Ever since I introduced the word “outragist” a few weeks ago I have been waiting for the perfect example in the headlines to drive home my point. And thanks to the fine people at Mother Jones, we have a great one.
Take a look at this headline.
[If you can’t see the image behind your corporate firewall. it says, “Mitch McConnell Declares Workplace Sexism Over, Says Women Don’t Deserve "Preferential Treatment”]
Now read the article and look for anyplace that Mitch McConnell used the word “deserve,” or anything similar to it. The headline is entirely manufactured. “Deserve” is a fighting word. Do you think Mother Jones’ editors said to themselves this headline sounds accurate? No. This is clearly intentional. Apparently they know their readers will fall for it, which surprises me.
It gets worse.
The first line of the article says that McConnell “…recently told a group of Kentuckians that gender discrimination in the workplace is a thing of the past.”
Now try to find anything in the article that McConnell said that sounds like that. The closest quote is “I could be wrong, but most of the barriers have been lowered.”
Keep in mind that this guy is a politician from the “less government” party. That’s our context here. When he says most of the barriers have been lowered, one should assume he is talking about things the government could and should do. In that context, his statement that “most of the barriers have been lowered” is 100% factually correct. You would have to ignore the words “most” and “lowered” to think otherwise.
No one including McConnell thinks the workplace is free of sexism. But it is a legitimate question whether government should do more. (Disclosure: I think it should do more, but not necessarily with legislation.) You can hate McConnell for not wanting to be more aggressive on workplace discrimination. That’s entirely fair. But to imagine he would say women don’t “deserve” success is a galaxy away from reality.
One of the “tells” for outragism is that the accusation is ridiculous on its face. It only gets credibility when paired with a photo (usually) of a person you already suspect of being awful. Put the two thoughts together and normal folks will believe ridiculous things. Let’s try that test here. I’ll strip out the name and photo of the politician involved so you can see how ridiculous the claim looks on its face.
Does the following fictional statement look like it could have happened in our universe?
Top Republican says in public, on the record, that half of his voters do not deserve success.
That is what Mother Jones asks us to swallow. The reason I spotted this bit of outragism so easily is that I read the headline and immediately thought that didn’t happen. So I read the hit piece, and sure enough, it did not.
Disclosures: I’m not a member of a political party. McConnell seems like sort of a dick to me, which makes him a perfect target. And anyone who can read knows that sexism in the workplace exists, including McConnell.
I don’t read Mother Jones, but I had an impression of them as serious journalists. Were they always this bad or is this new?
I’ll let you know when one of my partner-bloggers on this site has new articles. Check out the newest update from Paul Worthington’s Top Tech Blog. Rockets, Drones, and Bionics.
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