Emojis, Journalism, and Why Being Cute Isn’t Work

We’re all clowning on this dumbass today, but I want to point out a few things:

It’s not just the sociopathic detachment that says a smiley face is for people losing their health insurance, getting kicked out of their nursing homes, or having their chemo suspended. It’s that in addition to being monstrous, it’s bad journalism. It does not accomplish what journalism is meant to accomplish. It doesn’t adequately inform the public. (I know, but wiser-than-thou cynicism is not a plan.)

This has bothered me for a long damn time, the “pants on fire” and “four Pinocchios” and “our truth-o-meter says” trend by which we rate politicians’ statements. When we put a fucking cartoon character next to things the president of the United Goddamn States says out loud in front of God and everyone, we’re conveying that this is only worth a snippet of your attention, that you can put a stamp on it and forget it.

It doesn’t tell us what the motivation is for lying, who profits by the lies, who is likely to be hurt. It doesn’t cover the patterns and histories and relevant constituencies of the lies, or their consequences. It’s imprecise, and it’s lazy.

We’re also assuming that these “ratings” have any effect on the politicians whatsoever. Now I don’t subscribe to the idea that calling someone out has to change them to be “worth it;” that way a madness of calculating your own influence lies. You call someone out because you see bullshit and you have a voice (and a camera). But I think we seize on these “ooh, his policy proposal was rated PANTS ON FIRE” and assume it’ll leave a mark. It hasn’t. It won’t. This isn’t holding liars accountable. It’s just putting them in categories and sticking a sticker on the boxes.

So if it doesn’t inform the public, it doesn’t hold liars accountable except in the most academic sense, it’s imprecise, AND IT MAKES YOU SOUND LIKE A FUCKING MORONIC SECOND GRADER WHO HASN’T LEARNED THE CONCEPT OF EMPATHY, why are we still doing this, journalists? Knock it off.