June 23, 2011

"Wow. Am I crazy, or has the NYT just deployed some powerful new liberal bias technology?"

"I mean, with the 'draws attention to' formulation, Times editors can concoct a lede 'news' story making practically any tendentious ideological connection they want."

The Times wields a rhetorical device — does it have a specific name? — where you exclude human agency not with the passive voice but by making some abstraction the subject of a sentence written in the active voice. [CORRECTION: I mistakenly wrote "passive voice" for "active voice" at the end of that sentence. Sorry for the confusion!]

The headline Mickey Kaus draws attention to is "Sagging Economy Draws Attention to War Spending." In reality, somebody — e.g., Obama, the NYT — is trying to tell us to look at Y instead of X. The headline absurdly infuses the "sagging economy" with the will and the capacity to cause "attention" to be diverted to the subject of war spending.

The word "attention" also drains the headline of human will. The truth is that Obama/the NYT would like people to look at war spending instead of the economy. "Attention" isn't an entity with powers of perception that can be influenced to look at from one thing to another. The economy isn't trying to get attention to flit immediately from the troublesome subject of itself over to the preferred topic of war spending.

Real human beings, with interests and will, are trying to manipulate the minds of other human beings, who also have interests and will. And there's no evidence that the people have turned our attention to the subject the would-be manipulators prefer. In fact, we're still looking at the economy. It's the economy, stupid, a wise man once said. We're not stupid.

86 comments:

ndspinelli said...

You must have forgotten to take your clarity pill this morning.

David Wharton said...

It's an update of the old standby, "questions arise."

Insufficiently Sensitive said...

Ms. Althouse is clear as a bell, and nails the Times righteously. Bravo!

Hagar said...

Isn't "war spending" "stimulus spending"?
Haven't I read loads of books and articles stating that it was WWII that finally p[ulled us out of the "Great Depression"?

Frankns said...

Yes ... it's a very subtle way of following Obama's lead without acknowledging the fact. Obama says: "It's time to focus on nation-building at home." And the Times, abstracts Obama as the speaker and elevates his rhetoric to something like a "truth" that everyone is "having their attention drawn" to think this way. It is slippery ... in a nasty kind of way. It is comforting to those who like the solace of holding a correct opinion, but not much good for people who think.

rhhardin said...

How come things never loom anymore?

gloogle said...

It is of the same cloth as "many believe" or "some say". As a matter of fact, you can make a drinkling game out of it - just do a shot whenever either of these phrases is used on a network news/morning show broadcast.

Who knew Diane Sawyer could get you absolutley shitfaced?

wv: pholease. The precedent to Navidad.

traditionalguy said...

This comes at a time when every story draws attention to self destruction by the insane lying creeps called the Democrat Party.

Maguro said...

This is just a variation of the NYT's tried and true "comes at a time when" formula for redirecting the reader from the story at hand to the conclusion that they would like the reader to draw from that story.

Tuesday's triple machete murder comes at a time when the Republican governor is eviscerating the state social services budget, viciously slashing midnight basketball and puppet theater programs specifically designed help at-risk kids stay out of trouble.

Henry said...

@Hagar -- Touche. Not just "loads of books and articles" but "Paul Krugman."

That is a remarkably idiotic headline. I generally credit The Times with having very good headline writers. The whole point -- the only point -- is to get people to read the article.

You don't need technology to do this. Good headline writers already know who their audience and what will draw them in.

The perfect Times headline is this: "Sagging Economy Draws Attention to Sarah Palin's Unfortunate Existence"

Drew said...

"Unnamed sources in the White House . . ."

Fred4Pres said...

I stopped reading or paying attention to the Times long ago.

Phil 3:14 said...

Point A draws attention to Point B.

(straight line ensues)

Drew said...

Anytime I hear that someone uses the NYTimes as their primary news source, I get a little sad.

garage mahal said...

Goddamm NYT is trying to do what we do every second of the day!

Steve Koch said...

The NYT leads the propaganda division of the Dems. It is no surprise that the NYT is an innovative and skilled propagandist. What is surprising is that so many of our citizens haven't figured this out. Corrupt lefty Journo-listism replaced journalism in the USA decades ago.

