Saturday, June 02, 2012

Pronoun purge: Curiouser and curiouser

As you may recall from Friday's episode, serial fictioneer Charles Krauthammer has brought the Ike/Obama/"I" fable around for another turn in the spotlight. Imagine my surprise on opening the syndicated version to find that the I's had been plucked out -- purged like an unperson from the Big Soviet Encyclopedia.

Here's the fifth graf of the Krauthammer column, as posted at Charlotte, Sarasota, Indianapolis, Sumter (SC), Charleston* (WV) and the National Post (Canada):

A campaign ad had Bill Clinton praising Obama for the courage of ordering the raid because, had it failed and Americans been killed, "the downside would have been horrible for him." Outraged veterans released a response ad pointing out that it would have been considerably more horrible for the dead SEALs. Obama only compounded the self-aggrandizement problem when he spoke a week later about the military "fighting on my behalf."

That's the fifth and seventh grafs of the Post version, with the sixth -- the one including the ad's pronoun claim and the Eisenhower comparison -- excised. It seems reasonable to conclude that the edit occurred upstream from the papers that carry the column; all six versions** also have a slightly tweaked lede. (The Post version begins "A very strange story, that 6,000-word front-page New York Times piece ..."; the others have "
A very strange story, a 6,000-word front-page New York Times piece.")***

Several explanations present themselves. The syndicate could have been aiming for a stricter word count than the home team. Someone could have thought the pronouns represented an irrelevant detour from the core of the column's argument. Someone might have been concerned that the ad has been critiqued for selective editing. Or someone could have decided to hold opinion columns to a rudimentary standard of truth-telling.

That last would be a nice outcome, but it'd be even nicer to learn that the Post was extending such a standard to the stuff it publishes in print and online too. Observations and comments from the Post would be welcome.

* The paragraphs are cut differently here, but the order is the same
** The Hartford Courant omits the first two sentences of the fifth graf but shares the lede tweak.
*** If I were Krauthammer, I'd complain about this, though he owes the editor who deleted the pronoun fib..

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