QED

Those Undefined Bollards of Peace

Better, more precise use of language would not solve everything, but it would help society better navigate the obstacles of vague meaning and foggy perception. More people might come to appreciate the difference between allegations and evidence and be less likely to dunk witches. A straightforward politician might even impress voters

bollard IIContrast two statements, which I saw in the Daily Telegraph last Friday. The first is by Luke Foley. “The allegations against me today made public by the ABC are false.” The second is by Scott Morrison. “The alleged behaviour of Mr Foley is very, very shocking and concerning.” For obvious reasons I do not want to comment on what did or did not happen between Foley and Ashleigh Raper. One of my reasons is that I wasn’t there.  What I do want to comment on is the declining standards of English expression as it applies to this case and later, in a complete change of pace, to the latest horrific Islamic terrorist attack in Melbourne.

Foley’s reported comment above is fine in respect of the English language. Morrison’s is not. What exactly is he saying? Is he simply saying that the act of a man, any man, uninvited on a social occasion putting his hand down the back of a woman’s dress and inside her knickers is shocking. I would agree with that. It is beyond the pale. I can think of lots of other things which are beyond, and well beyond, the pale. But, of course, he puts Foley in his sentence.

If he felt the need to put Foley explicitly in his sentence, he needed to say one of two things. He could have dropped the word ‘alleged’. His objection to this might be that he did not want to prejudge the allegation. Fine, and very sensible. The other thing he could have said is this: “If the allegation is true, the behaviour of Mr Foley is shocking etc.” As it is, he is quite between stools. An allegation is just that. And if any allegation proves to be untrue then perforce however shocking is the alleged offence, it is not shocking at all because it never happened. If something never happened then it cannot be shocking. Do you think Morrison will be able to understand that? I hope so.

A second example is an article I read by Sharri Markson, also in the Daily Telegraph. She starts out this way. “As a politician Luke Foley counted on a woman’s silence and timidity – regardless of the truth or falsity of his accusers claims.” I ask, quite honestly, what does this mean? How did it ever get past a subeditor? The article does not improve as it goes on, but I will leave that aside.

Josephine Blow now claims that some years’ ago she saw me swinging a cat against a wall by its tail. I deny ever doing any such thing. Now answer me this? Did I count on Ms Blow’s reluctance to come forward? Or, if in fact I did not commit the offence, did I naturally assume that Ms Blow would keep schtum about something which didn’t happen. It turns, does it not, on whether I am indeed a cat-killer or innocent? To say that someone counted on someone else’s silence about something that didn’t happen is a nonsensical proposition.

Nonsense is everywhere these days, particularly as the intelligence of politicians appears to be in serial decline. At no other time can this be more acutely observed than when bloody Islamic terrorism strikes. As it did again in Melbourne last Friday. “These are traumatic events, they are terrifying,” the Australian reported Daniel Andrews as saying and then adding: “We will not be defined by this.” At these times, political leaders need to talk plainly to concerned citizens. If we were to be defined by Islamic terrorism exactly what would that look like? Then we might know what not being defined in that way looks like. Me, I don’t know what Andrews is talking about. Please explain, comes to mind.

Morrison chose a different word to describe what Islamic terrorism wouldn’t do to us. “Australians will never be intimidated by these appalling attacks,” he was reported as saying. So, to sum up, we will neither be defined nor intimidated by Islamic religious fanatics who kill us randomly on the streets and in places where we congregate for entertainment. But, but… haven’t we already been defined and intimidated by these things?

Recently I bought a home safe. But you understand I am not intimidated by burglars who might want to steal my paltry valuables. I am wary of walking alone down streets in rough neighbourhoods. But you understand I will not be defined by that. Ordinary people, like me, have no idea what Andrewss and Morrison are saying? That is because there is no intelligent thought behind their clichéd sound bites.

In common-sense land, ugly bollards are testament to us being defined by and intimidated by Islamic terrorists, as are inconvenient stepped-up security measures at entertainment and sporting venues and airports. Apparently, the FBI in the United States has potential Islamic terrorists on its watch list in every state. Imagine how the costs and imposts of security have been ramped up in Europe and in Australia. Then we have those ridiculous de-radicalization programs. At the same time, calls for stopping Muslim immigration are politically incorrect, not to say racist – which, in itself, is a curious term to apply to a religious grouping. In another, more-intelligent age, people would readily understand that race is something you can’t change whereas religion crosses races and is a choice.

Let me see if I’ve got it. We are not defined nor intimated by Islamic terrorism. Yet we have uglified the environment, placed ourselves in security straitjackets, and have been bullied into accepting the immigration of more adherents of a religion which produces fanaticism and violence.

Better and more precise use of language would not solve everything. But it would, I think, make society a better place. For example, people would recognise the stark difference between allegations and evidence and be less likely, so to speak, to dunk witches. People would be impatient with meaningless clichés and more likely to elect straightforward politicians who tell it as it is.

PS: The PM’s later remarks on the dire threat of radical Islam – for which he is apparently being criticised by the usual suspects – were on the money in telling it as it is. Goodonya, ScoMo. Don’t back down.

