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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

media use of passive voice criticized

CNN is running a story under a very typical MSM headline: "Rumsfeld's Iraq-Germany analogy disputed."

It is not news that someone in the world disagrees with public officials. Usually these articles are a total joke, and the disputing parties are fringe special-interest groups or liberal college professors. Besides, if the dissenters really are important enough to merit a story, put them in damn the header.

In this case, the people criticizing Rumsfeld's analogy are Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski. An obviously better headline would be: "Former top officials dispute Rumsfeld's Iraq-Germany analogy." An even better one would be: "Kissinger disputes Rumsfeld's Iraq-Germany analogy."

Of course, such a clear headline might make it more difficult for the article to support its strained implications. Rumsfeld wrote: "Turning our backs on postwar Iraq today would be the modern equivalent of handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis." One might think that the "dispute" involved something substantive, like an argument that turning our backs on postwar Iraq today would be just fine, or at least that handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis would be much worse. But the substance of Kissinger's (and even Brzezinski's) criticism is that there were no post-war Nazis to hand Germany over to. "[T]he opposition was completely crushed," Kissinger says. While this may render Rumsfeld's analogy inelegant, it doesn't even make the analogy invalid, much less undermine the argument. Rumsfeld could just as easily have said, "Turning our backs on postwar Iraq today would be the modern equivalent of ressurecting the Nazis and handing postwar Germany back to them."

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