I know from experience that, for a writer of news, the jaws of a cliche can be a difficult thing to escape.
You’re in a hurry, you need an image people can relate to, you need to somehow make the political convention you’re writing about seem exciting, as opposed to just a multi-day display of balloons and bluster, pomp and propaganda.
The cliche, often, is the first term that pops into your head, and once it latches on — legend has it they exert a force beyond any other words, something like a million pounds per square inch — you just can’t shake them off.
So, unless you find something you can describe as a “game-changer” — it having quickly risen up the cliche ladder — you pepper your reports with terms like “attack dog.”
This being convention season, “attack dogs” are everywhere.
Just in the first few days of this week — as the Democratic National Convention got underway in Charlotte – Vice President Joe Biden, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, to name a few, have been described in the news media as attack dogs.
Rest assured, the pack will grow as the convention progresses, as will the use of the misnomer.
They are not attack dogs; they are attack humans. And it’s unfair to identify them by lumping them into a whole different species — a species that’s smart enough to eschew the back-biting world of politics.
I have no problem with the political parties designating certain politicians to be the tough guys, to say the things that — be they borderline truths, senseless vitriol or other comments deemed too indecorous — the presidential candidate himself probably shouldn’t utter.
But let’s leave dogs out of it.
Let’s come up with another descriptive term, like Clint Eastwoods.
A true attack dog, of the canine variety, is a dog that humans have done all they could, through breeding, through training, through constantly reinforcing aggression, to instill that behavior. It’s not, at least since dog was domesticated, their natural way.
With politicians, I’m not so sure.
Those creatures you see at the political conventions are growling, smarmy, snarling humans, doing what their masters tell them to do. That’s not a behavior learned from dogs; it’s a behavior learned from politics.
(Photo: West Highland terriers Ricky and Reba, who, like most dogs, aren’t attack dogs at all)
Posted by jwoestendiek September 5th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, attack dogs, biden, castro, cliches, conventions, coverage, democrats, dogs, eastwood, networks, news, news media, news writing, o'malley, pets, political, politics, president, quinn, reid, republicans, terminology, vice president, writing