by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Kevin Williamson of National Review Online is no fan of the overuse of one particular word in political discourse.
One of the words I would abolish from our political lexicon is “scary.” It is an insipid, empty adjective with its roots in “one weird trick”–style digital gimmickry, beloved of such master click-baiters as the editors over at Vox. A recent example comes from our friends (“If a man’s character is to be abused, there’s nobody like a relation to do the business”) over at The Bulwark, which carried a headline reading: “The Scary Spectacle of Trump’s Last Month in Office.” …
… “Scary” used in this way is irritating for a half a dozen reasons. One of them is that it is a base-stealing stratagem, a way of suggesting, usually in a headline, that the following matter is shocking or revelatory. And what follows almost always is something that is neither shocking nor revelatory. In the Bulwark piece, the “scary” headline is undercut by the copy itself: “The final days of the Donald Trump administration are upon us, and they look much like every other day at the White House for the last four years.” To which some might reply: “Oh, but every other day at the White House for the last four years has been scary, too!”
In which case, grow the . . . heck . . . up.
Scary is a weak and dishonest means of gaining influence, with the writer ordering readers to feel a certain way about a subject rather than causing them to feel that way, which takes a little bit of effort and skill. If you were to read a straightforward account of the crimes of Jack the Ripper, nobody would need to tell you that you should be shocked and disgusted by them. Margaret Thatcher did not need to tell anybody that she was a lady, or that she was powerful — the facts of the case were enough.