Penn Jillette, of Penn and Teller, once said, “They’re just words.” This from a man who named his television program Bullshit. I’m a huge fan of the great P&T, but c’mon - would “Crap!” have worked?
If Penn is to be believed, it should have - but it wouldn’t have because they’re not “just words” anymore than Gudrun’s cocoa-dusted truffles are “just sweets.”
The way we use words is a science unto itself. News sources count on words to do more than tell a story. Words get you to read the story.
Will we turn to page A4 after the least bit of lead or will we just move on to the next headline? Will we click to see what happened or will we keep surfing?
The answer is in the headline. To get the most readers, you gotta make it juicy, enticing, and — if possible — sexy and/or violent.
Accuracy often takes a backseat to anything that’ll make us feel anxious if we don’t read it, and hard facts might take a holiday when readership is down and our need for sensationalism is up.
If you want to know what the words of a headline really mean, just flip it around and see what floats to the surface.
Cartel 'Stewmaker' Says He Dissolved 300 Bodies
Drug Lord Not Arrested for 300 Counts of Murder
Santiago Meza Lopez told Mexican police he is a “stewmaker,” but this man is no chef. In the course of his work for drug lord Teodoro Garcia Simental, Meza dissolved about 300 bodies in acid for $600 a week. He told authorities that the dead and disposed of had betrayed or were indebted to Garcia, who has not been found and charged with multiple murders.
Based on information provided by Meza, officials are looking for the bodies instead. Meza hopes the families of the deceased can forgive him, but I think the most he can hope for at this point is a variation on the Bible’s advice - in this case, perhaps a fry for a fry.