Thursday, December 02, 2004

Editorial Skills In Decline

MelbournePhilosopher

"A US Army private's lawyers she was coerced into saying she and other soldiers were just "having some fun" when they posed for photos with naked Iraqi prisoners."

I couldn't help it. I'm sorry. For about the fourth time this week, I have noticed an "Age" article whose front-page extract makes, simply, no sense. Let's break it down.

1) "A US Army Private's lawyers" - the part of the sentence which establishes the subject
2) Something Is Missing Here
3) "She was coerced into saying she and other soldiers were 'just having some fun' when they posed for photos with naked Iraqi prisoners" - okay, this makes sense standing alone. But what possible relation does this have with the start of the sentence. I decided to fill in the gaps with some suppositions of my own.

"A US Army Private's lawyers got drunk and claimed that she was coerced... etc"
"A US Army Private's lawyers deny claiming that she was coerced... etc"
"A US Army Private's lawyers were guilty of extreme stupidity when claiming that she was coerced... etc"

From the article, it becomes clear that the missing word is "say". Now don't get me wrong, the misadventures of Lyndie England, B.Fc (Bungler, first class) and JHF (just having fun) are important issues. Her lawyers seem to have lost all hope of making any kind of reasonable defense in the case, and are now understandably grasping at the straws of mental incapacity - a kind of legally respectable way of saying "she's just really stupid, y' honour". Apparently if they can get enough people to believe them, this forms the basis for some kind of defense - i.e. avoiding spending 40 years in prison. It is thought that it's less satisfying to throw a stupid person into jail for a long time, because they will be unable to experience the proper amount of shame and guilt.

But this article is about the journalistic bungling of the Stupids on the Age editorial team, either unable or unwilling to have a couple of pairs of eyes give the once-over to anything posted to the front page of their newspaper.

Sure, this kind of thing happens all the time. Sure, I'm not the first person to get unreasonably irritated by bad grammar. But, hopefully, I won't be the last.

-MP

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