Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

The Humbert Media

Jerry Stratton, April 8, 2009

Over on Ace of Spades, Ace talks about one of my favorite topics: How Nabokov’s Lolita was about making us believe that a loathsome character is the hero, and winning us over to his viewpoint. Nabokov, who had seen how a press in line with the government could spin evil into good and good into evil, knew how insidious that style of writing can be. He was so successful that, as I wrote in Satire isn’t comedy, “at least two generations of filmmakers have succumbed to the Humbert version of Lolita: that she was a forward little vixen beautiful even by Hollywood standards, not a twelve-year-old girl.”

For examples of what Ace is talking about, consider “Judge dismisses Stevens’ conviction, orders probe” vs. “Spitzer May Yet Face Ethics Inquiry” from the Associated Press. The protagonist of the story in the first headline is the judge; the protagonist of the story in the second is Spitzer. Spitzer acts, Stevens is acted upon.

One of the most common blogging games on the right side of the blogosphere is “name that party”. Far too often, a Democrat caught up in a scandal will have their party listed well into the article, or increasingly not at all. A Republican caught in a scandal will have their party listed in the first or second paragraph, unless it’s in the headline.

For whatever reason, newspaper editors feel as if they can stretch the truth so much in headlines that they become practically lies. One of the classic ways of doing this is to rewrite a question into an answer, as then-Senator Obama found when asked if he’d get different treatment if he lost as much as Senator Clinton during the primaries. His reasonable answer was twisted into an attack. Even that paled compared to the headline and stories that tried to pit mother and daughter at odds by (a) ascribing a position to Governor Palin that she didn’t hold, by (b) assuming she was a stereotypical Republican (clue: Governor Palin isn’t a stereotypical anything), and (c) rewriting a question to her daughter into an answer from her daughter.

Whenever you see a headline of the form “Name: Controversial statement”, there’s a good chance the controversial statement was the question or is a complete rewrite of the actual answer.

  1. <- President Craig Belushi
  2. Angels in the Form of Pigs ->