February 25, 2010
Now for an incredibly petty personal vendetta.
I’ve finally had it with the Drudge Report. I know I’ve said that many times before, but I keep finding myself going back there, either because it’s simply one of the best websites for linking to news stories available, or because I want to find out what the right-wing creeps are up to. But the man never ceases to amaze me in the depths to which he will stoop to advance his highly partisan agenda.
What he has managed to do is really quite remarkable--to assemble a tremendous engine of ideological propaganda without doing any journalism of his own, any writing of opinion, any altering of the facts, etc. Everything on there is news that’s been reported by someone else. Drudge has managed to harness the power of headlining as a way of distorting the truth even while telling it. Recognizing that headlines often make a much greater impression on people than stories themselves (especially since many people are speed-browsing and will not actually read the stories), he has found three remarkably effective tools of turning his “news” into propaganda:
- Headline prominence. Drudge gets to pick what the most important story of the day is for those viewing his site, whether or not it is actually of any genuine significance. If Joe Biden picked his nose during a press conference, that will probably be the biggest headline of the day, complete with a little snapshot of the incident, to leave his viewers with the distinct impression that the main thing that happened that day was that Obama’s VP further showed himself to be an idiot.
- Headline wording. Drudge often words his headlines in ways that are ludicrously out of line with the actual content of the stories to which they link. He generally avoids outright untruths--if a story says that new home sales were down, his headline won’t say they were up--but he often comes quite close. His preferred way of distorting headlines is simply by making them overstated and over-dramatized when it suits his purposes: a small glitch becomes a crisis, a misstep becomes a huge blunder, a small decline becomes a plunge, etc.
- Headline placement. Drudge recognizes that by putting next to one another two headlines that are about stories having nothing whatsoever to do with one another, he creates a link between the two in the readers’ mind, which means that together they now mean something quite different from what each story in and of itself communicates, something which is most likely meaningless or untrue, but which suits Drudge’s purposes neatly. A favorite of his in this regard is putting side-by-side headlines like “Global warming alarmists clamor for immediate action” and “Record cold in New York City this week.” But he has recently become particularly fond of using this in his disinformation campaign about Obama’s health-care proposals. The most egregious example came this morning, where in a sequence of headlines (at the top of the page) regarding Obama’s newest attempt at health-care reform, there was a headline about the appalling neglect of hundreds of patients and filthy conditions at a British NHS hospital, implying, of course that we can expect the same if Obama's plan succeeds. It’s true that this week, formal inquiries have been launched regarding an egregiously ill-maintained and poorly-run hospital in Staffordshire, but this has nothing to do with Obama’s healthcare proposals. It’s fine by me if you want to object to Obamacare, but for Pete’s sake, can we stop pretending that he’s trying to introduce the British system (never mind that most Brits seem quite pleased with their system)?! Even the earlier form of the plan with the public option had very little in common with the British socialized healthcare system, but the latest version being proposed is a thoroughly privatized scheme, making comparisons to the NHS frankly absurd.
So, I am swearing off the Drudge Report. I mean it this time. :-D