Calling out problematic headlines and getting results

Dear President Trump,

I never know whether the thing that occurs to me at 10pm to write to you about the next day will be compelling enough to hang in through the night and the next morning’s adventures (ha!). Of course it helps when the news cycle is stale and things are quiet around here, both of which were the case this morning. Thus, the HP article that made me cringe last night is still at the top of the list for letter topics. Here’s the title of the article by Carla Herreria:

Marie Yovanovitch Receives Diplomacy Award After Being Disgraced By Trump

It makes for a compelling headline and when I saw it, I hoped that’s all it was – a badly worded, attention-grabbing headline. But no, the first paragraph reads as follows:

“Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was disgraced by President Trump amid the heated impeachment inquiry, received an award for her excellent conduct in diplomacy.”

The article does go on to talk about the award and the message Yovanovitch delivered when she accepted it, but the piece really is framed around the idea that you disgraced her, which is incredibly problematic. First, people disgrace themselves (and in the process, their families and institutions); someone else might point it out or reveal the disgrace but people’s own actions (to include words) are what disgrace them. Second, it would be far more accurate to say that you undermined and attacked Yovanovich and I really don’t get why the author or the HP editors didn’t just come out and say that, they aren’t usually shy about calling you out. And third, not only did you not disgrace Yovanovitch (though you clearly attacked her), you disgraced yourself and your office by undermining and attacking her.

I know I’m making a big deal about a poorly worded headline, but it’s just the thing that somebody who wants to promote you and your (choose all that fit: sinister, shitty, shyster, cynical, subversive, etc.) agenda could and would use to make the case that “see, even the HP says that Yovanovich is a disgraced ambassador.” Most of the thinking world knows this is patently false, but the conniving somebody wouldn’t even have to mess with the headline to promote this false narrative, and that’s a problem.

Zeroing in on this problematic headline also affords me the opportunity to say that we all need to be clear that when you, or the political dogs you sic on people, gin up shit about your so-called enemies, it reflects badly on you all – not on those you are attacking. Truly, you disgrace yourselves, your families, and sadly our institutions, when you engage in this base behavior.

Also, as I pointed out a few days ago in reference to how the constant pairing of Joe Biden with the Ukraine election tampering scandal likely has undermined his bid for the Democratic nomination (even though it’s still the case that no one else seems to be calling this out), those of us who oppose you have to be vigilant against buying into your manipulative psy-ops about people you want out of your way. Not always, but often you all are really, really good at spinning sordid tales about people that seem just plausible enough that many of us are in danger of being snagged by them. And sadly, I think it’s reasonable to say that most of us are in danger of being at least a little influenced by your bullshit such that we are left with the feeling that no one is trustworthy and honorable. Plus, we sure as hell need to safeguard against helping you promote such disinformation, like the above HP headline does.

The HP has a “suggest a correction” portal at the bottom of each story and so I sent them a note outlining what I thought was problematic and suggested a fix. That was at about 6:30 this morning and I wondered off and on all day whether a fix was made. Well, I’m incredibly pleased to tell you that they did indeed fix it. I don’t know whether it was just me pointing out the issue to them or if they got deluged with messages about it, but it’s wonderful to see the record corrected. Here’s the new headline and new first paragraph:

“Marie Yovanovitch Receives Diplomacy Award After Being Targeted By Trump”

“Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was attacked by President Trump amid the heated impeachment inquiry, received an award for her excellent conduct in diplomacy.”

May we be safe from misattributions.
May we be willing to speak up when something is wrong.
May we take care of those who are being attacked and reviled by our POTUS.
May we not make peace with bullies and sadists.

Tracy Simpson

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