Guest Piece by America’s History Teacher, Larry Schweikart
Plenty of commentators have dealt with the lunacy that affects the English language today, from banning certain words as “racist,” “sexist,” or “something-ist.” Certainly that’s obvious to all. But there is another, more subtle change going on, even among the “friendly” or “reliable news pages.
It began when the 24-hour news cycle started to run out of, well, news. (Sidebar: How many of you want to throw a shoe at the television every time you hear that Fox News “BONG” breaking news alert—which was breaking news a week ago? And it doesn’t help that it’s oddly similar to the “Law and Order “BONG”). It took more than a decade for this development to settle in. At first, the networks filled the void with simply more talking heads, guests, and “analysts” telling you what the news was.
More recently however—I started really noticing it during the Mueller investigation—a host of non-news words began to creep into news stories. We began to see mush phrases such as
“Mueller mulling demand that Trump testify,” or “Mueller considering charging Don, Jr.” These kinds of hourly non-news stories utterly took over, for reporters weren’t supposed to know what was happening in the first place (the investigation after all—wink, wink, nudge, nudge—was to be secret. Since the Mueller team was leaking like the Titanic however, so-called journalists could not produce actual documents to prove anything. As it turned out, in fact, they had nothing to prove anything with. Instead, reporters reverted to the post-1980 favorite journalistic trick, the “unnamed source.” Realize it was not all that long ago that no reputable newspaper would ever run a piece with a single “anonymous source.” Indeed, according to a Chicago Tribune reporter I interviewed during a foreword I wrote for Professor Jim Kuypers’ book, Partisan Journalism (2013), every major fact in a story was to be doubly sourced with public sources.
In case you didn’t notice, “mulling,” “considering,” “poised to,” “about to,” “prepared to,” “intends,” and other such mush words are utterly unprovable. “Yeah, Schweikart, Mueller intended to indict Don, Jr., but changed his mind.” Lacking any paper trail or actual documents, of course, such logic is irrefutable and every bit as meaningless or useless. After all, I intende to win both a Pulitzer and an Academy Award.
So consider a stroll through these headlines from July 26, 2020:
*(Politico) “Bass: Supporters will rally to Biden despite ‘94 Crime bill.” (“will is future tense, and de facto can have no actual evidence. “The Dallas Cowboys will win the Super Bowl.” Um hum.)
*(www.thelibertydaily.com) “WATCH: Black man drops the mic on BLM movement.” (As interesting as this is, it is one man talking on a video on social media. He has no office, no official power to do anything.
*(Washington Free Beacon) “Illinois GOP Slams Press Corps for Failure to Press Democratic Governor on Corruption of Top Ally.” So the GOP said nasty things about the press? Maybe we should have a statue erected. Wait, those are being torn down . . . .
*(Twitchy) “I am appalled: Fromer Reagan Admin Official Mark Levin Calls out WaPo/Reagan Foundation story as ‘Publicity Stunt’. Once again, one person saying something about other people. Color me shocked.
*(Daily Political Newswire) “Eric Trump Mocks Joe Biden: ‘How Daring He is to Come Out of His Basement.’ One person mocks another. That’s hard hitting news fer ya!
*(BPR Business & Politics) “Lou Dobbs: ‘Mitch McConnell is doing a Paul Ryan. He’s about to lose the Senate.’” Again, Back to the Future.
*(New York Daily News, from October 28, 2017) “The Likely Targets in the Trump Camp of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Indictment” Hint: No one actually “in” the Trump camp was indicted. The closest was Gen. Michael Flynn, an Obama appointee.
*(Washington Post, November 14, 2017) “Sessions Considering Second Sepcial Counsel to Investigate Republican Concerns, Letter Shows.” Once again, people consider all sorts of things. I am “considering” moving to Bermuda, recording a drum solo album, and starting a major ant farm.
*(U.S. News July 22, 2020), “Democratic Group Looks to Close Trump-Biden Enthusiasm Gap.” Now, let that sink in, by the way. We have been told that Joe Biden has a massive lead in the polls. Five, ten, no make it fifteen points in Alabama!!! Why would the Democrats be worried about “closing a gap” that doesn’t exist? Unless, of course, it does and they know their guys is deader than a Thanksgiving Turkey. But the operative phrase is “looks to.” I look to lose 15 pounds and up my chess game.
*Finally, here is one via the New Hampshire Gazette via the AP from May 1, 2018: “Attorney: Mueller Team Weighing Subpoena for Trump.” I’m sure you “weigh” buying a new car vs. a trip to Vegas. This mush language is pure speculation about future events that might or might not happen.
All of these and many, many more (open Drudge or www.thelibertydaily.com for example) increasingly constitute “news,” because there is no news—at least, not nearly enough to fill up a 24/7 news cycle with thousands of internet “news” sites. Eliminating “mush” language such as “considering,” “mulling,” “hoping to,” “planning,” ‘looking to,” “anticipating,” and so on is essential to the restoration of real news. Every story should be sourced with actual names, and two named sources required for every significant fact or claim. Finally, it wouldn’t hurt for editors to immediately bounce any story that isn’t describing something that has already happened instead of future events along a “12 Monkeys” timeline.
Larry Schweikart is the co-author with Michael Allen of the New York Times #1 bestseller, A Patriot’s History of the United States and the author of Reagan: The American President. He is also the founder of the Wild World of History website with history curricula for teachers and homeschoolers (www.wildworldofhistory.com).
That is all.
Today’s news moves at a faster pace than ever. Whatfinger.com is my go-to source for keeping up with all the latest events in real time.