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Watch out for the Weasel’s Weasel Words

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Watch out for the Weasel’s Weasel Words

Post  TBQ on Thu Jul 15, 2010 2:57 am

KINGSTON, NY 14 July 2010 — Regardless of topic, not a day goes by without a headline story that uses language that confuses, camouflages, misrepresents, downplays, plays up or otherwise manipulates the subject to support an unspoken agenda.

To stay on-trend it is essential to recognize the “weasel words.” These may take the form of a single word, phrase, or a seemingly innocent descriptive paragraph. It is never obvious, nor does it look like propaganda. The weasel words slither by the conscious mind, unperceived, and register only as afterthoughts, throw-a-ways, or conditionals.

Here’s an example from yesterday’s news: Bloomberg —Trade Deficit in U.S. Unexpectedly Widened in May.

Certainly this headline, to the casual reader, seems straightforward and informative. However, just one word in this very short headline carries a concealed message: “Unexpectedly.” Unexpected by whom? The expectant economists who did not expect it to widen?

What about all those individuals who expected the trade deficit to widen? The underlying, unstated assumption is that if their stable of “accredited” authorities did not expect the trade deficit to widen, no one did.

If this headline was an isolated instance, this kind of semantic micro-analysis might be dismissed as nit-picking. But when it is the rule rather than the exception, this single word reveals an on-going reliance, particularly by media and government, on a limited number of “experts” whose lack of expertise is revealed in the following headlines:

* Orders to US Factories Fall More Than Forecast
* Jobless Claims in US Unexpectedly Increased
* US Consumer Confidence Declines More Than Estimated
* Existing Home Sales Unexpectedly Fell

Add to this list the convenient cop-outs, “No One Saw It Coming” and “Worse Than Anticipated” that experts commonly resort to when they didn’t see it coming and/or failed to anticipate developments. This drumbeat of excuses for missed calls and mistaken forecasts covers up the “experts” personal failings while creating the false impression: since they, the experts, were unable to see into the future, no one else could either.

The elitism and arrogance concealed within the language was inadvertently expressed by Paul Krugman, economist of record for the self-anointed “paper of record,” The New York Times.

“As recently as two years ago, anyone predicting the current [economic] state of affairs (not only is unemployment disastrously high, but most forecasts say that it will stay very high for years) would have been dismissed as a crazy alarmist. Now that the nightmare has become reality …,” Krugman wrote on July 12th.

Implicit in Krugman’s words is that no one predicted “the current state of affairs.” As a ranking member of the exclusive “Harvard/Princeton/Yale White Shoe Boy Club, Krugman speaks for his fraternity. Anyone outside it is, a priori, excluded from consideration.

What this means is that the White Shoe Boyz stranglehold on the mass media prevents opinion other than their own from being widely aired. Moreover, on those rare occasions when a contrary opinion slips by, Krugman & Co. ridicule it as crazy alarmism.

Gerald Celente, having predicted in 2007 that the “nightmare” would become a reality, was accused by the Times of disseminating “Pessimism Porn” (even while it grudgingly acknowledged the accuracy of many of his forecasts).

Trend Lesson: The purpose of this Trend Alert® is not to show that Celente was right and Krugman & Co. were wrong. Rather it is to provide important lessons and warnings that reach beyond economics.

1. Always take a moment to parse language that may, at first blush, appear dispassionate and informative to uncover its subtle propaganda content.

2. Don’t ever let your guard down. Develop a healthy distrust of “experts” and for what universally passes as authoritative analysis.

3. Don’t be intimidated. If you smell smoke, head for the exit even if they call you a "crazy alarmist." Never forget the voice of authority that told the people fleeing the burning World Trade Center, “The fire in the North Tower is under control – go back to your offices.”

Executive Editor’s Note: The Summer Trends Journal® is in its final stages and will be accessible Friday evening.

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