I enjoy looking at rhetorical trickery, little phrase-turns
designed to guide readers or listeners
to desired attitudes. Today, Patterico
a couple pretty good ones in the LATimes. Here's trick one:
… whenever one [politician] criticizes another, there are two ways to characterize what's happening. If you think the criticism may be valid, you will refer to the criticism passively, and discuss the "mounting criticism" of the [politician] being criticized. But if you don't like the criticism, then you will refer to the criticism as an "attack."The LA Times article is about Karl Rove. Before you click the link, try to guess whether Rove is "under attack", or if he's instead embroiled in a "growing controversy."
Trick two concerns the "(some|many|critics) say" locution:
The use of phraseologies like "many say" lends the opinions a certain weight, suggesting that they are held by a number of potentially unbiased folks out there. The opinions expressed by "some" or by "critics" tend to be reported uncritically and sympathetically. Meanwhile, when interviewees say things that support a conservative position, they tend to be labeled as representatives of a particular cause, politician, or branch of government, so their bias is always clear.So: try to guess what "some" say about Karl Rove.
Some say the LA Times would do well to peruse
Wikipedia's article on avoiding
weasel words, which is a hoot. But, in the Wikipedia spirit,
they'll also want to check the (illustrated!) article urging them to embrace
weasel words. Why?
It may be claimed without evidence that some neuroscientists claim that every time you learn a new fact, you must necessarily forget some other fact in order to make room for the new fact to fit inside your head. (Admittedly, neuroscientists who subscribe to this theory invariably cannot recall why they believe it, and if you try to explain to them why the theory is flawed, they will run from the room while shrieking loudly, lest your teachings cause them to forget their happiest childhood memory.)So the LA Times is really doing its readers a service, saving their brains from being cluttered up by unnecessary facts.
OK, so your brain is free of clutter; now go check out
Things You Should Stop Doing in order to spend your time
more productively. They're remarkably easy on web-surfing.