Polarizing Adjectives

I did an experiment once and bought two newspapers from cities over 100 miles apart, one very left leaning and one very right leaning then looked at stories that they published from the wire, i.e from a national reporting agency and only edited for the local paper. On almost every one of them you would think you were reading about two completely different happenings even though the original writing came from the exact same source.

It’s in the details that were thought relevant to the story and the subjective adjectives used to polarize the story in one direction or the other.

Say one of the stories involved a person who was high and had been out of work for 6 months committing a crime. One paper would say that he was on drugs and imply that’s why he committed the crime, but not mention that he had been out of work and the other would highlight the fact that he had been out of work and imply that he was desperate to feed his family, but not mentioning that he apparently had the money for drugs.

On adjectives, there are some that are objective … it was a “red” car, a “glass” bottle, things like that. Then you have the subjective adjectives … they were “needlessly” loud, it was an “outrageous” situation. Objective adjectives are simply facts, with no emotional bias one way or the other. Subjective adjectives arise from the beliefs of the writer and/or editor. Others leave a question open, such as my saying “that he ‘apparently’ had the money for drugs.” Which says that it looks like this is the case, but we’re not sure.

Then you have the purely economic fact that, like it or not, people are more interested in bad things happening than good and so news agencies give far more weight to negative and conflict laden stories and even create them if they weren’t bad enough to begin with. That’s what drives the ratings and that is what drives the profits. It is their JOB to make things sound as bad and divisive as possible and pound on them day after day.

In the online population it’s the comment trolls that perform that function. Gotta get those talking points out there. Anyone who disagrees with what they say is obviously a _______— (fill in the blank). They like trouble. They love feeling holier than thou by pointing out the evil in their opponents, regardless of any facts to the contrary.

It’s also interesting to see what I get called when I write something like this in comments. Depending on the audience and the comment it is in response to, (if any) I am just as likely to be called a “libtard” as a “winger” or other equivalent insults. I’m always curious to see what, if any, response it gets. It usually gives me a good chuckle.

Report This Post