Media Hyperbole: ‘Worst Ever’


I was a little curious as to how the collective American media could pounce upon phrases such as “worst school tragedy in American history” so quickly and so effortlessly.  Probably, the only point of comparison was Columbine, and that made the 33 deaths at [tag]Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University[/tag] the “worst ever.”

Now, my target here is the media.  I in no way intend to belittle the tragic consequences of one man’s shooting rampage.  What gets me is the felicity of judgment and nonchalance with which those reporting the event immediately determined it was the “worst ever.”

As it turns out, a man named [tag]Andrew Kehoe[/tag] slaughtered 45 Michigan school children in 1927 using homemade bombs.  Now, those who said “worst school shooting ever” would be on more solid ground.  However, I think the whole intent of using the superlative worst in any configuration was to sell the news rather than objectively report it.  That’s my beef.

Media literacy rule:  Whenever you read or hear a [tag]superlative form of an adjective[/tag] being used, ignore it.  They’re selling you just like a used car salesman does with “the best 1999 Chevy you can find.”

Categories: Grammar Sucks

2 Replies to “Media Hyperbole: ‘Worst Ever’”

  1. The Michigan school bombing would be the “worst school attack.” The worst school disaster is be the New London, Texas, School Disaster, which killed 300 students in the late 1930s. The explosion was caused by a natural gas leak.

  2. Nice point! Superlatives are common today because, as Doug Rushkoff and others have pointed out, our public discourse is structured by the rhetoric of persuasion. It’s not just politicians who are continually selling. News, education and nearly all public communication rely on the techniques of advertising to pitch ideas.

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