Ideological Subtext, Part 3

The New York Times today offered two examples of ideological subtext, which roughly speaking is the embedding of a basic value, belief or social axiom into the subtext of a communication.  The reference to the belief usually is unnecessary to the understanding of the article, and sometimes runs counter to the facts that the article is exploring.

Here are the examples, both from the national edition, published in Canton, Ohio:

  • Here is the description of Erich Kunzel in the first paragraph of his obituary: “Erich Kunzel, who conducted the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra for more than three decades, undermining the pretensions of symphonic music in more than 80 recordings….” The ideological subtext is that classical music has “pretensions.”  The writer could have just as easily said,”…and dumbing down people’s understanding of music by conflating ‘Pops’-style orchestrations with legitimate classical music in more than 80 recordings…”  Or more even-handedly, the writer could have written, “…popularizing ‘Pops-style’ orchestral music in 80 recordings…”
  • The lead story on the “National” page concerned another Medicaid clinic in trouble.  There were three photos and all were of African-Americans (one also had a physician who clearly looked either subcontinental or middle eastern).  I have now seen five photographs in two feature articles in the Times on Medicaid clinics in trouble in the past few weeks and all the photos focused on African-Americans.  Again, the overwhelming number of Medicaid recipients are white.  Now it is possible that across the country only clinics serving African-Americans are in trouble; if so, that’s the real story and the New York Times should cover it.  As is, the ideological subtext to the story is that only Black people are on the public dole.

I’m not picking on the New York Times, but it’s the newspaper I read everyday.  I am going to start giving examples of ideological subtext from other news media over the next few weeks.

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  10. paul sheldon says:

    Very interestng that you picked up on these subcontexts. I don’t read NYTimes that closely, but the obit is particularly interesting for it’s assumptions/inferences.

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