Monday 8 October 2007

Another classic avoidance strategy

Further to this post about the rhetoric of evasion in the discourse of root-causers and blowback theorists, here's Nick Cohen drawing attention to a strategy that I missed:

Almost everyone discusses the second Iraq war in the passive voice. It's as if a censor in the head clips out every mention of the crimes of Baathists and Islamists from their prose. So we read that an interpreter for the British army was assassinated; Iraqi Christians are the victims of a pogrom; British soldiers have been killed by roadside bombs.

Schoolchildren learn that they must always say who is doing what to whom. In the case of Iraq, many find it impossible to declare who is killing interpreters, Christians and soldiers, and why. Clear English might threaten preconceptions, and that would never do.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is proving a master of the evasive style. Returning from visiting Iraqi refugees in Syria last week, he declared: 'Women in Christian communities were regularly forced to wear the hijab and were followed as they went to church.'

Yes, yes, Your Grace, but who is forcing and threatening them? He couldn't speak plainly, because if he admitted that al-Qaeda in Iraq kill Arab Christians for being Christians, he would have to accept that their persecution isn't the responsibility of Britain and America, but of the psychopathic adherents of theocratic ideology.

And it's not just about Iraq: much of the coverage of Iran seems to suffer from the same failure to identify the subject of a sentence. On the day after Ahmadinejad's hilarious denial of the existence of homosexuals in Iran, the Guardian's Robert Tait wrote this: 'According to campaigners, several gay men have been caught up in a wave of hangings over the summer, although the claims are hard to verify.' The phrase 'caught up in' makes the murderous government-backed persecution of suspected homosexuals sound like an unavoidable force of nature, and it's not helped by being book-ended by other phrases - 'According to campaigners', 'hard to verify' - that further soften the blow and let the Iranian regime off the hook.

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