“Nefarious” Russians? Something’s fishy. Or Chicken-of-the-Sea?

About once a month we run into the media focusing on themselves or on a fad rather than on a news item.  This was such a time.  So today we present…

Those ‘Nefarious’ Russians Journalists

The media is incestuous.

Winner: Obvious Statement of the Year!

Sometimes our hapless heuristics are done in by media laziness.

Yesterday we covered the Chinese Roll-Eyes meme.  And we loved it.  That was cool.  It broke an internet, it was human, and everyone had a different but valid take.

Today we have crap.  But a lot of it.

The problem is that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, “These targeted sanctions are a part of a broader effort to address the ongoing nefarious attacks emanating from Russia.”

Why is this a problem?  Because…

  1. It’s quotable
  2. Reporters like the word “nefarious”

Which resulted in the phrase “nefarious attacks” pegging our heuristics, despite there being no news there.  (Yes, Russia is compromising elections and killing people, but before you cast stones… look at crime in Detroit.)

For an illustration of how bad this is, consider Politico, who just today quoted that statement twice and happily used the newly-discovered word a third time:

Note that only one of these really required the word, in the quote context.  And while we find Politico highly biased to the point of satire, the writing is usually professional.

The point is, the media piles on with a word – in this case, “nefarious” – and over-uses it.  And our heuristics, especially the N-Grams, are befuddled.

For More…

Just in case you care… Why did our heuristics get confused?

Because this quote (and word) were attached to so many different topics:

Grunion Run

And one odd side effect of the media going haywire on us is… the next most relevant topic tends to be unexpected.

Today it was… a Grunion Run.

Yeah, we still have some fine-tuna-ing to do.

The Grunion, a smelt-like fish in Southern California, are “running.”  Grunion are a bit like turtles in that they mate and lay on the beach, in mass quantity, for a short period of time.

They’re edible, but that really misses the experience, which is really the shoreline coming alive with wriggly little fish.

And for the rest?

Not everyone lives in Southern California.  (We don’t either now.)  So what else is going on?

(You’re dyin’ for the Bueller clip, right? )

El Pollo Loco has introduced a new logo and brought back a regional favorite.

Can we get a “WTF!“?

El Pollo Loco is a Southern California fast food outlet with rotisserie chicken and healthy sides.  They’ve been around for decades, and it is really tasty.  Like, even better than Costco Baked Chicken fresh.  But it’s regional.

So why did it hit?

  • They changed their logo.  Yeah, tiny stuff, but it’s Southern California, which is like the center of the universe for those with formica-depth.  It’s part of their “Vision” design.

    (In case it’s not clear, the one on the right is the new one.)
  • They brought back tostadas.
  • They beat their earnings estimate by 10%

That last one sounds kind-of important, but how did the others make this relevant?

El Pollo Loco is used as an example of “losing focus”, in their misguided (which is after-the-fact speak for “screw-up”) attempt to add steak to their menu eight years ago.  In case you’re not bilingual (it’s okay; there's a joke about that), “El Pollo Loco” means “The Crazy Chicken.”  No cows allowed.

So why did this make our list?  Because Southern California (and New York) are media centers and this impacted SoCal.  After the incestuous “nefarious” propagation, this was next.

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