steepholm: (Default)
[personal profile] steepholm
I mentioned on Facebook the other week that one of my pet marking peeves this year (they operate on a strict rotation basis) is the habit of saying "it could be argued that X", rather than simply "X". It always strikes me as evasive, a way of saying "I'm going to float an idea, and if you agree with it I'll take the credit, but if you don't then I wasn't advocating it, okay?"

Thanks to [profile] stormdog I just saw the perfect illustration of this tactic, although not using that exact phrase, from Nigel Farage - who I bet scattered "It could be argued that" all over his school essays. It's in this article about the reaction to the London bombings on Fox News. Were internment camps a good way to go, mused the incisive analysts of Fox? (For the benefit of those reading outside the UK, no mainstream British politician - by which for this purpose I mean a politician from a party with more MPs than zero - has suggested it.)

Who better to ask than Nigel Farage? Like one of my bet-hedging students (Farage was a professional bet-hedger when he worked in the City, trading commodities, and the instinct is still strong) Farage doesn't call for internment. He says (of people on police watch lists) "if there is not action, then the calls for internment will grow" and, "unless we see the government getting tough, you will see public calls for those 3,000 to be arrested".

Did he just call for internment? Of course not - how dare you suggest such a thing! He was merely acting as a commentator! (Unless it happens, and then he'll be able to say he was brave enough to float the idea.)

And then of course, along comes Katie Hopkins of the Daily Heil like the organ-grinder's monkey, repeating his sentiment but minus the hedge, proving Farage's words true in the process: “We do need internment camps.” What a double act!

A few people on Facebook were bemused by my dislike of "It could be argued that", implying that it was perhaps a bit over the top. This is why I try to drum into people that it's a cowardly and dishonest tactic, whether you're talking about the date of a sonnet or the best reaction to an atrocity.

Nigel Farage uses it, for heaven's sake!

(no subject)

Date: 2017-06-05 09:37 am (UTC)
lilliburlero: quotation from Father Ted"That would be an ecumenical matter" (ecumenical)
From: [personal profile] lilliburlero
I encounter a lot of weirdly tortured phrasing from students who've been taught about academic register in a very superficial way; contortions to avoid first person pronouns (singular or plural) are particularly common. The ones who can pull it off write like junior Sir Humphries, the ones who can't as if they learned English through a dodgy correspondence course. It's telling because it's the direct result of authoritarian teaching ('it's against the rules to use 'I' in your essay!)

Internment worked so well last time, I can't think why people might have reservations! It seems that Theresa May is going the slightly different, but predictable route of criminalising ideologies rather than actions, which is likely, I fear, to have much the same effect.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-06-05 10:16 am (UTC)
legionseagle: (Default)
From: [personal profile] legionseagle
So did shoot to kill. Honestly, I think I'm going to strangle the next person explaining to me that Corbyn is soft on terrorism because he refuses to endorse policies which were a disastrous failure on the occasions when tried.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-06-05 01:41 pm (UTC)
the_rck: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_rck
Hm. I can sort of see a use for the phrase if one's laying out a list of possible opinions, interpretations, arguments, etc. Even then, I'd be more likely to start off with 'Some people believe...' and keep on using that to signal the start of a new argument. Of course, it also works better if one can name actual people or groups who have stated publicly that they do believe whatever it is and provide details about why they believe that.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-06-05 03:49 pm (UTC)
calimac: (Default)
From: [personal profile] calimac
I'd agree: that's the way to float an idea that you're not yourself advocating (or even, like Farage, not necessarily advocating). But yes, it's best to be specific. Too much reading Wikipedia has left me seeing an inserted "[who?]" after each occurrence of "Some people".

(no subject)

Date: 2017-06-05 04:26 pm (UTC)
legionseagle: (Default)
From: [personal profile] legionseagle
I had a principal when I was an articled clerk who detested the subjunctive when writing advice: "We would advise you to." He got positively Yoda about it: "Advise, or do not advise, there is no "would" about it." But I think what he was responding against was diffidence or rather mock diffidence, rather than weaseliness.

Anyway, I was delighted to see that Fox for once disavowed the weaselly pair, smartish.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-06-05 04:44 pm (UTC)
legionseagle: (Default)
From: [personal profile] legionseagle
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