(Screengrab via YouTube)
It’s pounces all the way down.
Last night, I noticed a curious “analysis” up at the Washington Post, and it was honestly too good to be true.
Analysis: Tucker Carlson and the oversold "Republicans pounce" complaint https://t.co/RiDC9Cwxip
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) February 19, 2019
What this implies is that Tucker Carlson – and Republicans in general – tend to pounce on claims that they have pounced.
First, let’s drill down on Carlson’s method. He looked at several examples of Republicans pouncing in The Post and the Times in recent years — and then proclaimed that it even stretched back to FDR’s time, by finding this 1933 Times headline: “Revived Republicans Pounce on Democrats.”
But when I looked through Post and Times archives along with Lexis Nexis, I found the same number of Times headlines featuring Democrats pouncing (12) as Republicans (12). The Post, meanwhile, was also about even between Democrats pouncing (17) and Republicans (16). (The actual headlines are at the bottom of this post, for those who want to check my work. I include in this analysis references to “GOP” and “conservatives” pouncing, along with “Dems” and “liberals.”)
What’s more, this is almost a completely 21st-century phenomenon. The 1933 headline that Carlson alleged proved the media has been doing this for 85 years? The archives record only two other Post or Times headlines featuring Republicans pouncing for the next 77 years.
Now the analyst here, Aaron Blake, is not a terrible writer or person. He’s not dumb, and he’s not the kind of guy to just throw out a cheap analysis for the sake of a click. However, he has absolutely conflated two concepts here: verbage and framing.
It is not the verbage here that matters. As Blake goes on to say (emphasis mine):
Now for the caveats. There are many ways to test this, and these are just a few. These examples don’t include cable news, for one, where “pouncing” is an attractive construct for segments and chyrons. They also don’t include similar verbs, like “seize,” that could speak to a similar framing. Wire service stories can appear in multiple newspapers, leading to repeat hits (which I did my best to control for). The data aren’t qualitative, and maybe the “pounce” frame is used more when Democrats have particularly problematic stories. They also don’t include every single possible formulation involving pouncing, though they do include the most prevalent and obvious ones.
The bolded text would imply that Blake knows this is a matter of framing and not the terminology. Carlson, and Republicans in general, object to the framing that they are in a constant state of pouncing. The claim itself is weird, given that the GOP is also accused of being for old, white men who aren’t the best pouncers in their stage in life.
It is a constant framing in the media that Republicans have picked up on something and are outraged. It feeds into the idea that GOP and its base just exists to be angry. It isn’t headline thing. It is a framing thing.
Take, for example, the Daily Mail story about Malia Obama yesterday. A story was released that she was drinking expensive wine with her friends. She is in college. Most of us would expect her to be. For my part, I follow a wide range of right-leaning (and even left-leaning!) people on Twitter, and I saw no one of any major significance expressing outrage.
However, the story existed and it was about Malia Obama, therefore conservatives (who hate fun and definitely don’t believe in alcohol, I guess) were probably upset.
Conservatives are frothing at the mouth over Malia Obama drinking rosé at a party just shy of her 21st birthday.
These are the same people who had no problem giving Justice Brett Kegstand a lifetime appointment to SCOTUS.
— Imani Gandy (@AngryBlackLady) February 19, 2019
Rightwingers are obsessed with Malia Obama today. It's almost as if they wish Barack Obama was still president as much as I do
— Sarah Cooper (@sarahcpr) February 18, 2019
The same people mad at Malia Obama for drinking wine and wearing a bathing suit at age 20 are the same people who excuse Brett Kavanaugh for drinking beer and assaulting a woman at age 17
— Zack Bornstein (@ZackBornstein) February 19, 2019
Malia Obama drank alcohol at 20 & has a political opinion = Republicans freak out
Don Jr. conspires w/Russia to undermine our democracy and lies to congress, appearing to commit a felony & they all blame Hillary
I just can’t wait for her to turn 35 so she can run for President
— Brian Krassenstein (@krassenstein) February 19, 2019
These aren’t headlines, but they are written in the same manner as the headlines that claim Republicans pounce or seize or whatever other verb you choose.
Now, I realize I am coming across as upset here. Chances are I’m actually pouncing on Blake’s claim that Carlson is pouncing on the constant framing of Republicans as pouncing. In all likelihood, there is more pouncing to be had.
The outrage spewed forth from other pouncing conservatives could catch the attention of CNN’s Chris Cillizza, who will write his own analysis on conservatives pouncing on claims they are pouncing on claims they are pouncing. From there, Republicans will likely seize on Cillizza’s post, leading to a segment on Brian Stelter’s Reliable Sources on pouncing Republicans.
Stelter will undoubtedly lament the aggressive and reckless pouncing that Republicans are constantly doing. This lamentation will be met with sad nods from his panel of a New York Times editor, a Vox senior political reporter, a social media editor for Salon, a Democratic strategist and hopefully Ana Navarro.
I am betting the New York Times editor gets misty-eyed talking about her reporters getting pounced by sexist Republicans.
The clip of the panel will end up at Mediaite, breaking down the ridiculous one-sidedness of Stelter’s panel on Republicans pouncing. That piece will be tweeted out by some C-list celebrity who thinks this whole thing is about angry, racist Republicans and Donald Trump’s wall. His or her followers will attack the Mediaite post, and Republicans will seize on their attacks as a sign of their stupidity.
Of course, belittling the intelligence of that C-list celebrity and his or her followers is in itself a pounce, and it will lead to a Slate thought-piece on the racist and mysoginistic history of pouncing… a piece that will largely ignore the very examples of Democrats pouncing that Blake mentions in his original piece at the top of this column.
We will be pouncing at an unsustainable rate. It will be an epidemic. Quite possibly, it will be a national emergency.
In the end, as it began: it’s pounces all the way down.