One of the favourite clichés of British tabloid headline writers is the “Fury At x” construction.

The subjectless and verbless sentence fragment conveniently leaves the question of agency — whose fury? — open to the fertile imagination of the reader. And of course, that’s the point. Nobody other than the newspaper itself is actually furious, but it allows reporting of a non-existing conflict as if it were a straight news story.

So, in the interests of media literacy, here’s Straight Banana’s take on this silliness:

Not for the first time, as I flicked through the Mail’s pages, I observed today how so much of the reactionary press’s bread and butter reporting is based on ’manufactured fury’. You can spot it a mile off. The headline screams about some terrible controversy, and within the first few sentences the reader has learned that there is general “outrage” / “fury” / “anger” at such-and-such a government proposal or political manoeuvre. Who’s the fount of all this negative emotion? Well, we never quite find out. As the story continues, the reporter constructs a careful account of just why we should be angry, but the original claim — that someone, somewhere already is — is never justified.

I suppose the idea is to get the article off the ground by pretending that there’s a legitimate news story in the first place. Of course, “The Mail thinks X is bad” is not news; but FURY AT X is. It’s handy: it commits the newspaper editor to no particular empirical proposition, but it does provide a springboard for him to further his political agenda by disguising opinion as fact.

Look for the subject in any tabloid sentence whenever you see the word “fury”. Usually, some conflict actually exists, but is buried somewhere in graf five. But sometimes it doesn’t. In that case, you are reading a non-story.

Same applies for “row”. And when you see that nice short abbreviation “EU”, make sure you check which institution the story is about. Sometimes they are not EU institutions at all.