Sunday, October 22, 2017

Outrage and nothingness

Breakthrough in transatlantic headline relations! Fox advances the British existential hed to the point of nothingness: an Outrage As story with zero outrage.

The existential is one of those bits of national headline dialect that look bizarre to the non-native speaker but usually aren't out-and-out misleading. (There are exceptions: "Anger at Lockerbie bomber welcome," for example.) Just stick a "There is ..." at the front of the headline and things are fairly easy to follow. It's common on some registers of the UK press:

Outrage as politician uses Auschwitz gas chamber as "stage" in "obscene" video message 'for America'

Outrage as nuclear power station holds bikini contest with cooling tower photo shoot to choose new intern

Outrage as Ryanair axes 2,000 flights to boost punctuality

Outrage as New York school tells students they should masturbate to avoid carrying out sex attacks on nights out

There doesn't have to be a lot of outrage (one anonymous tweet will do, in line with the general norm of displacement), because the point isn't to catalog a specific amount of outrage -- it's to remind you that you should be outraged, too.* This construction is rare in the US, outside our small tabloid sector and, of course, the Formerly Fair 'n' Balanced Network:

Outrage as military vehicles, equipment taken from officers in wake of Obama order

Outrage as Nevada professor suggests Trump deserves blame for Las Vegas massacre

Outrage as Dallas officials threaten to tear down wall honoring fallen police officers because it 'runs afoul of regulations'

Standard US hed practice would often handle these as passives; it's enough to know that an Obama order has been blasted, or a professor slammed, without all that pesky agency.** The Sun example above would probably come out "University mocked," rather than "Anonymous student mocks university," just to preserve the grandeur of the idea. If you can't be bothered to look up at the nameplate, you can usually tell which product you're reading by the valence of the outrage. That's why Fox looked odd when it got its feet crossed on an Outrage As hed last week.

Sunday's top story, though, is special, because there's no outrage at all:

Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters, a leader in the resist-Trump movement, recently told a New York audience that she will “take out” the president, a video posted online last week shows.

“Wow, what a moving evening this is,” Waters is heard saying in the video of an Oct. 13 event at the Ali Forney Center in New York City.

“I’m sitting here listening, watching, absorbing, thinking about Ali even though I never met him. And with this kind of inspiration, I will go and take Trump out tonight,” the California lawmaker said as the crowd cheered.

Waters has suggested several times in past months that Trump should be impeached, most recently over his argument that NFL players should stop kneeling for the national anthem, a movement started in protest of police mistreatment of African-Americans.

Waters' most recent comment about Trump, as reported first by The American Mirror, comes just a few months after a gunman opened fire on congressional Republicans as they practiced for a charity baseball game, severely wounding House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La. 

Democratic Rep. Al Green, Texas, also threatened to try to impeach Trump.

Earlier this month, he withdrew at the last minute an attempt to force the entire chamber to take a preliminary vote on the issue.

Though the effort would unlikely get a final vote in the GOP-controlled House, any such vote would be politically messy for any member, including Democrats who are trying to develop the message for the 2018 midterms beyond one merely opposing Trump, which has been unsuccessful for them.

It's hard to tell exactly what Rep. Waters meant, or even what Fox thinks she meant, but she's proven a reliable fear figure over the years. If you're wondering, here are two of the other top five stories:
Getting the connection?

Anyway, there has to be a pretty firm belief that the outrage is universal to present the Outrage As story with no empirical outrage. I've only found one such example so far from the redtops: Germaine Greer saying rude things about Princess Di. This looks like a real fusion breakthrough for Fox. Observations from the land of the existential hed, of course, are welcome.

* This baroque masterpiece from Sunday's Daily Mail deserves to be recognized:
** Though "parents blast" or "troops blame" would work perfectly well. Obscuring agency is more important when your outrage is sourced to a single right-wing crank with a blog.

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Anonymous Ed Latham said...

It's odd how neutral the copy and the article headline are: not only no attempt to source any outrage, but not even any attempt to spell out what they allege 'take out' to mean. Absolutely everything is implicit. It's obviously fallen to a homepage editor – who often have to shorten/lengthen/tart up headlines, often without having read the story – to create the approved Fox angle

10:38 AM, October 24, 2017  

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