Monday, April 19, 2010

"Some say..."

I was reading the op-eds in the Houston Chronicle yesterday, specifically Kathleen Parker's column in which she was talking about the legacy of hatred from people like Timothy McVeigh. It is a legacy that seems particularly rampant in our country today.

Anyway, I was reading her column and finding myself mostly in agreement with her, which is sort of an unusual and strange place for me to be. Then I read this sentence:

At a tea party rally in Washington, some claim racial slurs were aimed at, of all people, Georgia Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights hero. (Emphasis mine.)


"Some claim" that this happened, Ms. Parker? Who would that "some" be? Could it possibly be that Rep. Lewis the "civil rights hero" might have mentioned that he was appalled at the words that were hurled at him like missles as he made his way up the steps of the Capitol to try to do his job?

Now, I wasn't there, but, like thousands of others, I saw the incident on television. I saw the pushing and shoving and rowdiness of that unruly crowd and I saw their faces as they shouted things at Rep. Lewis and others. I couldn't understand all that was being said to these men, but I don't think it was words of praise and encouragement. Some of those people appeared to be virtually frothing at the mouth with anger, so if "some claim" that they were shouting crude and rude insults at Lewis, I feel very much inclined to believe them.

What irritated me so much about Parker's sentence was that this phrase has become an overused weasel phrase in the mouths or on the keyboards of right-wingers (not only them, to be sure, but it is a special favorite of that group) by which they signal their listeners or readers that they don't really believe the statement that follows it, as in...

"Some say that global warning is a serious problem."

"Some say that financial regulation of Wall Street and the big banks would be a good thing."

"Some say that Barack Obama was actually born in Hawaii as his birth certificate and public records in the state indicate."

"Some say that the sky is blue and the earth is round."

Well, you get the idea. The mysterious "some" are, of course, never identified.

Alternatively, the phrase is sometimes used to spread unsubstantiated rumors or outright lies that the speaker or writer might like to be true or would like people to believe. In that usage, it is a favorite phrase of people like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.

"Some say that Sarah Palin is a great political leader who would make a terrific president," to give just one example.

If I had my way, weasel words and code words would be outlawed in public discourse. People - including politicians and pundits like Parker - would have to speak plainly, say what they really mean, and stand by their words. Such writing that implies but doesn't clearly say that racial slurs were NOT aimed at Rep. Lewis is completely unworthy of someone like Parker who just won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary. But then, of course, some say she didn't deserve it.

1 comment:

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