the eye is the mirror of the soul

I’m a pretty big proponent of journalism, free press and media in general. But, as politics grows more divisive, I’m getting to be a little peeved by the same trend in news.

Today was just a normal day, with me checking my news from the Trending section of Facebook instead of doing my homework, when I see a topic called Washington State Capitol.  There’s a section called the live feed, where anyone who posts about that particular topic can have their two seconds of input before disappearing into who-knows-where. And looking at that feed for this particular section, I see two alternating headlines:

Tea Partiers Tear Down Chinese Flag At Washington State Capitol – Huffington Post

democrat flies communist flag AT washington-state-capitol until patriots come take it Down – foxnews

I get it. I’m a journalist too. Headlines sell, political propaganda to your fellow party members sells and money and pushing your political agenda is good. (No.) But the stark contrast in these headlines really makes me want to punch the computer.

I don’t like any of these headlines very much. Huffington Post’s headline does nothing but to reaffirm to its mostly liberal audience the idea that the South is stupid, all Tea-Partiers are stupid and further polarizes the gap between our political parties. On the other hand, HuffPost at least acknowledged that the flag was the flag of China, a nation of about 1.2 billion people, and not purely a symbol of Communism.

(A top comment: Wooooo hooooo!! Maybe we can all jump in our 4x4s and do doughnuts on the capital lawn, firing our guns out drivers window while holding a beer in the other with a giant Don’t Tread on Me flag flying from the back of the truck. )

But obviously FoxNews doesn’t do much better: focusing on the political party of the governor does exactly what HuffPost does to its liberal audience, except vice versa: all the Northerners hate America and are socialists.  I know that China is a Communist nation, but there is a difference between flying the flag of a country out of respect (and it was only for the time that the Chinese ambassador was there) and flying a symbol of Communism to protest democracy. Governor Enslee knew which one he was doing. Also, China is much more than its government, much more than Communism, and if you don’t agree with China’s political stance, at least consider that behind this flag stands a good quarter of the world’s humans who deserve some respect.

(From a very passionate Facebooker: I AM CALLING FOR AN IMMEDIATE APOLOGY FROM JAY ENSLEE & REMOVAL OF THE COMMUNIST FLAG IT DOES NOT BELONG NOT ONLY (sic) NEXT TO STARS & STRIPES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA OR FOR THAT FACT NEXT TO THE STATE OF WASHINGTON FLAG.)

The problem is that the majority of people, from any party, don’t read the story. They’ll read this sensational headline (that a good portion of the time is just clickbait and exaggerations), then write a scathing comment/post about how much the other political party is lowering America’s reputation and ideals. Media has become such a propelling force in politics in both wonderful and terrible ways, but either way, it certainly has become very polarized. Just check your Facebook feed.

Here’s what was in the actual story: Conservative activists stand by as a state worker lowers the Chinese flag at the end of the day, and some conservatives protest the flying of the Chinese flag. Then the Internet erupts into debate, with political parties throwing names at each other and bemoaning the fate that has become of America.

So I suppose what we learn is this handy-dandy  formula for writing headlines:

  • (Insert your political party) does something WONDERFUL (can be rephrased eloquently and in a manner that will attract your party readers and lead them to applaud your political party) OR
  • (Insert the other political party) does something ABSOLUTELY ATROCIUS (can be rephrased eloquently and in a manner that will attract your party readers and lead them to heavily criticize that other political party)

Here’s some more references for you to look at. Notice the diction (republicans, recipients vs. leeches, etc.)

MISSOURI REPUBLICANS ARE TRYING TO BAN FOOD STAMP RECIPIENTS FROM BUYING STEAK AND SEAFOOD – WASHINGTON POST

MISSOURI ABOUT TO MAKE SOME BIG CHANGES TO FOOD STAMPS… WELFARE LEECHES DON’T LIKE IT ONE BIT – CONSERVATIVE TRIBUNE

Oh, politics. Godammit.

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15 thoughts on “the eye is the mirror of the soul

  1. onanothercoast says:

    Great article! I don’t know if you’ve seen the Amanda Knox documentary on Netflix but your article reminded me of it. In the documentary they discuss the role the media played in the entire portrayal of the case, people involved, etc. Regardless of if someone thinks she is/was guilty or not. And it’s such a sad thing. Especially, like you said, when most people only read the tag line or title and form their opinion on that instead of actually reading the article in its entirety.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The Wayfarer says:

    Political clickbait is going to be more and more common as the Internet allows anyone, anywhere to publish whatever they want and as more traditional news outlets fall by the wayside. This is actual how journalism used to operate as printing presses became very cheap and common in the 1800s.
    But we should also distinguish between which headlines are inaccurate clickbait (the first pair you mentioned) and which are actually accurate… like the WaPo article on Republicans banning food stamps from buying steak and seafood. That headline fits the formula, but it’s actually accurate.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Lovey says:

    We think alike. 🙂
    Thank you for writing this piece on headlines showcased in journalism.
    This is more rampant now. Private enterprises are gaining stakes in selling unconventional practices. Click bait is an established trend now in the field of Media.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Lovey says:

        Media has perfectly embraced yellow journalism. It’s only about making money now. It has lost ethics and sole purpose of informing, engaging and empowering publics. We are in deep shit.
        Although, our minds can still differentiate between what is true and what is not. Hopefully, things may brighten up in future.

        Liked by 1 person

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