Monday, December 10, 2012

Headline Blues

All I usually see of the South China Morning Post website is its headlines, because you need to subscribe to read the full stories on its website, and I don't.  But those are a most peculiar mix.  On the one hand, there are some - usually one or two a day - that would be more at home in Fashion Week than a serious newspaper.  Today's example, Louis Vuitton holds reopening party at Pacific Place, may be of interest to some, but it's hardly headline news.  Do the companies they promote so blatantly pay them for this publicity?

Others could come straight our of the People's Daily: Xi Jinping wins support with his forceful yet peace-driven persona sounds like a puff piece for the next Chinese President.  Or is there an implied hint of criticism here?  After all persona, the dictionary tells us, means "a person's perceived or evident personality, as that of well-known official, actor or celebrity; personal image; public role".  But more deeply, in Jungian psychology, it means "the mask or fa├žade presented to satisfy the demands of the situation or the environment and not representing the inner personality of the individual".  In other words, Xi is putting on a face which is winning him public popularity, but one one knows his real thoughts.  Sounds like another leader closer to home (though he can hardly be said to be winning support!)

Coming back to the SCMP, then we have its readers' polls which invariably ask the wrong question.  Today's, for example, asks "Do you support legalising euthanasia in Hong Kong?"  I would want to see the word voluntary or involuntary in front of "euthanasia" before I could answer that question, and my answer would be different depending on which of the two words appeared.  Such polls tend to over-simplify complex issues, so that I often want to respond with an essay or a supplementary question rather than simply a "Yes or No".  Older British readers may remember Professor Joad on Brains Trust, who invariably opened his answer to any question with "it depends what you mean by..."

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