Basket of restorables: U.S. non-voters

Congrats, America. We hold bragging rights over Latvia and Chile when it comes to voter turnout. A Pew Research Center report shows that the United States ranked 31st among 35 countries in the OECD. It said 53.6 percent of the voting-age population voted in the 2012 presidential election. Belgium topped the list with 87 percent turnout in a 2015 election.

One could hillary_clinton_official_secretary_of_state_portrait_cropdescribe the ranking as “deplorable,” but it also makes the electorate “restorable.” In the 1960s, turnout in U.S. presidential elections topped 60 percent, despite attempts by Southern states to restrict voting rights of racial minorities.

Belgium and other countries with high turnout rates have compulsory voting laws. The Pew report notes that Chile’s turnout decreased significantly when it switched from mandatory to voluntary voting. Compulsory voting isn’t going to fly in don’t-tell-me-what-to-do America.

But allowing voter registration on Election Day makes a big difference. A Washington Post story that looked at a Nonprofit Vote study said: “Of the nine jurisdictions where Election Day registration was an option last year (2012), seven placed in the top 20 in overall turnout, including Minnesota.” Minnesota had the highest turnout, with 76.1 percent; while Hawaii was lowest, at 44.5 percent.

The campaigns of Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump are focused on turnout, especially in swing states, in the final weeks before the Nov. 8 election.

Vehemently, adamantly, categorically

The esteemed Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ‘vehement’ as “marked by forceful energy… intensely emotional … deeply felt … forcibly expressed.” The synonyms include aggressive, assertive, dynamic, emphatic, energetic, forceful, full-blooded, muscular, resounding, strenuous, vigorous, and violent.

But in media and public relations, ‘vehement’ is used almost exclusively as part of a denial, or in opposition to something:

‘Coca-Cola says it vehemently disagrees with the coroner’s findings…’

‘Findus also vehemently denied that horsemeat in its beef lasagne…’

‘Sorenson, R-Milo, says he “vehemently” denies wrongdoing…’

You see the point. It’s worth noting that ‘adamantly’ often is used interchangeably with ‘vehemently,’ although they are not quite synonymous. The adjective adamant is defined (Merriam-Webster) as “unshakable or insistent especially in maintaining a position or opinion: unyielding.” Public denials can also be ‘categorical.’

Vehement deserves better than to be attached to politicians, athletes and defendants!

In media, denials should just stand on their own. Unless writers or editors witness an ‘intensely emotional’ or ‘forcibly expressed’ denial, don’t describe it as “vehement.”

Its overuse calls into question the simple denial.

“Hey, honey, I just read in our somehow surviving daily newspaper that the mayor denied those allegations.” Response: “Wait, did he vehemently deny them, or just deny them? Unless it was a vehement denial, I’m afraid I don’t believe the mayor!”

‘Soft’ needs image consultant

Unknown-1Soft is everywhere. I wrote about the use of “soft” in the past, regarding sports and gender insults. It keeps appearing. Magic Johnson tweeted that current Lakers player Pau Gasol should “stop playing soft.” A Foreign Policy blog post in defense of John Brennan, who is President Barack Obama’s choice to lead the CIA, included this headline: ‘Wait, so John Brennan is soft on terror now?’

It got me thinking (Carrie Bradshaw get out of my head), is it ever good to be soft? The answer, mostly, is “no.”

Rihanna isn’t soft, she’s “so hard.” It’s never good to be soft in sports. Politics? No way. Don’t be soft on terrorism, crime, drugs. Soft money is unregulated (i.e. bad). If you speak softly, it’s advisable to carry a big stick. Conservatives generally dislike “soft power,” and liberals generally like it, but liberals prefer “smart power.”

Conservative news website reported that Matt Damon’s anti-fracking drama “Promise Land” opened “soft” at the box office.  In a summary/review, it said “audiences have no patients for these types of films.” Sorry, I have a soft spot for copy editing.

Terrorists look for soft targets. “Easy” target seems like a more accurate description. Strategists prefer attacking an opponent’s soft underbelly (an affront to those of us with rock-hard abs).

Thanks to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, plus-sized soft drinks are being forced to rebrand themselves.

But it’s not all bad for soft. With the economy, a soft landing is preferred over a hard landing when governments adjust monetary policies. Of course, economics is a soft science. This LA Times op-ed explains how soft sciences get bullied.

There is hard and soft news in journalism. Hard news is the meat (and potatoes) of traditional journalism, so technically it’s preferred (in my experience, anyway) over soft news. Trend or investigative stories are typically linked to hard news, though not categorized as such. But the lines are fairly blurred these days. Check out the variety of headlines on the Huffington Post’s front page.

NRA’s words for media

The National Rifle Association doesn’t like the media. I totally get it. Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s executive vice president, said the media is partially responsible for the recent massacre of 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

But just how much does the NRA hate the media? I analyzed LaPierre’s speech for some answers.

From the text of his speech, here are the words and phrases associated with the media:

  • Reckless, dishonest, violate, demonize, machine, copycats, offend, shock, conglomerates, untrue, misinformation, fame, stockholders, conceal, rewards, attention, propaganda, provoking;
  • Toxic mix, moral failings, dirty little truth, criminal cruelty, complicit co-conspirators, silent enablers, shocking headlines.

Now, here are the words and phrases associated with the NRA:

  • Experts, (3 times), expertise (twice), knowledge (twice), mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, dedication, resources, preeminent, willing, qualified, safety, noise, anger, advanced, credentialed, protecting;
  • Plan of action, respectfully silent, positive defense.

Besides blaming the media (and others), LaPierre called for every school in America to be protected by armed security guards or police officers. The New York Times, in an editorial, said it was “stunned” by LaPierre’s “mendacious, delusional, almost deranged rant.”

President Barack Obama has called for “meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”

The NRA surely would oppose new legislation to limit access to firearms. Words that did NOT appear in LaPierre’s statement include: license, reform, improve, restrict.

The NRA chief DID mention: slasher films, video games, monsters, drug gang members, and foreign aid.

AP discourages use of ‘homophobia’

The Associated Press (one of my former employers) has updated its Stylebook to recommend against the use of terms such as homophobia and islamophobia, arguing that phobias are medically diagnosed and shouldn’t be used in political and social contexts. James Rainey of the Los Angeles Times explains in this column. An aside, I noticed on AP’s website that you can buy a Stylebook T-shirt. Eighteen bucks. Made by Hanes, it’s “tagless for comfort and preshrunk to minimize shrinkage.” Whew. “The color is light steel, what’s known in the Stylebook as gray.” (Not ‘grey’)