Thursday, March 15, 2012

Imperial overstretch

Did this one strike anybody else -- particularly, "anybody else" at fishwraps subscribing to the McClatchy service -- as out of tune?

Rick Santorum won the Alabama and Mississippi primaries Tuesday, striking deep into the South to deliver a stunning blow to Newt Gingrich in the battle to become the conservative alternative to front-runner Mitt Romney.

First Amendment or not, I'd be happy to go along with any proposal to punish random journalistic martial metaphors with a few hours in the stocks or a light whipping or two. This one, though, seems just wrong. "Striking deep into" has that air of the unexpected, unplanned or unforeseen about it:

Striking Deep Into Israel, Hamas Employs an Upgraded Arsenal

This allowed the Red Army to reach the Vistula river and Warsaw, which in turn put Soviet forces within striking distance of Berlin, conforming to the concept of Soviet deep operations — striking deep into the enemy's strategic depths.

Pentagon reveals U.S. planes striking deep into Cambodia

Japan then had to decide between settling the crisis through diplomacy or by striking deep into Southeast Asia to acquire alternative sources of oil, an action that was certain to meet American opposition.

Tanks can break through suppressed defenses, exploit the success of an attack by striking deep into the enemy's rear areas, and pursue defeated enemy forces.

Whereas -- correct me if I'm wrong here -- the Mississippi and Alabama primaries happened almost exactly on schedule, and right where the cunning rebels had planned them. They weren't a tactical surprise, a last resort or a long-hidden secret. Santorum would have struck just as deep if he had lost, or if he had won by some dozens of points.

Why do writers do stuff like that? Often, I think, to avoid being mistaken for the AP -- or, put in a way that sounds kinder to the hard-working folks at the AP, as an effort to remind that audience that you're providing exclusive material: something above the generic stuff they can find anywhere. Interesting goal, but it only works if the exclusive content you're providing actually has some merit above the generic stuff.

I'm reminded of a memo sent out to foreign buros by a prescient editor some years back, which I'll try to quote verbatim:

If you file shit and the AP files spun gold, the AP goes in the paper and you go on the spike.



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