Saturday, 20 March 2010

Forced to Deny

The phrase "forced to deny" currently has 155 hits in the Google News search and just over 15 million hits on the web more generally. It's a massively overused cliched phrase, but that is by far the least worst thing about it: it is completely meaningless. Just look at it again, what does it actually say? It says that someone, somewhere, accused someone of something. How is that news? There was a minor variant of this in the John Terry story I wrote about yesterday (in which it was reported as news that John Terry was forced to take a breathalyser test after being in a traffic accident). Let's just take a few examples of the phrase from my Google News search, and look at what they actually say:

Sir Alex Ferguson forced to deny Red Knights claims he wants part of £1.5bn Manchester United takeover bid

Or, in other words, someone somewhere said that Alex Ferguson wants to join in the Red Knights attempt to buy out the Glazer's share in Manchester United. Alex Ferguson said he doesn't. There isn't really any evidence in the story that he does, apart from the fact that he used to be friends with some people who are involved. But he was 'forced to deny' claims, so apparently that's news. 

That's from the Mail, as are most of the hits for 'forced to deny' in the first few pages of news, but then there's this from the Financial Times:

Allies of Gordon Brown were yesterday forced to deny that the UK prime minister "bullies" staff

Right. How does that say anything more than 'someone accused Gordon Brown of bullying staff'? What exactly does it mean to force someone to deny something? Is it enough to simply accuse them of it? Or do you have some evidence? Credibility? A column in a national newspaper? 

There are plenty of others. The family of Samil Saheed 'forced to deny' that they were involved in his kidnapping. David Cameron's wife 'forced to deny' that she once voted Labour. And many more. 

In almost all cases, the allegations that people have been 'forced to deny' have themselves been made by the newspapers. This is the media at it's worst. Not only do they report non-stories on flimsy evidence, they then report the fact that someone reported it!

1 comment:

Charlotte said...

Perhaps the newspapers phrase it that way because saying someone was "forced to deny" something suggests that they the thing they were denying could actually be true, but the denier is being forced to say it isn't (either by social or economic pressures, or by direct force). This leads some credability to the original accusation.

Although, with this in mind, I'm surprised the Mail used the phrase in relation to the Mrs Cameron story. (They were supporting the Tories, right? I don't really read the Mail...) So perhaps it is just being used as a stock phrase.