Saturday, October 08, 2011

Journalists, inanity, taste and acquaintance with the language

A story run by the Telegraph earlier today boasted the headline “Senator accused of sexism over 'thank God' remark about female opponent”.


So the opponent was female. That’s the only attribute about her that our journalist thinks to be relevant, in the first instance. We learn, later, that she is a professor, teaches at Harvard, 62 years old and a Democrat. But, first and foremost, she has a vagina et cetera, is what the journalist wants us to know.

What about the senator? What gender does this protagonist have? The story, later, suggests that it is of the masculine sort. The headline does not, choosing only to bring out the gender of the other protagonist. This appears to be evidence of sexist thinking, on the part of the journalist. One assumes that the name Jon Swaine and the accompanying headshot is that of a real person, one often called a journalist, given that it is a newspaper, and that this person takes responsibility for what this person writes. Of course, the story might have been written by Clara, thus freeing Mr. Swaine of all guilt, but Clara is a female, and do we really need to acknowledge their contribution?

“Scott Brown, a..Republican…helped pay for university by appearing in Cosmopolitan. Asked how she funded her own education, Prof Warren.. said she had "borrowed money", adding: "I kept my clothes on." During a radio interview, Mr Brown, 52, responded: "Thank God."”

Now the headline claims that the senator has been “accused” of sexism. What does that mean? Accused by the State, or the local public prosecutor’s office? By pitchfork-carrying mobs of enlightened thousands? In dozens of letters written to local newspapers? The article itself quotes two individuals who make this suggestion. One is an paid employee (one assumes Executive Directors is not a pro bono job) of the political opponent, who is clearly partisan. The second source is the President of the National Organization for Women, an organization of feminists. Given that there are only two sources, one manifestly interested, one wonders whether the journalist may used the term “accused” in this generic fashion. In any public house, one can find eight people who are probably happy to do the same. Would that mean the Pope is “accused” of being lenient towards child molesters? By four times as many people as in this case? Are not fairness and veracity better served with “President of NOW accuses Senator of sexism; Senator repudiates”? But she actually said it was a “sexist misogynistic attack” (She is referring to the senator having said “Thank God”). A bit of stretch there, perhaps, but it is her opinion, and that may well be reported by the journalist. And if it wasn’t a stretch, then why was the misogyny accusation not mentioned in the headline? Analysis and perspective – are those part of a journalist’s brief? That would involve some contemplation. Perhaps more on Clara’s part. It’s her fault, really.

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