Real Genius
Sunday, October 22, 2006
WaPo, Front Page, Above the Fold
About a year after our first lecture in the series Headline Writing 101, whoever came up with the title "In a Land Without Order, Punishment Is Power" for Anthony Shadid's decent --and entertaining, but in my opinion somewhat redundant-- article makes us add one more golden rule to a list of arduous, complicated entries like not misleading your readers and not flat-out making shit up:

Try to research the histories of concepts a bit before you construct slogan-like generalizations even if you think their reference to something in the article (in this case the Southern Iraqi saying "No one pays respect to the saint who won't mete out punishment.") is clever.

You see, while this may sound original and insightful to you, a lot of people would find it uninspiring and ordinary, because they may have, say, unlike you, considered the connection between punishment and power before they first heard about it in the Iraqi saying. You know, after having read Max Weber's Politik als Beruf or something:
a state is a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory
... or having heard something about modern Western political science.

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