Bring on the modifiers.

The New York Times is a champion user of modifiers — adjectives, adverbs, phrases. A story on Sept. 3, 2018 is a classic example. Headlined (in The Boston Globe) “Political tide is changing in Sweden,” it has 24 adjectives and adverbs in its 12 sentences. It starts: “As an angry and divided Sweden prepares to vote Sunday, the shape of the next government is unclear because of the rise of the….Sweden Democrats, a nationalist party that is expected to win a fifth of the vote..” The story does not mention that in the previous parliamentary elections the Sweden Democrats won almost one fifth of the vote, which would contradict the headline about the political tide changing. But contradictions in New York Times news stories don’t deter speculation, opinion, generalization, or soothsaying.

The story quotes former prime minister Carl Bildt saying “with evident sadness” that Sweden “is joining the rest of Europe” in right-wing voters’ gaining strength. Wonder if the Times reporters saw Bildt near tears. Now that would be news.

The story describes Swedes as “traditionally phlegmatic,” a government “traditionally dominated” by older parties and a nation that “traditionally welcomed immigrants.” Then there’s long-considered, increasing, far-right, most welcoming, regarded as, long-dominant, and on and on.

File under: New York Times and its modifiers as news.

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