Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Eyes 1, Brain 0: Try, try again

Your first question about the story at the top of the Drudge Report on Monday morning might well be: And how many times is the feckless Kenyan mentioned in the 539-word story linked from the headline? ("PAPER: Passengers Allowed to Skip Customs at JFK Airport -- AGAIN!)

Regular readers have probably guessed that it's the key to the right of "9" on the standard keyboard. Here's the Daily News's lede:

Passengers arriving at Kennedy Airport on an international flight were allowed to exit the busy hub without going through Customs — for at least the second time in recent months, the Daily News has learned.

Must have been direct orders from Soros or Huma or Valerie, then.

Bumbling airline and security officials let travelers on American Airlines Flight 1223 from Cancun, Mexico, out of the airport on Monday morning without having their passports or bags checked, sources told The News.
...  A 34-year-old man who had been in Cancun to attend three Phish concerts told The News he was able to glide from the plane to the baggage claim area* without having to endure the usual maze of Customs and Border Protection security checks.

“It’s absolutely absurd,” the business adviser said. “To think that anyone could be walking off of that plane and just get right into the city. It could be terrorists, El Chapo’s henchmen, anyone.”

Hard to argue with that. Any cartel henchman with a hangover, a US passport, the second half of a JFK-Cancun round trip ticket and enough terrorist grit to smile as he filled out the card saying how many T-shirts he was bringing back could have gotten off that flight as easily as he got on the originating flight in New York. But where's the Kenyan???

So Drudge tried again, a little later in the morning -- no change to the story, of course, but here the usurper is turning his back on us while signaling his approval as the ayatollah's minions drive that last nail into America's coffin. Or something. Anyway, here's the third try:
Now we're getting somewhere. When "paper" comes before the colon, it's just a standard American way of doing attribution, and that gives the statement a specific kind of facticity: whether the stuff after the attribution is true or not, it's undeniably true that some institution said it. That's an important bit of camouflage; grownup news organizations and the Daily Mail are equal in the eyes of the Lord, because as soon as something is reported, we can move from the realm of speculation to the realm of TRVTH. 

The shift on the last entry is different. When "Border battle" comes before the colon, we're creating a kind of topic-comment or "case of" sentence: Rather than being a pickup from the provincial press,** it's an exemplar story in its own right. An idiosyncratic blunder involving American tourists has become a case of Obama's feckless Kenyan bumbling that has put all of America at risk. (Or not, depending on how you compare a bunch of Phish fans stumbling off a plane to the fun of walking up to the checkpoint with a loaded handgun in your carry-on.) And it's all because he failed to Secure The Border.

The theoretical point here is "why bother?" The images had done the requisite work before Drudge decided to goose the topic, because that's what images do. The picture tells you what the story is about, without putting the brain through all the messy work*** of figuring out who's doing what to whom. Once you've seen the Kenyan smiling along with the destruction of America, you don't have to be told it's a result of his policies. That's just painting the lily.

* I always thought that if they wanted to look at your baggage, letting you go to baggage claim first made a certain amount of sense, but it's been a while since I went anyplace that got Custom's attention.
** Yes, the venerable New York Daily News qualifies as the provincial press. What are you, kdding me?
*** Messaris, P., and Abraham, L. (2001). The role of images in framing news stories. In S.D. Reese, O.H. Gandy and A.E. Grant (eds), Framing public life: Perspectives on media and our understanding of the social world (pp. 215-226). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates  

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