Monday, March 23, 2015

Addendum: Journalistic "C's" — Historical Context (6 March 2015)

In an article published in my local newspaper on 6 March 2015, the columnist Martin Schram quotes US House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, Republican of California chiding his colleagues for holding up funding for the Department of Homeland Security when "We face more global and domestic threats today than ever before […]." 

Mr. Schram says the Congressman "blasted" his fellow conservatives, and certainly the blast was well deserved — but Mr. Schram should have provided an introductory warning such as, "Using the rhetorical device of hyperbole, Nunes blasted his fellow conservatives …." 

'Cause come on! British forces burned public building in Washington, DC, in 1814 — including "the presidential mansion" — and the War of 1812 was a fairly close thing. The US Civil War was by definition a deadly threat to the American Union, and the United States was in great danger during World War II and the Cold War. The Great Depression and the protests and the riots of the long 1960s weren't on the threat level of Fascism or Stalinist Russia, but they were very serious, as was the crime wave of the 1980s.

The threat of thermonuclear annihilation is still with us, but that's a matter for nuclear build-down, which Mr. Nunes probably doesn't have in mind — and probably ditto for resource depletion and climate change.

So, again: Context, journalists, context, in this case historical, and a sense of proportion. It's a good idea to fund the Department of Homeland Security, period. There are threats out there; they don't have to be the worst in history.

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