Friday, September 21, 2007

Reuters: Caught Again

James Taranto at Best of the Web Today offers the following post, Dead Metaphor , after which I make a few comments below the star line ---
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Here is a story to brighten your weekend: Early this afternoon we received an email from one of our most loyal readers. We'll withhold his name, because our purpose here isn't to make him look silly.

Suffice it to say that he writes us several times a week, his nickname for President Bush is "Chimpy," and the following message, which we quote verbatim is actually quite a bit more temperate than his usual fare:

No wonder the entire world sees this fool for the complete moron that he is.

I now see that his supporters, such as your august self, have truly, really, fundamentally no shame and no sense of embarrassment. Bush makes us all look like dopes--after all he was elected twice (ooops, make that stole the election twice--my bad)

If only his idiot gaffs were the worst of it...

He is truly worthless as a president and as a man!
Our correspondent sent us a link to a blog called First Draft, in which someone styling himself "Holden Caulfield" says of the president, "Christ, what a dumbass," and links to the following Reuters dispatch:
Nelson Mandela is still very much alive despite an embarrassing gaffe by U.S. President George W. Bush, who alluded to the former South African leader's death in an attempt to explain sectarian violence in Iraq.

"It's out there. All we can do is reassure people, especially South Africans, that President Mandela is alive," Achmat Dangor, chief executive officer of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, said as Bush's comments received worldwide coverage. . . .

"I heard somebody say, Where's Mandela?' Well, Mandela's dead because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas," Bush, who has a reputation for verbal faux pas, said in a press conference in Washington on Thursday. . . .

References to his death--Mandela is now 89 and increasingly frail--are seen as insensitive in South Africa.
So, what did President Bush actually say? Here's the quote in context, from the White House transcript:
Part of the reason why there is not this instant democracy in Iraq is because people are still recovering from Saddam Hussein's brutal rule. I thought an interesting comment was made when somebody said to me, I heard somebody say, where's Mandela? Well, Mandela is dead, because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas. He was a brutal tyrant that divided people up and split families, and people are recovering from this.

So there's a psychological recovery that is taking place. And it's hard work for them. And I understand it's hard work for them. Having said that, I'm not going the give them a pass when it comes to the central government's reconciliation efforts.
In this context, it is clear that the literal meaning of "Where's Mandela? is "Where is the Iraqi who will play the role in his country that Mandela played in postapartheid South Africa?" This was a pithy metaphor, not an "embarrassing gaffe."

Now, how did Reuters get the story wrong?

There are, it seems to us, three explanations:

o Stupidity. The reporter was so bone-headedly literal-minded that he simply did not understand the rhetorical device Bush was employing.

o Laziness. The reporter wasn't actually at the press conference and didn't bother to check the context of the quote.

o Dishonesty. The reporter knew full well that Bush was speaking metaphorically and deliberately twisted his meaning in order to fit the stereotype that Bush "has a reputation for verbal faux pas."

In the case of the particular Reuters dispatch "Caulfield" links to, laziness is the most likely answer. It's datelined Johannesburg, so the reporter surely was not at the press conference. But ultimately the explanation for the "worldwide coverage" this "gaffe" has received is either stupidity or dishonesty.

Some journalist either failed to understand or deliberately misrepresented Bush's remark.

And the joke is on people like our Bush-hating correspondent, who gullibly eat this stuff up.

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About Taranto's "most loyal" reader who calls President Bush "Chimpy:"

I wonder whether he knows "Monkey" and "old Ape" were two of the slurs often used by President Lincoln's enemies?

I also wonder whether Taranto's "most loyal" reader knows he comes across as kind of - how to put this - "Chumpy?"

Message to Taranto: Terrific post

Message to JinC readers: I'll post again tomorrow on Taranto's post.

Hat tip: AC

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

One of many reasons most sane, intelligent people will have nothing to do with political life. And why the decent people who are willing to put up with, like George W, have my greatest respect.

Enoch said...

Those who live in the political life on the left in this county are becoming increasingly angry, vile and hateful. More, they are being cut off from reality through the poisioning of their minds.
Of course there are different points of view but the anger and irrational rants that come from the left are just repulsive. It's not political dialog, it's just unfettered hatred... Sort of tin foil hat meets straight jacket.