Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Not economical with arrogance

It is always faintly amusing to see the Economist (the publication as a whole, since authors remain secure in a cloak of anonymity) grapple with irony and the double-quote device.

Consider yesterday's article on the Polish presidential plane-crash (

> It will be interesting to see how the
> conspiracy theorists include this into
> their elastic account of what "really" happened.

The enclosed-within-quotes status assigned to the word really insinuates that the Economist has exclusive access to the one (single), pure rivulet of Truth, and no other version is tenable. What contributes to this arrogance? Or is it merely ignorance?

> Is the news just a clever bluff to conceal
> an on-going cover-up? Or is it the tip of the iceberg?
> No doubt we will be told shortly.

This is the sort of feeble attempt at wit one expects of a school-child. Surely, the Economist can do better.

In any case, surely homo sapiens has experienced and speculated enough to realize that, occasionally, even the most highly-regarded source of truth might be in error, and that even the most despicable of tyrants with rotten gums might be sticking to the facts, once in a while, and that, often, the "whole truth" is not trivial to find and present. Personal conviction and personal pedigree are no arguments, as far as the truth value of a statement is concerned.

So, the "conspiracy theorists", or indeed, a lunatic in an asylum, might be possessed of the truth. Truth has this annoying habit of not restricting itself to posh press-club lounges. They might well be wrong, but it would not just be arrogant and illogical, but also counter-productive, to dismiss views held by others.

The title of the article, "Graverobbers", lacks in taste. As a grave was not plundered, obviously the words are not used to convey their literal meaning. What, instead? Perhaps to convey a sense of opprobrium that would not have come across with merely "Robbers". Or even, "Alleged robbers", as, one assumes, even Russians are entitled to the courtesy of a court of law and not some "officials in Moscow". Interesting also is the fact that the Economist chooses not to reveal whether these officials in Moscow are the same who first denied the charge (as "blasphemous", apparently; so the Economist).

And now for some pedantry.

> Eastern approaches deals with the economic,
> political, security and cultural aspects
> of the eastern half of the European continent.

Not quite "half of the European continent", for that would imply taking parts of northern and southern Europe, traditionally regarded as being part of Western Europe, into the grouping of "Ex-communist Europe", as used by the Economist.

No comments: