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Stormy weather

The journalistic addiction to exaggeration resists all treatment.

Consider how frequently we find some burst of public criticism described as a “firestorm”:

And in 1993, ABC's NYPD Blue set off a firestorm by showing the bare posteriors of various characters.

In a move that even Republicans said would spark a firestorm, President Bush spared I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby Jr. from prison

[Paris Hilton’s] early release caused a firestorm of criticism over whether she was getting special treatment because of her wealth and fame.

In a firestorm, the intense heat of an explosion or series of explosions ignites all combustible material. The resulting updraft draws in oxygen from the surrounding area, making the fire larger and even more intense.

Though firestorms can develop in large forest fires, the term has become more commonly associated with great fires in cities. An atomic bomb can create a firestorm. In the Second World War, the Allied incendiary bombings of Japanese and German cities created immense firestorms. If you have read the account of the bombing of Dresden in the late Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, you have a sense of what a firestorm amounts to, with survivors walking across a vast ashen crust discovering human bodies reduced to charred chunks.

To suggest that Dennis Franz’s ass or Paris Hilton’s release from jail can generate a firestorm trivializes the term.

Posted by John McIntyre at 2:08 PM | | Comments (2)


The thought of viewing Mr. Franz's posterior, or any other portion of his revolting anatomy, far from creating a firestorm, leads me to change the channel forthwith (I love "Third Watch" talk). As for the other useless creature you mentioned, "Dove il vomitorium?"

Mr. McIntyre, did I just read the word "ass" in your post?
Agreed about the rest. This country must be a heaping pile of ash for all the firestorms we have.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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