In my last post but one, Indicting Donald, I opined that:
We look to media whose ability to be truthful on matters not vital to power fools us into believing them capable of being truthful on matters which are … We are the consumers of entertainment dressed as news and, even more risibly, as intelligent and genuinely informed commentary. The circus which is Trump’s indictment is but the current episode in an unending soap opera. Like a toy given to a restless child, it diverts and amuses, all the while reducing us to the status of noisy spectators in a boo-hiss melodrama …
Think I was referring solely to the likes of Murdoch’s Sun, or Rothermere’s Mail? Think again. I recently had cause – The whataboutery of Simon Tisdall – to correct linguistic imprecision in an Observer piece arguing that the planet desperately needs the calmingly benign presence of Uncle Sam, whose true nature as godfather to a tyrannical empire …
… renders ever more ludicrous the denial by silence of Guardian Media Group.
In that piece Simon Tisdall wrote of:
Trump’s obsequiousness towards his Kremlin pin-up, his anti-Europe and anti-Nato phobias and his recycled America first ideology,
Trump’s ‘pin-up’ being the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin. But schoolyard name calling is not my concern here. Forget the infantile epithets. Ditto the sly resurrection of a decisively debunked ‘Russiagate’ and the economic illiteracy of that ‘America-First’ gibe.
No, it’s the lousy semantics that get my goat. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a phobia as:
A persistent, irrational fear of an object, event, activity, or situation called a phobic stimulus, resulting in a compelling desire to avoid it
Which led me to dust off and don my teacher’s cap and gown before pointing out to Simon that the term phobia is reserved for irrational fears, not solidly grounded aversion to thermonuclear incineration.
Now, apropos Putin’s putative paranoia, I find myself once again in the role of remedial English tutor; once again looking to an OED which gives us this definition of the stuff:
A mental disorder in which a person has an extreme fear and distrust of others. A paranoid person may have delusions that people are trying to harm him or her.
Hmm. Let’s assume yesterday’s story of secret trains and identical offices in multiple cities has a scintilla of factual accuracy – a huge leap of faith, I know, but bear with me. Given wall to wall Western media depiction of the Russian leader along these lines …
… is ‘paranoid’ really the word to be using here? Or do GMG staff writers and editors need, inter alia, a crash course on uses and abuses of the English language?
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