It is thrilling to see Chris Matthews attack right wing media orgs as being corrupt liars (presumably Fox News is at the top of Chris's list of news orgs that are lying liars). This may force Fox News to finally attack the journalistic malpractice of the MSM.

It will also be great (some day) to see the craven GOP politicos follow Palin's example and blast the MSM as corrupt lefty propagandists.

The end result of all this mud slinging will be the obliteration of the reputation of news orgs in the USA. Maybe independents will finally understand that MSM in the USA has zero credibility. The net effect politically will be that destroying the MSM credibility will reduce the Dems' propaganda advantage.

ark said...

This may be unnecessarily pedantic, but in what sense is "Sagging Economy Draws Attention to War Spending." in the passive voice? "Draws" is an active verb.

traditionalguy said...

Suppose that a President's Press Secretary had his legal name changed to "Unnamed Sources". That would cover up the source of many a rumor.

m stone said...

It's called indeterminate liberal convenient passive voice.

Lem said...

"Obama's reelection bid draws attention to Afghanistan at a time when dwindling Weiner headlines loom.

Democrats hardest hit.

Jay Vogt said...

Or, the more Soviet version; "As is commonly known . . . ".

Jeeesh, even Pravda has it over the NYT. Although their transitional locution is an introduction to propaganda as well, at least it's more grammatically disciplined.

Henry said...

@ark -- True. It's passive voice by proxy. The sagging economy is swapped in for the real actor who goes unnamed.

It's the equivalent to "In a Sagging Economy Attention is Drawn to War Spending".

Those New York Times headline writers are good!

Shouting Thomas said...

This may force Fox News to finally attack the journalistic malpractice of the MSM.

"Finally?"

You must not be watching O'Reilly!

Sofa King said...

This may be unnecessarily pedantic, but in what sense is "Sagging Economy Draws Attention to War Spending." in the passive voice? "Draws" is an active verb.

That's true. Passive voice would something like, "Attention Drawn to War Spending By Sagging Economy."

Sofa King said...

Either way, more mush from the pimps.

Original Mike said...

"We're not stupid."

If we're not stupid, why are we in such a pickle?

Mick said...

The media also uses the strawman to protect Obama with the Birth Certificate controversy.
The question is whether Obama is a natural born Citizen, not whether he is a "US Citizen" or whether he was "born in Hi.".
Supreme court precedent says that Obama is NOT a natural born Citizen, and not eligible:

Minor v. Happersett (1874):

"The Constitution does not, in words, say who shall be natural-born citizens. Resort must be had elsewhere to ascertain that. At common-law, with the nomenclature of which the framers of the Constitution were familiar, it was never doubted that all children born in a country of parents who were its citizens became themselves, upon their birth, citizens also. These were natives, or natural-born citizens, as distinguished from aliens or foreigners. "

Here, the SCOTUS is describing those that were US Citizens w/o the benefit of the 14 Amendment. These are the Natural Law Citizens of the US as described in Article 2 Section 1, clause 5--- natural born Citizens, i.e the class of citizens that are eligible to be POTUS.
Obama was born British, of a British subject father. If born in Hi. he is American by benefit of the 14th Amendment, but dual allegiance at birth (and maybe still)voids his POTUS eligibility. He is a citizen by way of the 14 Amendment, not natural law.

http://naturalborncitizen.wordpress.com/2011/06/21/us-supreme-court-precedent-states-that-obama-is-not-eligible-to-be-president/

Lem said...

Goddamm NYT is trying to do what we do every second of the day!

This is garage's version of "Who are the most consistently misinformed media viewers? The most consistently misinformed? Fox, Fox viewers, consistently, every poll.."?

What do we do every second of the day.. exactly.

Richard Dolan said...

It's amazing how people continue to be amazed at discovering that the NYT looks at the world through a distinctly lefty lens. Yes they do. It's not that everything in the paper is partisan agitprop, although there is some of that at times. But no one should be surprised when it occasionally shows up, as it did here and will increasingly do so as we move into the '12 election cycle. Not that it will matter much.

