MSNBC Dowdifies a George Zimmerman Quote into Newspaper Blackout Poetry

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.

"How To Be Cool" by Austin Kleon"

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.

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17 Responses to MSNBC Dowdifies a George Zimmerman Quote into Newspaper Blackout Poetry

  1. Pingback: SayUncle » What media bias?

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  4. TinMan says:

    Not to pick nits but I’m certain you could find equally reprehensible applications of ‘dowdification’ by our friends over at Faux Noise or Communist News Network.

    Granted I’m sure they are out there (on the ‘t00bz) but I’m too busy (lazy?) to go any further than this. Besides, work needs doin’ here at the office. ;-)

  5. Les Jones says:

    And I reckon they’d be just as wrong as this. “Somebody else did it, too” isn’t a defense against bad journalism.

  6. TinMan says:

    Not disagreeing, merely trying to point out a possible slant in your selection of an MSNBC article (about a current subject obviously) to reinforce your perspective. In fact, there’s now been a concentrated effort to put the decedent under a microscope to imply/impugn his character as something altogether different than first reading.

    Not that it matters I guess since it’s not as if the post was about ‘dowdifying’ but rather the tragedy in FL.

    And on that matter, Zimmerman needs to be charged with manslaughter as he willfully put himself into a situation that could escalate without need or benefit of either party. While being legally armed**.

    Which was after being told by 911 dispatch to not pursue the subject.

    You can “stand your ground” when confronted but when you’re the one doing the confronting, you’d better be ready for an appropriate level of ‘stood ground’ (that even a phrase?) yourself.

    ** Honestly asking for correction here (if I’m wrong) but don’t most firearms education nearly always, always, always push for de-escalation and/or self-removal from a situation to prevent firearm discharge whenever possible? I know the TX CCA classes emphasize this (if you have an escape opportunity you are to take it) but perhaps things are “different” down in FL.

    IOW, discharging of your firearm is the absolute last thing you want to do and is solely for the defense of your own life and others around you?

  7. Les Jones says:

    “And on that matter, Zimmerman needs to be charged with manslaughter as he willfully put himself into a situation that could escalate without need or benefit of either party. While being legally armed**.”

    That’s pretty broad. You’re putting a mighty big burden on him.

    In the end, Martin was on top of Zimmerman, beating his head into a sidewalk. The forensic evidence and the eyewitness testimony back that up. So in the end it was self-defense. It’s the in-between part that got him into that self-defense situation that’s as clear as mud.

    “** Honestly asking for correction here (if I’m wrong) but don’t most firearms education nearly always, always, always push for de-escalation and/or self-removal from a situation to prevent firearm discharge whenever possible? I know the TX CCA classes emphasize this (if you have an escape opportunity you are to take it) but perhaps things are “different” down in FL.”

    That’s the safest route. It definitely removes you from possibilities like this.

    Here’s how the Sanford PD puts it in their FAQ.

    http://www.sanfordfl.gov/investigation/docs/Zimmerman_Martin_shooting.pdf

    If Zimmerman was told not to continue to follow Trayvon, can that be
    considered in this investigation?

    Yes it will; however, the telecommunications call taker asked Zimmerman “are you
    following him”. Zimmerman replied, “yes”. The call taker stated “you don’t need to do
    that”. The call taker’s suggestion is not a lawful order that Mr. Zimmerman would be
    required to follow. Zimmerman’s statement was that he had lost sight of Trayvon and
    was returning to his truck to meet the police officer when he says he was attacked by
    Trayvon.

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