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Headlining

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Suppose you saw an article headline saying, “President admits activity was criminal in nature.” If you loath the president, you are likely to infer that the activity was on the part of the administration and might rush to post the article on Facebook or tweet it before reading the article. If you support the president, you are likely to interpret the headline in a way favorable to the president. You might assume the activity was by some enemy of the president or perhaps someone in the administration who betrayed the president with their misdeeds. You might even conclude that it must be fake news. If you are a critical thinker, you would read the article and assess its credibility before drawing an inference about the alleged criminal activity. This headline is an example of a misleading headline—although it is relative mild compared to what you would see in the wild. Rather different articles could follow the same headline. Saying “the president admits” would tend to lead people to think the president is involved in the criminal activity in some manner; either that he committed the act, or someone connected to him did so. But the facts in the article beneath the headline could be rather different from what it seems to imply. For example, the article might state that the president is agreeing that an act of violence committed by someone claiming to be his supporter was a crime. As another example, the headline could be extremely misleading—the president might have made a quick remark about an action completely unrelated to him that he agreed is a crime. For the sake of this essay I will adopt the general term of “headlining” to cover three aspects of misleading headlines. The first is the intentional creation of a misleading headline as a rhetorical technique. A misleading headline is not a complete fabrication—that would simply be lying. A misleading headline has some connection to the truth but is such that it is aimed to deceive the audience in some manner. This. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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