Friday, 6 November 2009

Prompting Fury

Sex education is to be made compulsory for all pupils, prompting fury from faith groups which said that the move would contravene the right for children to be educated in accordance with their parents' beliefs. 
   - Today's Times, first line.

Mike Hammer toyed with his Luger and stared hard at Trixi. 'You'd better not do that again, sugar,' he drawled, 'or you'll prompt my fury.'
   - A Mickey Spillane Novel That Exists Only In My Head

The occassional triggering aside, prompting is the main mode of causation in newspapers. Everything is prompted: concerns, MEPs, interests, Arsene Wenger, backlashes, speculation, Chief Rabbis, renewed calls, lies, and even The Guardian.

It derives, of course, from the theatrical prompter whose job is to keep the actors prompt with their lines. (For this he has a promptuary). But if the prompter prompts fury in the actor we must always remember that that fury is false. It is only acting.

The problem, therefore, of prompting rather than causing is that it makes it sound as though the lines are being fed to the religious group by a prompter. Yet I suppose that this is true, that it is usually the journalist who will have called up the pressure group to obtain the statement of outrage, condemnation or, if they're being high-minded, disappointment. One often wonders how those of the rapid rage regiment could have found out so quickly about this gaffe or that unless they were waiting for the call from the newsroom.  "Northumbrian gerbil enthusiasts were outraged today when the Paraguyan Prime Minister..."

Also, you shouldn't include Ed Balls in an article on sex education, not till I've finished my first coffee.

Also, does anyone else find it a tad odd that "Until now parents could opt out of lessons about contraception"?

A Times journalist interviewing a religious leader

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