Nor are they alone in that. One of the great benefits of the internet is that it frees anyone who wants to be freed from dependence on sources of information like the NYT. A few election cycles ago, the editor of Newsweek famously commented that the tilt of the MSM towards the Dems was worth 10-15% in the polls. No one could credibly make that claim today.

Largo said...

gloogle,
It is worse than that. "Some say..." is weak semantic tea, but one can make sense of it. What we have here is more like "Green ideas sleep furiously."

Ann,
Excellent grammatical fisking. Worthy of Wittgenstein.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Need to Change Subject Draws Attention to Squirrel.

Steve Koch said...

Yeah, I don't watch O'Reilly. O'Reilly isn't a journalist and strikes me as a bombastic, egomaniacal dummy.

Shouting Thomas said...

Yeah, I don't watch O'Reilly. O'Reilly isn't a journalist and strikes me as a bombastic, egomaniacal dummy.

Well, that's why you don't know that Fox News is attack[ing] the journalistic malpractice of the MSM.

Original Mike said...

"Isn't "war spending" "stimulus spending"?"

It's seems like the ultimate "Cash for Clunkers." Build something. Blow it up. Rinse and repeat. Maybe the enemy isn't blowing up enough of our stuff.

Carol_Herman said...

They could have written the same headline in 1969, when the Viet Nam war was zooming along. Who knows if they didn't?

But in 1969 we got Woodstock.

When was the last time the NY Times actually grabbed attention with a headline?

The newpspaer Truman held up that said "DEWEY WON" ... was the Herald Tribune.

You know papers go our of business all the time, don't cha?

When the NY Times finally goes out of business, the Herald Tribune won't be around to report it.

Doesn't mean it can't happen.

We are in an economic sinkhole ... Because it's ZOMBIE ECONOMICS.

Hooked up to an EKG machine ... the tape comes out showing FLAT LINES. No blips. Just like in "NO LIFE." When you have blips ... people are making money, and losing money, on the spikes, and falls.

Now? No one wants to invest!

Can this be fixed? Yup. The turn-around is that you fire government people. And, remove the regulations. Then? There will be people in the gutters, screaming.

It's an outcome based on "TRADING PLACES."

Best lesson for the next president: Do not give your friends government jobs. Do not get our military involved in quagmires in countries where they hate us. Stop wasting money. And, stop, already, by regulating everything.

Think of the money you'd save the American people if you start by eliminating HUD. And, the Department of Education. The EPA. The NLRB. And, then promise the People you'll never hire a single czar.

Lots of politicians know they can work their asses around this. Except when Reagan was President! Then those congressional turkeys feared Reagan would go into their neighborhoods ... And, the next thing the politician would know he'd have to go and fly a kite ... to keep up with his pension and benny's.

Did Anthony Weiner leave yet?

Americans are being played like fools.

While the stupid press thought Sarah Palin going on jury duty, meant she quit.

Didn't Sarah Palin just win another press round?

Phil 3:14 said...

Garage;
Goddamm NYT is trying to do what we do every second of the day!

But aren't they supposed to be better than us

or are you saying the NYT is supposed to be the same as the conversation at the corner bar.

shame, shame, shame

PETER V. BELLA said...

NYT is nothing more than a propaganda machine.

roesch-voltaire said...

Attention drawn to passive NYT headline by active bloggers. Copywriter smiles.

t-man said...

OT -

Anna Nicole Smith posthumously loses before the Supreme Court.

edutcher said...

I believe the word Ann seeks is, "misdirection". It's what the sleight of hand artist, not to mention the pickpocket, uses to take mark's attention away from the real objective.

They'll need more than that. the market's down about 200 today. Now, there's a vote of confidence for Little Zero's foreign policy.

rhhardin said...

How come things never loom anymore?

Smoothies in San Juan loom large in The Blonde's legend.

DADvocate said...

Absurdity is one of the defining characteristics of liberalism.

Obama's message is, "I've ruined the economy by spending trillions on wars. I'm now going to spend less in order to get re-elected. The economy will improve because of this. Trust me."

