On writing–language and bias

If you haven’t accepted that words have the power to manipulate, take a look at this headline recently from the Huffington Post:


Here’s a link to the article in question.

Shame on UPS, you “heartless” evil corporation. Its what the majority of Americans believe corporations are: Heartless, Unfeeling, Thieving, Conniving, etc., etc. The article goes on to say that the UPS facility in Queens will be firing 256 people. Gutless evil entity! And why? Well, because one employee decided to question work hours, got fired, and 250 walked out in protest. Saying it like this, you’d think, absolutely, what a “heartless” way to treat your employees. But this is where the biased language of our current media comes in to play. And they are all guilty of it. I’m looking at you Fox, CNN, MSNBC. It just so happens that Huffington Post committed the latest one. And it is a whopper.

Look closely at the published and updated dates/times. If you are not on the link, here they are:

Posted: 04/02/2014 4:38 pm EDT Updated: 04/03/2014 2:59 pm EDT

What I find amusing is that it took a day for Kevin Short, the author of the piece, to ask a simple question: Can the employees of UPS walk out? You’d think not since a work stoppage at a place like UPS or FedEx or the Post Office would cost the company millions. Of course, we all want our latest thing from Amazon shipped on time and would raise Cain if delivered late. And so, a day later, this is posted:

Update 4/3: Thursday, a UPS spokesperson informed The Huffington Post that the contract between UPS and the Teamsters includes a no-strike clause. Management at the Maspeth facility, where employees worked, warned the employees as they were leaving that their jobs were at risk, the spokesperson said. The Teamsters did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Too little too late, or maybe just perfectly executed, depending on your position in politics. Reading the comments section, you find the battle lines clearly drawn by the people who will never ship with the “heartless” UPS and those who believe that UPS is in the right to fire the employees. I’d be amazed if some of the posters who said that UPS should face a nationwide boycott even read the article or just caught the tag on Huffington Post’s main page and commented. There’s even a moveon.org petition available. Of course, the petition says nothing about the language of the contract that these employees worked under. It all comes down to language.

One simple word–“heartless”–has energized what really should be a non-issue. Amazing. In this case it is not the power of words but the power of one word. As writers it we should be cognizant of the words we choose in our own writing. But we aren’t or we choose not to be. In the realm of published media, I’d argue it’s the choose-not-to-be category. Huffington Post, Fox, MSNBC, CNN all have an agenda to drive. Where this agenda comes from is usually clouded in conspiracy, but there’s a clear agenda. Sadly, many readers and viewers are blinded by that agenda. We hate corporations. We love unions. We hate the 1%. Hence, we’ll say that UPS is a “heartless” company and our followers will agree. What a wonderful way to continue to divide and conquer.

Maybe it is time that we have a truly unbiased, truly “fair and balanced” (sorry FOX, you can’t claim this), source of news where the bias is obvious. There is none.

Those of you who cannot read the bias in the Huffington Post (or FOX, CNN, MSNBC) article, and see it in their delay of reporting all the facts of the issue, welcome to the Church of the Blind. Services are being held daily. They will provide you with the liturgy. Don’t think for yourself. Just rinse and repeat.



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