Monday, July 11, 2016

Of names and dog whistles

It's not even that original, you guys -- Drudge appears to have borrowed the "Micah X" theme from a weekend Sun cover. But it is another nice illustration of how to dog-whistle in a hed while keeping your feet just inside the chalk lines of news practice.

As noted last week, being a "headline name" means you're recognized for who you are (Trump eats babies) rather than where you live (Ferndale man eats babies) or go to school (Kansas sophomore eats babies). The perp in an especially heinous crime can move into that category pretty fast, though "McVeigh" is more likely to make the leap than "Johnson."

Given names follow an even tighter rule -- unless, of course, they sound like Muhammad. "Micah" is a little too ambiguous to make the cut, but what a lucky break for Drudge that the middle name was Xavier: hence, Micah X! (You know, like notorious Muslim bandleader X Cugat scary person Malcolm X.) "X" was so evocative that one of the downpage heds had to be tweaked as well:

Choosing X as a surname predates the 1960s; here's how the World's Greatest Newspaper described Elijah Muhammad and colleagues, arrested on sedition charges in a 1942 draft-evasion case (complete with Flying Verb subhed):

Assume Oriental Names


...Many of them have assumed oriental names and some of their followers use only "X" or "XX" as surnames.

The (ahem) Oriental influence is further explained:


Have Plenty Of Money
"We have only scratched the surface," said a federal official. "It seems certain that Japanese money has been going to these organizations. None of these people has any visible means of support. The 12 leaders we took into custody Sunday and Monday have lavish and expensive costumes and have plenty of money. Even their followers, some of whom are poorly dressed, seem to have some means."

In those days, kids, the deranged right didn't have Drudge to spread its light across the darkened plain, It had to rely on a secret network made up of the biggest papers in the country. 

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