Friday, June 25, 2010

The Economist's break with form and logic

The Economist has apparently decided to go the way of much news media - simplify, entertain, improvise and lie. I shall be relieved when they hire their first young lady, utterly innocent of artifical cover, to smile at us invitingly. It shall signal an end to their pretension at being part of the Posh press, but also be a mark of respect for honesty and straightforwardness. Plus, I admire the female human form, among other things.

Let us examine a recent (24 June 2010) article, titled "The power of nightmares" (

The exhibit "Mushrooms in a nutshell" (feel free to take a moment to applaud the wit), has this to say about some of Israel's _assumed_ nuclear warheads: Stolen, possibly. The unnamed author, in his or her tea breaks at the Economist, offers passers-by, for a small fee, spit warming services, possibly. How can a respectable publication, with the slightest pretence at journalism, condone this? Especially interesting is that the "possibly" is mentioned in a footnote and _not_ in the main table.

The security of North Korea's warheads is termed "dodgy". The upbringing of the author may safely be termed "questionable".

India is to have "misused civilian help from US and Canada". Really? Did the US and Canada write a retaliatory letter to the Economist? Does this little (moralistic, perhaps?; no legal reprecussions are mentioned) sentence suggest that India had absolutely no help from Russia, the EU and Japan - all of whom have nuclear industries. The former USSR helped set up nuclear power plants in India, incidentally.

The source of the exhibit itself is listed as "Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (without any article name, page number or even publication date)" and, fascinatingly, "The Economist" itself (again, without any article name, page number or even publication date).

> Yet the sale (really a gift, as Pakistan is broke)

This is irresponsible language. What does "broke" mean, in the context of a soverign country, especially one with healthy GDP growth, especially given the current Financial Crisis? Note that other factors, such as quality of life, level of personal freedom, ratio of terrorist attacks to beer sales are not covered within the scope of "broke". A crude attempt at disparaging Pakistan, is how I would see it, then.

But let us go further, why is this "sale" a "gift"? The Economist can't really have it both ways - either it is a sale, or a gift. Incidentally, if a product is handed over free of charge, but is linked to valuable service and supply contracts that run over decades, then is it a gift or a sale?

> the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), an informal cartel of countries

Praiseworthy alliteration, this, but the author appears to be ignorant of the meanings of the word "cartel", for none of them fit the context. A crude attempt at disparaging the NSG, then.

Of course, readers do not allow the Economist to escape entirely unscathed. A reader (manbearpiggy) commented:

> If you are a high-school sophomore doing a summer job, this article
> was pretty good. If you think of yourself as professional journalist
> or columnist, God help you.

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