Hagar said...

Oh, Henry!

and it is very "shovel-ready" too.

themightypuck said...

I think it is time to retire "lede". We don't need it anymore so let's consolidate into lead.

EDH said...

Headline:

'Draws Attention to...' Headline Draws Attention to the Fact that the NYT is Too Broke to Commission Another Biased Poll that Draws Attention to 'Practically Any Tendentious Ideological Connection They Want.'

DADvocate said...

O'Reilly isn't a journalist and strikes me as a bombastic, egomaniacal dummy.

B.A., Marist College
M.A., Boston University
M.P.A., Harvard University

Noting that a dummy and being stupid are often two different things, the above credentials are pretty impressive. He's not as much of a dummy as the guy in the White House.

BTW - I don't watch him either.

PatCA said...

Another one that really annoys me is the "homes fall victim to foreclosure" meme, as if some houses just got the flu, instead of "government policy and programs cause housing market collapse."

edutcher said...

DADvocate said...

O'Reilly isn't a journalist and strikes me as a bombastic, egomaniacal dummy.

B.A., Marist College
M.A., Boston University
M.P.A., Harvard University

Noting that a dummy and being stupid are often two different things, the above credentials are pretty impressive. He's not as much of a dummy as the guy in the White House.

BTW - I don't watch him either.


He's a victim of Johnny Carson Syndrome - he's gotten so big in a field where he was virtually first, he's forgotten who he really is.

I watch occasionally, but, when he starts shouting down Rove or Morris, whose insights are interesting and credentials are impressive, whether you agree with them or not, O'Really gets old in a hurry.

PS Carson pretty much invented the talk show as it existed in the 60s. Jack Paar or Steve Allen had nowhere near his following.

G Joubert said...

This is just part of the old liberal meme that money spent on the military or military operations is a drag on the economy, the old "guns or butter" debate, which the NYT chooses to cling to and regurgitate on cue. That, despite the fact that there is no proof that when it comes to a dynamic market-based economy defense spending does any such thing. In fact, the opposite appears to be more accurate, i.e., money spent this way actually stimulates the economy, certainly far more than social spending. But liberal memes die hard.

michaele said...

Fans of the tv show, The Good Wife, will get this reference: there should be a higher power that makes the New York Times preface their headlines and content with the statement, "in my opinion".

Fen said...

It is of the same cloth as "many believe" or "some say".

Or my fav: "there's a growing perception that..."

Yes, the NYTs really thinks we're this stupid.

mariner said...

Althouse, you're not crazy and this is an outstanding post.

Thank you.

From Inwood said...

It's the economy, stupid, a wise man once said.

And it's the stupid economy here.

But I blame Bush!

But robotic, slobbering Dem supports whine:

"look at the mess he inherited"

as if he had not promised Hope & Change, i.e.. to clean up the mess he was to inherit.

Brother J said...

"...does it have a specific name?"

"Misdirection" is what comes to my mind.

From Inwood said...

edut...
I believe the word Ann seeks is, "misdirection". It's what the sleight of hand artist, not to mention the pickpocket, uses to take mark's attention away from the real objective.

You are correct.

The funny thing is that sometimes the smarter the mark, the more easily fooled he/she is.
Commonsense tells one that the con man is not in the business of loosing.

Roger J. said...

Re Anna Nicole Smith--she was a beautiful woman and managed to snag a billionaire--her story is, IMO, quite interesting. It has the makings of a great novel, and I was saddened by the way her demise was treated. Sad when your death becomes tabloid trash.

RIP, Ms Smith

Roger J. said...

And as to the stupidity of the american voter? I give you Barack Obama as my example--PT Barnum built his fortune on the stupid.

Carol_Herman said...

When Drudge was young, he took on an after school job of delivering newspapers ... where he lived (I think), in Washington, DC.

Anyway, he'd sometimes sit on a park bench. And, RE-WRITE the headlines. Making them better.

Shows ya, today, what is missing from headlines ... because Drudge made a blog where his headline writing skills excel.

He got started on the Monica story, because Isakoff's article was "killed" at News-speak-weekly.

