dowdification – The omission of a word or a phrase in order to reframe a quote and alter its meaning. This is usually done to help an author portray a particular viewpoint and is very common amongst weblogs. The term is named after the New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.
- Urban Dictionary
Jake caught MSNBC Dowdifying the 911 call in the George Zimmerman/Tryevon Martin shooting. Here’s what MSNBC has George Zimmerman saying on the 911 call (UPDATE March 29:they’ve changed it since, but you can see the Google cache here, or a screenshot here):
“This guy looks like he’s up to no good … he looks black,” Zimmerman told a police dispatcher from his car.
That sure makes Zimmerman sound racist, doesn’t it? But notice the ellipsis. Those three dots indicate that something’s been edited out. Here’s the full, un-Dowdified quote from the 911 recording:
ZIMMERMAN: This guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.
911 DISPATCHER: Okay, is this guy, is he white, black, or Hispanic?
ZIMMERMAN: He looks black.
So instead of saying “he looks black” immediately after saying “he’s up to no good,” Zimmerman only mentions Martin’s ethnicity after being specifically asked by the 911 dispatcher.
What MSNBC did to Zimmerman’s 911 call isn’t editing and it goes even beyond Dowdificiation. This is newspaper blackout poetry, where people take newspaper columns and redact out most of the words, leaving just the parts they want to create an entirely different meaning.
P.S. The Urban Dictionary definition says that Dowdifying is common on blogs, but if anything I see it more often in the mainstream media. Bloggers are more likely to cut and paste quotes in whole. That’s probably due in equal parts to honesty, laziness, and knowing how easy it is for people to check quotes on the Internet.