Sunday, April 16, 2006

Great post at "Modern Conservative"

Update: The AP decided to augment the text of its original article, so the text of the original is appended to this post.

The Associated Press reported today on attacks by Egyptian Muslims on Egyptian Copts. As is typical of the Associated Press, their first two sentences are decidedly lacking in a vital piece of information:

"Worshippers at three Christian churches came under attack from knife-wielding assailants during Mass Friday. Police said one worshipper was killed and more than a dozen wounded in the simultaneous attacks in the northern city of Alexandria."

Note that both sentences contain passive constructions: "Worshippers... came under attack..." " worshipper was killed and more than a dozen wounded..." The subject of both clauses is, in fact, the victim of the attack, whereas, the perpetrators of these acts are, so far, only described as "knife-wielding assailants."

The first mention of the word "Muslims" comes in the third paragraph:

"Hundreds of Christians gathered in angry protest outside the Coptic Christian churches, and witnesses said clashes erupted between Christians and Muslims."

Look at the subject of that sentence. It's "Hundreds of Christians" who are "gathered in angry protest." The first mention of Muslims in the piece then appears, as "...clashes erupted between Christians and Muslims."

The intended implication of this grammatical construction and choice of words is plain. The author is bending over backwards to avoid naming the perpetrators as Muslim. However, he or she cannot simply write the piece without using the word "Muslim" at all. Constructing the sentence in this manner allows the author to create a patina of equivalence, implying that it was only as a result of this gathering of a mob of angry Christians that Muslims became involved. This is as close as the author can come---without resorting to easily spotted absurdities---to portray the Christians as equally responsible and to shield the Muslims from being directly identified as the cause of the entire situation.

For those of you who write with any regularity at all, you know that writing is not a subconscious activity. One does not write an article (or anything else) without active use of conscious thought.

In other words---this kind of writing doesn't just happen. It is indicative of specific predispositions and intentional choices. READ IT ALL


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