Recognizing news stories is also something our "elites" don't do all that well.

What can you do? PRAVDA got a head start. And, russians learned, when you see a newspaper, just look at the pictures.

Carol_Herman said...

Obama got to be president, because the stupid party picked McCain to be his competition.

Americans aren't stupid. They're full of heart. But not on the coasts. Where stupid is served up by credentialed elites from ha-ha-harvahd's yard.

Ann Althouse said...

I never said it was in the passive voice. I said:

"The Times wields a rhetorical device — does it have a specific name? — where you exclude human agency not with the passive voice but by making some abstraction the subject of a sentence written in the passive voice."

"... not with the passive voice... "

They used another rhetorical device to exclude human agency. Like this passive voice, this device would trick the reader into thinking that something happened without a human being doing it.

Chip Ahoy said...

Original Mike, I had the same thought you expressed, war spending=stimulus spending, the ultimate Cash for Clunkers.

Did you happen to read the item on the A-10 linked by Insty and later by Ace that glows about the plane built around a gun? A gun larger than VW car with barrels 10 feet long, the entire length 19.5 feet long.

The thing that killed me is the comparison of bullets, twice as long and fat as the largest bullet shown that outsizes the human hand, 100 X the size of M16 bullets. On the chart beneath the hand, in tiny letters the cost is included for each type bullet, $65.00 each for the Avenger bullet. According to the article, the gun shoots 4,200 rounds per minute, usually in one to two second bursts, 70 to 150 rounds. That's $4,500 to $9.750 a shot. It caused me to imagine $10,000 shot out the airplane every time the pilot takes a shot, and the whole point being having pilots up there taking shots. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrap! $10,000.00 Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrap! $10,000.00 Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrap! $10,000.00.

I've always known it, but that article that so lovingly lauds the virtues of the airplane and of the gun inadvertently also drives the point of insane cost by including in tiny lettering on the chart the cost of the bullets.

Anthony said...

Oh yeah, didn't The O once lecture a reporter that "spending is stimulus"? So really, the more we spend on the wars, the better off we are!

Or maybe that only works sometimes. It's confusing.

Terry said...

"Painting of Kittens With Sad Faces Draws Attention to War Spending"

If it is active voice doesn't it have to have a direct object? Whose attention is being drawn to war spending?

Squid said...

On the chart beneath the hand, in tiny letters the cost is included for each type bullet, $65.00 each for the Avenger bullet.

I don't think those prices were per round. At least, I can't imagine paying $9 a pop for regular rifle rounds.

ken in sc said...

Pravda used to have a lot of 'It's no accident..' sentences. For example, 'It's no accident that the forces of Western Imperialism and their running-dog allies are desperate to undermine the legitimate desires of indigenous peoples.' and then provide no evidence what-so-ever that this is going on. This seems to be a similar tactic.

Crunchy Frog said...

"Gnat Farts in Afghanistan; Dow Drops 15 points"

The business news hed writers have been doing this for decades.

wv: nowalit

Sofa King said...

I don't think those prices were per round. At least, I can't imagine paying $9 a pop for regular rifle rounds.

It may be "just a rifle round" but it's 100x a 5.56, and made from DU, so $65 seems probably right.

Namazu said...

Headline has been changed. Perhaps it was a typo (or an anagram, or something).

Ann Althouse said...

"I never said it was in the passive voice. .."

Wow, I'm only now seeing that I ended the sentence with "passive voice." I meant active voice... so much that I didn't even notice my slip when people pointed out that it was confusing. I'm really sorry!

Terry said...

"Sagging Economy Draws Attention to War Spending."

Works better this way:

"Sagging Economy Draws Attention to U.S. War Spending."

Don M said...

Obama's Re-Election Campaign "Shovel-Ready"

pumping-irony said...

Proliferation of opinion masqueratding as news draws attention to lack of journalistic standards and intellectual bankruptcy at certain newspapers.

JohnBoy said...

The Times is gonna go into over-drive as the election "looms." You have lame duck leadership and a declining revenue base.

