Many Americans Are Getting Misled By This Foul News Trick
April 16, 2020

Read this, and have the veil lifted!

There's a subtle little trick in English that often manipulates people. This trick can often exaggerate, misrepresent, and/or shift the scale of a topic. The unaware can be blindsided with it. Extreme political agendas can be pushed with it. Newscasters use it. Reporters use it. Memers use it. Heck, I used it in the headline:

Non-specific. Plural. Nouns.

That's right! Want to turn a bland, boring news piece into a sizzling, clickbaity headline? Remove the number from it. Look at my headline. Many Americans! How many? Jeez, I don't know, I just work here. More than two, that's for sure. Best part about it? I remove the number, it's now harder to be caught in a lie.

Another example: "SOME AMERICANS ARE SAYING THEIR STIMULUS CHECK WENT TO THE WRONG BANK ACCOUNT" How many Americans? Two? Two thousand? Two million? We as the readers don't know. The article I pulled this headline from doesn't even have an estimated number inside.

One more pulled from the headlines: "CORONAVIRUS CASES FOUND IN [LOCAL NEIGHBORHOOD]" These ones were everywhere during the onset of COVID-19, but the one for my town went no higher than 4. These were (obviously) developing stories, and I am in no way trying to downplay the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak, but numbers here help to give a sense of scale and won't leave people in the dark.

OR the classic: "LEGISLATORS SHOW BIPARTISAN SUPPORT FOR [INSERT ACTION HERE]" While it's great any time our government can reach across the aisle, this one is especially awesome when it's only two senators out of a hundred.

In the Age of Information, it's important to go past the possibly-sensationalized headline and process articles critically. If you see an article that doesn't define the quantities of its topic, imagine looking at the topic as if it was the smallest possible number (usually two, because these topics are ALWAYS plural), then the largest possible number (All of them. Plus a few more for good measure). When you're done with that, go looking for a decent article that can give you an actual number. I'm sure there are many out there.



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