Sorry to say there’s more evidence of the decline and fall of Western civilization: the decline of journalism as a professional skill. Yes, it’s represented by the writing found in The New York Times, the old stalwart of fine journalism. Today’s paper, sadly, right on page 1, features a teaser piece under the headline “Money, Influence and the Campaign.” It is subheaded under 2 columns–the article on the left about the Democrats, the one on the right about the Conservatives. I hesitate to say Republicans here, because that’s not the focus of the piece, and, I just like using the word “Conservatives” because they, since the advent of Ronald Reagan, refuse to use the word “Democrat,” favoring “Liberal” instead. Time to turn the tables. Oops, I used a cliché.
What’s bizarre about the teaser for the Conservative piece is its terrible, terrible writing style. In two small paragraphs, it manages to use so much misappropriated jargon, slang and metaphor to be almost devoid of meaning. To be fair, the remainder of the article, which is quite long and plainly written, is almost jargon-free. So rather than bringing writer Michael Luo to trial, the culprit has got to be the hidden Page 1 editor. It looks like some worried editor, jazzed up on energy drinks at 3 in the morning, feared that the lead didn’t have enough sizzle. Oddly, he didn’t give the Democrats the same treatment, but they have their own problems with sleazy, Mafia-connected Harold Ickes as the subject of the piece.
The Luo article is about the group Freedom’s Watch, who had hoped to raise lots of money for the Republican presidential candidate. Rather than led, the group is “headlined by” some ex-Bush White House officials. I think, though it’s hard to tell in this lengthy article, these are Ari Fleischer and Brad Blakeman. Apologies, I just don’t see Ari doing 10 minutes at the Ha-Ha Club. The group is also “deep-pocketed” and a “juggernaut” (sic). It has been “heralded” (I’m seeing British lords fêted by long trumpets) as a “counterweight” (now envisioning a tall grandfather clock) to a group, an individual “and the like.” What is this? 1889? Who uses this terminology? It’s as if some Robber Baron woke up from the dead, got a job at the Times, and decided to become a hepcat.
Finally, instead of giving us an actual explanation of who exactly is being counterweighted, the editor groups together a progressive political organization, a wealthy, renegade liberal activist, and, instead of putting in the work to find a third example to round out the list, throws it all away with a brisk “and the like.” He might as well write “and fellow travelers” circa 1951, since that’s what he’s implying! Talk about lazy… and all of that was in the first sentence!
The next sentence brings the Freedom’s Watch “debut” (a blushing ingenue onstage) which was “splashy” (hard to believe for über-Conservatives). But indeed, the splashiness may have been caused by their “advertising blitz” (Merriam-Webster’s actual example defining the 1940’s slang for the German term “blitzkrieg”). The organization is then described as “paralyzed” wondering “what role… it will… play” (we’re back onstage). We are now well into the world of cliché.
The third and final sentence of this nightmare features “go full bore” and “prospects… seeming to dim.” Again, WWII seems to be the start date for “full bore.”
Whether from gun or engine, bore has an extended use attributed to the Royal Air Force in World War II: ”I went after him full bore,” recounted the ace C. H. Ward-Jackson in 1943. There was a need for a new full, since full sail, full blast and full steam were obsolete.
The citation goes to the incomparable William Safire in a Times article from 1997 (“Full Bore, Small Bore,” January 12, 1997). As for prospects dimming, can’t we do any better, Mr. Editor? That’s 13 ridiculous language abuses in 3 sentences. You’re lucky I got to you before Safire did.