When Kruggy didn't apologize for his false assertion that Sarah Palin tried to kill Gabby Giffords with a picture on the Internet, then I finally decided that I was done with the Times for good.

Last week, a hack hit piece on Clarence T. This week, the "draws attention" headline.

Can't wait to see what they have in store for the Repub nominee, "There is a perception that Rick Perry likes to boil kittens to draw attention away from his pedastery."

The Ghost said...

Saw some Code Pinko's in Baltimore last week hold a sign that said "Bring Home Our War $$$" ...

the NYT is just sticking to the meme here ...

Penny said...

"Sagging Economy Draws Attention to War Spending."

Not a thing wrong with that headline, and yes, Kaus can be a little crazy, but that's why everyone likes him so much.

So here's a question. Did the politician's wrangling over the deficit draw attention to war spending, or did the American people force politicians to look at war spending because they don't want to lose any government benefits?

Muddy waters.

dbp said...

Nothing but the NY Times draws attention to the connection between the sagging economy and war spending.

They can't stop people from noticing that the economy is in the crapper, so in the best 'make lemonade' fashion, they distract us from the cause of the crappy economy: Obama. And direct us to one of their pet causes--getting us out of a war.

From Inwood said...

Prof A.

The rhetorical term, here fallacy, you’re looking for is “Ignoratio Elenchi. In English, Ignoring The Point At Issue or Arguing Beside The Point, which term includes hiding a weak case.

Like Mussolini getting the trains running on time. Or a host of American Intellectualoids arguing that Stalin modernized the Soviet Union, transforming a peasant society into an industrial state with a literate population and a remarkable scientific superstructure. Er, except for those mass murders (cf Castro with Cuba).

mockmook said...

But, the NYT made a fundamental error.

The economy is recovering (not "Sagging"); Obama told me so.

vech said...

All one needs to say is: FTNYT. When very angry say it twice.

Shaky Barnes said...

Mistakes were made (editorially).

From Inwood said...

Hey, we forgot the lawyers' hoary chestnut for misdirection or “Ignoratio Elenchi" (Ignoring The Point At Issue or Arguing Beside The Point:

If you're wrong on the law, argue the facts.

If you're wrong on the facts, argue the law.

And If you're wrong on both the law & the facts, pound the table!

John Lynch said...

Ding.

It's all people's decisions.

Martin said...

This is hardly different than the old standby, "People are talking about..." as a hook to make sh*t up. Of course, the referenced "people" are just the staff at that media organization (I almost goofed and said "news source").

Mwalimu Daudi said...

I am waiting for the NYT to deploy the following headlines:

Sagging Economy Draws Attention to Tax Cuts for Rich.

Sagging Economy Draws Attention to Inadequate Stimulus Spending.

Sagging Economy Draws Attention to Draconian Budget Cuts.

Sagging Economy Draws Attention to Need for Health Care Reform.

Sagging Economy Draws Attention to Growing Racism.

Sagging Economy Draws Attention to Growing Homophobia.

Sagging Economy Draws Attention to Growing Islamophobia.

Sagging Economy Draws Attention to Tea Party Domination of GOP.

Sagging Economy Draws Attention to Lack of Immigration Reform.

Sagging Economy Draws Attention to Koch Brothers.

Sagging Economy Draws Attention to Sarah Palin's Lavish Bus Tour.

Many Faces Of NORIK said...

What sagging economy? I just heared on NPR that recovery is here and we'll see the result any time now.

"Real human beings, with interests and will, are trying to manipulate the minds of other human beings, who also have interests and will."

Isn't it called "brainwashing'? The same applies to the leftist fascists addopting "liberal" and "progressive" label, while they are nothing of the kind. It's a part of the same old game - "an art of deceit".

Sofa King said...

Go me! I was quoted by Reynolds!

sfcmac said...

Obama's stimulus (socialist spending spree) cost more than the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/08/30/cbo-years-iraq-war-cost-stimulus-act/

http://blogs.reuters.com/frontrow/2009/01/29/us-stimulus-to-cost-more-than-iraq-afghan-war-so-far/

Dear NYT, your bias is showing...again.