Thursday, June 23, 2005
British as a foreign language
Let me repeat them—
- Muddy the waters. Say the memos don't mean what they say, or that the authors of the memos didn't mean what they said, or that the authors of the memos simply lacked the information [to say what they said].
- Claim that the Silberman-Robb Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction has already investigated this timeframe and has exonerated the President.
- Offer the red herring that there were persons in the Pentagon and in other areas of government who were opposing the Iraq invasion during this period.
- Argue that the hastiness of the decision to go to war is proved by the inadequacy of the planning. (It will be interesting to see how often they use this one!)
I must confess that the first example I gave of the muddy-the-water ploy didn't actually come up during the PBS program, but I had already seen it elsewhere. For instance, in an article of June 8 in USA Today, Mark Memmott wrote (to ensure balance!) in his wrap-up—
Robin Niblett of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, says it would be easy for Americans to misunderstand the reference to intelligence being "fixed around" Iraq policy. "'Fixed around' in British English means 'bolted on' rather than altered to fit the policy," he says.
Yesterday Ray McGovern surveyed this sudden interest in linguistics by the Right, which has been dutifully repeated in the media. British English, according to them, has diverged so markedly from American English that the meaning of "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" has become all but unintelligible to Americans and requires translation.
My own suggestion is that Dearlove, the head of British intelligence, meant that "the intelligence and facts were being repaired around the policy."
Frankly I'm surprised that Bush and Blair were able to hold their recent meeting without language assistance. I did not know that Bush was bilingual. Were those men around them Secret Service agents or simultaneous translators?
Well, I'm going to have to cut this short so I can go watch an episode of Fawlty Towers. It's my favorite British comedy, but I wouldn't understand a word of it without the subtitles.
But Ray McGovern has it on good authority that—at least in the case of the Downing Street memos—"fixed" means ... "fixed."
PBS NewsHour claims credit for Downinggate; may deserve some after last night (6/17/2005)