Friday, July 15, 2011

Fustigating "Slams"

Slams sucks, almost as much as Martin Van Buren. Slams (verb), via freedictionary, means:
  • To shut with force and loud noise
  • To put, throw, or otherwise forcefully move so as to produce a loud noise.
  • To hit or strike with great force.
  • Slang To criticize harshly; censure forcefully.
I hate "slams" in news headlines. The bible of the industry is an editor's stylebook, yet when it comes to headlines, use of the slang "slams" (not in the stylebook) is AOK. "Slams" is harsh and unreasonable, even when you agree with the substance behind it. "Slams" can even ruin a person's intention, as the headline Ex-senator Danforth slams harsh rhetoric hillariously proves. The most aggregious user of "slams" is CNN and its political ticker. Some examples:

Obama slams health insurance companies
Palin slams Fox's 'Family Guy'
GOP 'survey' slams Obama
Schwarzenegger slams Palin
Biden slams Palin comment
RNC slams Obama award
GOP slams Obama in Keystone state
Ex-aide slams Palin in leaked book
Davis acknowledges faults, slams GOP
Obama promises new jobs initiatives, slams GOP
Carney slams GOP budge
Al Qaeda No. 2 slams Obama's first months in office
Foxx slams Obama, gets autograph
Republican slams Obama administration on terrorism
GOP senator slams Obama over Libya
Kaine marks start of traditional fall campaign season, slams GOP
RNC slams Obama in first TV ad
RNC slams Obama on his 49th birthday
Palin slams 'bored, anonymous, pathetic bloggers who lie'
Left slams Obama over safety net
Fidel Castro slams 'assassination' of unarmed bin Laden

"Slams" itself tells you nothing about reasoning or motives. There was a tremendous force, but it's origin and it's trajectory is unknown. No reasoning. No motives. Just an attack. Why is the attack more important than the substance and reasoning behind it?

Even if you're okay with knowing about "slams", the headlines rarely tell you the accuracy or success of the political attack. In the case of a few of those headlines, like "Schwarzenegger slams Palin" gives you only a glimmer of an idea of the article's newsworthiness. The article says Arnold is suspicious Palin's anti-environmental statements are all political theater to win the Republican nomination in 2012. Who's right? Any response? At the very minimum, is this a shift in the political winds? By focusing on the fight and not the substance, we get nothing. All we get is boring political theater. Maybe "slams" is a keyword to let the reader know "this article contains useless political posturing".

I guess this isn't all about "slams." This might me my bigger distaste with political theatrics. Let's compromise. Let's start a scale of political attack. Low, Medium, High, Super-high, and Doug Benson. Let's leave "slams" for Doug Benson-sized criticism. For low critical attacks, how about "appraises" or "evaluates". For medium, I like "scrutinizes". For high, the thesaurus has plenty of options, but my favorite is "fustigates". And don't forget the most important part of reporting, finding the truth within the posturing.

So let's reduce or remove "slams" from our political discourse. It's the most essential movement of our lifetime. If there are to be political slams, let it be:

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