. As can be imagined, that scenario would draw lots of fire. (See the October 2015 blog on Do You Trust the Media? for further information}
A few weeks ago, Donald Trump appeared for a campaign speech in Pensacola, Florida. The microphone did not work properly, so here are the headlines that the media chose to describe this occurance:
“Trump attacks his ‘stupid’ microphone in epic rant”, and
“Donald Trump freaks out over his microphone”
Admittedly, I did not watch this speech. I did, however, see these headlines from two different news sources on the internet the next morning. I was appalled. Did Trump really have a meltdown? Then my local newspaper arrived. The event was close enough geographically to the newspaper offices for them to send reporters. Can you guess what was reported about the ‘epic rant’ and the ‘freak out’ by journalists that were actually in attendance? Not much. They reported about the issues that Trump talked about and the audience response to the issues. It was positive. What the reporters did relate was that there was a microphone issue and that Trump was bantering about “firing the person responsible” and “not paying the company that was responsible” You will be glad to learn that no one was fired and the responsible company did get paid. It was classic Trump and part of his mantra of not tolerating substandard employee performance, especially government employees if he were elected POTUS. (Remember his TV show, The Apprentice? Same reaction, You’re Fired!, different format.} Out of curiosity, I found the parts of this speech concerning the microphone on Utube. There were three short snips of his comments about the microphone in a speech that was almost two hours long. I particularly watched the audience reaction to determine if he was indeed having a meltdown. He wasn’t and the audience was eating it up. It was quite amusing and certainly did not warrant the above mentioned headlines. The media made a deliberate effort to bury the issues of his speech and to exaggerate his delivery and demeanor.
Here are three more story headlines that appeared on the internet:
“Trump’s Staggering Remark about Iran” “Cruz slams Trump after Explosive Assault on Twitter” “Donald Trump goes Ballistic on Cruz, Invokes 9/11”
Here is the amazing thing about these headlines. They all appeared on the same popular news site on the same day! Look at the descriptive words being used to affect public opinion: ‘staggering remark,’ ‘slams,’ ‘explosive assault,’ ‘goes ballistic.’ This is not the way journalism reported when I was growing up. This is a political campaign, but if you look at just the descriptive words you would think we have begun World War III!
I know most of this piece has been about Donald Trump and for good reason. He appears to be the Republican front runner at the present time. As a result, he is being attacked by his fellow Republican candidates that want to destroy his lead in the polls. He is being attacked by the Democratic candidates. And….most importantly, he is being attacked by the liberal media.
So, in the interest of fairness and impartiality, here are two headlines that appeared on January 19:
“Cruz slings insult directly at Trump for the first time” “Republican Party Dumps NBC for CNN for Super Tuesday Debate”
I guess it just wouldn’t be the same if the first headline read, “Cruz responds directly to Trump for the first time.” How about, “Republican Party Selects CNN for Super Tuesday Debate.” Did I convey the same message with a greatly toned-down rhetoric?
How about this headline, “Bush spars with Trump supporter over foreign policy.” Spars? Isn’t sparring a boxing practice used to get ready for a big match? Was Bush actually boxing with a Trump supporter? Of course he wasn’t, but apparently when it comes to politics, the media is all about aggression and aggressive descriptions.
This type of reporting is not an exclusivity of the Republican party. The media likes to give their licks to the Democrats as described with these two headlines:
“White House fires back at Palin after Obama Attack.” Did they shoot her? Did she conduct a military operation or use ninjas to attack Obama? Could this not have read, “White House responds to Palin’s comments about Obama.” Just saying, this is the way it would have been reported 50 years ago.
Here is another one: “Clinton delivers brutal criticism of Sanders’ abilities.” Take out the word brutal and the headline still delivers the same message.
I apologize for not having more Democratic examples, but they only have two viable candidates versus a platoon of Republican candidates.
Here is one of my biggest pet peeves. It has been a pet peeve of mine for about 30 years. It is the political candidate that says, “If you elect me…..I will fight for you” Fight for me? Doesn’t that statement imply we have enemies even though we are all Americans? Is this the reason we don’t get diddly-squat done in Washington? I want my representatives to communicate, debate, identify and compromise on what is for the good of our country. Leave the fighting to the Department of Defense.
So here is the Grandpa T common sense opinion of what we can expect in the immediate future:
Firstly, it is only January and we have too many months to go before the election. We will hear more and more of this type of rhetoric until we finally become numb to it, as most of the population has done already. Additionally, it has become commonplace to use all these exaggerated superlatives by the younger generations. If my grandkids ask me how I am feeling, and I reply ‘good,’ they are concerned I am dying because I didn’t reply that I was ‘great.’ Trust me when I say that the baby boomers were brought up in a more civilized era of reporting with far less super-sized adjectives.
Secondly, Trump has become the principle blaze orange deer prancing through the woods because he is the perceived front runner, much to the chagrin of too many people. He will remain the biggest and brightest target until he either wins the election or gets dethroned as the perceived Republican leader. I am convinced that if Abraham Lincoln was the conservative front runner in this fall’s election, he would be treated the same. That is the way politics has evolved in America.
Thirdly, the media is not going to change or let up on their form of rhetoric and opinionated, false reporting. They will continue it to sell advertising and to express their opinions in the most dynamic rhetoric possible. What has changed is their beliefs and efforts to tell the truth. As the saying goes, ‘don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.’ And they haven’t as witnessed by my example of Donald Trump’s Pensacola speech. Relating the truth played a very small part of what was reported.
So here it is readers. Most media sources think that the average American is too ignorant to separate the chaff from the buckwheat when it comes to political issues and political candidates. Prove them wrong! Do not let the rhetoric get in the way of the truth. Don’t make your political decisions because of the way you ‘feel’. That is what the media is hoping for as a way to destroy your objectivity. That is how they bias your opinion with the use of superlative adjectives. Do research. Get facts. Make sound decisions and ask pertinent questions before voting. The future of our country depends on it.