|10th January 2006||#1|
Join Date: July 2005
''Why America hates . . .''
Let's examine a "current issue" that pertains directly to the topic of this forum.
But to get the proper perspective on it, let's approach it by way of an analogy.
. . . . . .
What would you make of a magazine cover blurb that reads:
"Why America Hates Outdated Values"?
Does such a title imply that the corresponding article will be a defense of "outdated values"? Or perhaps, that it will offer a suggestion about how to curb this "hatred"?
Maybe. Undoubtedly, many readers (particularly those who are concerned about said values) are meant to think so--and to buy the magazine, as a result.
However--as is often the case in the world of the mass media--what "seems" and what "is" are two very different things.
First, let's consider that specific phrase, "outdated values." This is not a neutral, impartial description of "values," is it? Rather, by characterizing the values as "outdated," the title imposes a modifier on them--an unambiguously negative one.
After all, the magazine could have dubbed them "historic values," which is more neutral; or better yet, "traditional values." In the latter case, a reader's overall attitude towards "tradition" would determine whether he regarded the modifier "traditional" as positive, negative, or neutral.
But as a modifier of "values," the word "outdated" is an unqualified attack, a one-word denunciation. It asserts that the values which the story will be addressing are, de facto, "outdated," rather than letting readers appraise their currency for themselves.
Furthermore, such a cover blurb implies that values can become outdated in the first place (which is hardly a matter of general consent), and that assessing values based on how "up-to-date" they supposedly are is a valid practice.
But the idea that values are (or can be) "outdated" is merely the contention of the magazine that features this kind of cover line--and it is a highly questionable contention, to say the least.
Indeed, the only individuals who are likely to describe "values" in this manner are those who "hate" them, to begin with.
Far from being just a descriptive cover line about a magazine story that appraises America's attitude to "values," then, a cover blurb such as this is an insidious attack on those values.
But even once we amend the spurious term "outdated" to a more neutral term, such as "traditional," the rest of the cover line remains extremely pejorative.
Let's consider the first part of the phrase: "Why America Hates Traditional Values."
But . . . does it? Does America actually "hate" such values? Or is the magazine simply contending that it does?
Note how the blurb doesn't frame this as a query, e.g., "Does America Hate Traditional Values?" but rather, overleaps this initial question, and asks why it does--thus creating the illusion that this "hatred" is a self-evident truth.
But it is not.
The magazine could just as easily proclaim, "Why America Hates Foreign Cars," or "Why America Hates iPods." But simply making such claims does not make them real. (In fact, both foreign cards and iPods are more popular than ever.)
The cover line, therefore, attempts to present a spurious claim as an established "fact."
And in an even more sinister way, it helps to produce the situation that it claims already exists (but doesn't).
Who knows how many people who have no particular opinion on the matter will glance at a cover such as this, internalize the premise of the cover blurb, and think to themselves, "Oh, if America 'hates' traditional values, then I suppose that I, as an American, should hate them, too."
Or worse, who knows how many people who are already inclined towards a hatred of traditional values will notice the cover line, and think, "Well, I see that my 'hatred' of traditional values is warranted, since America obviously shares this hatred."
The cover blurb can therefore generate "hatred" where no such hatred existed before, and, in effect, can sanction and bolster any hatred that already exists.
And finally, let's consider the subject of that cover line: "Why America Hates Traditional Values."
"America"? Who is this "America" that the magazine so casually lumps together as an indistinguishable mass?
The United States possesses as many divergent opinions as it has citizens, and much of the population--perhaps even a majority--adores, reveres, cherishes, and defends traditional values, and doesn't consider them "outdated" at all.
The premise of the cover blurb is faulty, rendering the corresponding article meaningless.
By fabricating a nonexistent single entity--"America"--which is not an undifferentiated whole, and does not hold a single opinion on this or any topic--the premise of the cover line prevents the corresponding article from arriving at the correct conclusion, which is that while some factions in America may "hate" traditional values, many others do not--and that many Americans actually love, and honour, and cherish such values.
On the other hand, there is an identifiable group that is broadly opposed to these values, and undermines them at every turn. This group is not "America," but rather, the American media--and women's magazines in particular.
Therefore, a more truthful rephrasing of the cover blurb in question would yield a title such as,
"Why the Media Hates Traditional Values,"
or, even more precisely,
"Why This Magazine Hates Traditional Values."
As we initially suggested, this is simply an analogy.
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