10 comments
  • Jody

    Don’t tell me Scott Morrison has done something right!!!! And now I’d like to hear him say that the woman who accused Luke Foley of sexual assault with-held her revelations almost certainly to protect the Labor Party. The ABC is Labor’s second headquarters and god forbid that somebody would want to say or do anything to threaten the election of a Labor government. Today’s Australian newspaper tells how Greg Combet intervened to try and keep it quiet by contacting Foley directly. Bingo; we’ve found the silver bullet which proves the point I made from Day 1 on this issue. Meanwhile, the feminists and bien pensant are wringing their hands about how badly Ms. Raper will be feeling. Playing a partisan game never ends well.

  • lloveday

    How did it ever get past a subeditor?

    I doubt it did because I doubt many articles are proof-read, or even spell-checked.

    Here are examples from the last few days in The Australian (I’ve given up pointing out their many errors as the moderators seldom allow such comments):

    …but if you’re galled a gammon…”.
    ” Mr Prump”

    Quadrant underlines “Prump” with a wavy red line, yet The Australian does not pick it up! How could you read your own work and not notice? They disallowed my on-line comment “Who is ” Mr Prump”?” but it was shortly changed on-line and in time for the print edition. I copy and pasted, I did not misread.

  • Julian

    Thank God for Quadrant – and articles like this – as a place of sanity in a world gone insane. (And well, I work in education, in Melbourne to boot, so I’m surrounded by Leftist morons, the LGBTQWERTY crowd, etc.).

    Pete’s article is all too true.

    Another moronic thing Dan Andrew’s wrote was something along the lines of: ‘this is the kind of attack that could occur at any city in the world’. Patently untrue. E.g. Tokyo, Seoul, Budapest, Warsaw, etc all have a much lower chance of such an attack occurring than say, Paris, London, and now, unfortunately, Melbourne or Sydney. The answer, obviously, is the presence of Muslims and Islamic communities in the later, and the prudent decisions by the former to restrict of limit such things.

    On a more philosophical note 1) Orban is right when he points of that Western liberalism is ‘shipwrecked’ and 2) multiculturalism and mass immigration will be the death of the West and 3) is ‘freedom of religion’ the route by which Islam can enter a society and take control? (via intimidation, demographic conquest, conversion, etc).

  • exuberan

    ASIO have indicated that they would need a massive manpower increase to allow them to monitor all potential Jihadists. Then so be it, what price to pay to save just one innocent life?

  • gardner.peter.d

    I have no children in Australian education but I am led to believe that grammar and syntax are no longer taught in Australian schools. Why then are we at all surprised at increasing incomprehension.
    It is actually quite difficult to follow Australian politics because very little of what is said by politicians or by commentators in the mainstream media (Quadrant is not mainstream media) makes very much sense – unless it is a personal attack on an opposing figure. In those cases the meaning is usually clear but irrelevant to the political point. Mangled English is normal. Much easier just to stick a label on someone as it serves the purpose.

  • gardner.peter.d

    I think diversity is absolutely wonderful and I would really like to see more of it. I travel a great deal and I am always keenly interested in the different ways people find to manage their affairs, not only as individuals but as communities. I wonder at the sheer variety in the different ways of doing things, often with similar objectives. These are communities of like minded people living in harmony with each other and minding their own business. And as I travel around I think how wonderful too that one can see an idea in one community and then see it copied or adopted in modified form by another. So each grows in its own way. I also see that where a community sees something in another it can choose not to adopt it for good reasons. Perhaps it would not fit the way they do things at home or perhaps it was a mistake where it was originated or adopted. But the effects were limited to just the one community so the damage was contained, thanks to diversity. Mother nature has all this worked out in the diversity of species
    Of course the clever among homo sapiens believe that they can work it all out too and build their perfect societies with a bit from each and some new ideas – if only people would listen but they won’t. they need educating, that’s the problem. If we did that we could all live in the same community and we’d only need one, the one I designed.
    Oh well maybe not. Perhaps it is better to have lots of different countries so that people who want to live this live in country A, people who want to live like that go to country B and so on. It might work, I guess. So would all those who don’t like the way Australians like to run their lives and their country please go and find another place to live in. Most of the world is not Australia so surely, there is somewhere that would suit you. No? in that case we need more diverse countries aka nation states.

  • Les Kovari

    The picture of Scott Morrison, with his hand on Malcolm Turnbull’s shoulder saying: “this is my leader” still haunts me.

  • whitelaughter

    lloveday – a useful weapon to stop things going down the memory hole is ‘waybackmachine’ – https://archive.org/web/ make sure that the page you are commenting on has been saved there and you have permanent proof.
    ==========================================
    The inability to respond directly to comments any more is very annoying, and means that Quadrant is going *backwards* in usefulness. One of the things that inspired me to get a subscription was the time a budding flame war nipped in the bud by those involved turning the conversation into a poetry slam – losing this is tragic. Instead, if Quadrant is to survive, returning the ability to reply, plus notifications of when your comments have been responded to, is vital.

Post a comment