I've noticed that whenever the media wants to demonize a public figure, they follow a specific pattern:

1.      Quote the public figure out of context to make him look more ridiculous than usual.

2.      When the public figure tries to put the quote back in context, the headlines the next day will say, "[Public Figure] Doubles Down"

3.      When the public figure tries to clarify a hasty remark, or one taken out of context, the headline is "[Public Figure] Backpedals on Earlier Remarks."

Backpedaling and doubling down are words the media use to signal their opinion that the figure in question is an unscrupulous weasel. It also helps distract from the fact that the media often invents news by removing context. Doubling down sounds a lot better than the more accurate alternative: "Public Figure Correctly Points Out that We Manufactured News by Removing Context."

If you Google "doubles down" "Romney" you will discover that Romney allegedly doubled down on. . .

1.      Criticism of embassy attacks
2.      The 47% controversy
3.      False Jeep claims
4.      Defunding National Public Radio
5.      Obama's "Apology Tour"
6.      Vouchercare
7.      Russia as geopolitical adversary
8.      "extreme" immigration positions

Do a similar search for "doubles down" and "Obama" and you find that the President doubled down on. . .

1.      History
2.      Tax hikes
3.      About not apologizing
4.      On "oddly incoherent critique of Romney"
5.      Bain Capital attacks
6.      Romney's op-ed about automaker support
7.      Biden's claim that middle class ‘buried'
8.      Big government

Meanwhile, Romney "backpedalled" on. . .

1.      47% comment
2.      Deportations
3.      FEMA
4.      Abortion

And President Obama "backpedalled" on. . .

1.      Economy being fine
2.      "above my pay grade" comment
3.      Libya attacks
4.      Keystone pipeline
5.      Private sector remarks
6.      Sequestration
7.      Ahmadinijad "elected" remark
8.      Gay marriage

You will not be surprised to learn that liberal media sites more often accused Romney of back pedaling and doubling down while conservative media sites more often say the same about President Obama.

My advice is that whenever you see backpedalling or doubling down in an alleged news story, stop reading immediately. The writer and the editor for that piece are trying to manipulate you into a belief that would not necessarily be supported by the facts within their proper context.

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+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 14, 2012
"My advice is that whenever you see backpedalling or doubling down in an alleged news story, stop reading immediately."

if i followed this advice, there'd be nothing left to read.
Nov 14, 2012

This is a problem? Until they do we'll be free. And once they do some Well Informed Super Genius will tell us the new keyword. And keep going until we can't find the keyword or they stop doing it.

What Im saying here is that, worst case scenario, we'll eventually be back where we are now as you suggest, but maybe not, and in the meantime we know what stories to avoid.
Nov 14, 2012
There's a problem with your suggestion to stop reading: when editors get word that their current words are intent "tells" they'll just change their words to new ones that poll better.
Nov 14, 2012
I have a question. It's directed toward Scott or anyone else who has been on the wrong end of a media "lynching".
As background I'm not the type to ever want to be in the opinion and news dialogue that goes on today. I leave an occasional comment on this blog only because I find the topics different and interesting.
That said, what is it like to have the world come agaisnt you for expressing an opinion? Not only come against you but twist everything against you and scream liar or something else when you try and point out the falicies of their statements.
I sometimes think I could just ignore it and be on my way but other times it sounds most intimidating. It may have something to do with how much caffiene I've had or whether I have a bit more testosterone pumping though the veins than normal.
Anyway, what is the sequence of emotions that one feels as they go through this?

Scott's reply:

[Good question. The initial reaction is a feeling of being violated, very similar to coming home and finding that your home has been burglarized. The frustration is that you can't entirely fix it. Once an accusation hits the Internet, it's a stain that never goes away.

I'm generally not angry about normal, random bad luck. Shit happens in everyone's life. My hot button is when someone targets me for financial gain, usually to boost their own readership. Then it's personal. I view the perpetrator exactly as I view a burglar.

On the plus side, I do enjoy a good debate with evil ass-hats. So the entertainment aspect is sky-high for me. It's hard to describe how much fun it is when the Low Reading Comprehension community comes after me.

Luckily, I have a high tolerance for public embarrassment. It's like a super power. Public embarrassment strikes me as genuinely funny, even when I'm the subject. I usually end up talking to my brother on the phone and roaring with laughter about the whole thing. That's largely possible because the public me is so different from the real me that I see the public me as a different person. (That's why famous people sometimes refer to themselves in third person; it actually feels like a different person.)

I'm probably more bothered by the well-meaning folks who advise me to just let the topic drop because I'm just making it worse for myself. I don't think those people understand what I do for a living. It's also extraordinarily bad advice in the Internet age. I have the option of turning any Google search my way by creating a lot of hits for my counterpoint. One can't remove all stains from the Internet, but you can put a footnote with context on most of them. It would be irrational to let damaging misinformation survive without comment.

In summary, it feels terrible at first, and slowly transforms into an awesome form of entertainment. Financially, my best guess is that the fake controversies reduce my income potential by 50%. But I stopped caring about that sort of thing years ago. -- Scott]

+11 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 14, 2012
On one hand, for some comments (like Romney's 47%, and Biden's affirmation of gay marriage) the candidate seems to have meant what he said, but I agree that the vast majority of comments highlighted by the media are taken out of context. During the campaign, I used to remind people that the candidates would utter thousands of words on any given day, and all the press would feed us are the 0.1% that they stumbled over (being human's a b--ch).

The result was a entire campaign cycle devoid of any thoughtful discussion of the issues.

And then we voted...


Nov 14, 2012
This is off topic, but I don't have anything to say about the main point of your post ATM and wanted to know; do you read all the messages generated by the 'contact us' part of this site yourself or do you have someone sort through them for you? Does it have a spam filter?

[I can't guarantee I read all of them, but I probably come close. And yes, we filter spam. -- Scott]
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