Thursday, September 10, 2009

Poor style and worse journalism

An article in the Pakistani newspaper Dawn protested against supposed US plans to expand its diplomatic presence in Pakistan. Poorly and without any respect for the norms of debate.

( ; Karamatullah K. Ghori; 30 August 2009)

> But they are, for the record, just geared to
> Washington’s diplomatic stake in Pakistan,
> lest the Pakistanis routinely clobbered in
> the ‘civilised western world’ for their outbursts
> of emotions over supposedly petty little things.

This is, of course, not a syntactically valid sentence. One can merely guess what the journalist wishes to express, although a weak attempt at sarcasm appears to have been made.

The following paragraph, apart from the use of the singular where a plural is called for, first refers to reports by "media pundits in Pakistan" as being the source for the proposed increase in US consular staff, but then swiftly introduces statements which appear to be the author's personal truths, i.e. he or she is confident that they are true, and are not attributed to "media pundits".

>..... huge parcel of 18 acres of prime land
> in Islamabad’s exclusive diplomatic enclave
> has been ‘sold’ to the American Embassy for
> just one billion rupees, a fraction of its market worth.

One wonders why the verb "sold" is enclosed in quotation marks. Was it really leased, and not sold? Was only a pretence of selling it made? In either case, it entirely changes the tone of the deal. The journalist goes on to imply that the price was below market value (notice that he does not state what the market worth is, how this has been determined, and, of course, a fraction can be the number one, or even two, i.e. that the American's paid twice the so-called market worth). Furthermore, given that the "prime land" is in the capital city's diplomatic enclave, one expects it to be given to consulates, and not used for holiday homes, high rise office buildings or malls. That would put a constraint on the "market worth". The journalist insinuates that the Pakistanis were short changed -- given that the Americans are pouring in billions of dollars of aid to Pakistan, this seems a little churlish.

> The American wars in Korea and Vietnam were
> triggered by this policy of offence-being-the-best-defence.
> George W. Bush, an ardent practitioner of
> Pax Americana couldn’t be more articulate
> than coining the shibboleth of
>‘taking the war to the enemy.’ The invasion of
> Afghanistan, on the heels of 9/11 was justified
> on this premise, besides being a prop to Bush’s
> dream of an imperial America holding the world
> in its thrall.

The journalist does not appear to be aware of the meaning of the word "shibboleth". A little pathetic, then, this attempt at high-flown language. Perhaps the journalist should stick to simpler words. For example: "America bad, we good.".

The "dream of an imperial America" is the sort of anti-US rhetoric one might expect of an ill-informed schoolboy. Or journalist.

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