Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Editing coup of the (still-young) month


Q: What's the best way to reserve a standing-room-only seat on the next unheated cattle car from New York Avenue NE to Siberia?

A: Well, let's narrow things down a bit. Clearly it's not the bizarreness of "make no frenemies" in the main hed,* or the Sesame Street-ness of "Obama avenue" in the deck, nor yet the "call it" lede:

Call it the “friend-enemy” distinction.

And why would we call it that?

Mitt Romney has assembled a foreign-policy platform rooted in the belief that adversaries such as Russia must be confronted for backsliding on democracy and like Israel must be supported in the face of common threats such as a nuclear-armed Iran.
Should you be a native first-language speaker of English, or one of those pesky foreigners who can diagram our dern sentences better than we can diagram 'em ourownselves, that one's pretty easy to figure out: adversaries such as Russia must be confronted, and adversaries like Israel must be supported.

Online, the second graf is in line with what the WaTimes actually believes:


Mitt Romney has assembled a foreign-policy platform rooted in the belief that adversaries such as Russia must be confronted for backsliding on democracy and that Israel must be supported in the face of common threats such as a nuclear-armed Iran.

In other words: Romney's policy entails a belief that (a) and (b) must happen, not that adversaries like (a) and (b) must be treated in particular opposite ways. Making sure your story at the top of the front page says what you want it to, rather than what it says, is sort of why we used to have copy editors, don't you think?

A newspaper that took international policy seriously, of course, would have a hard time suppressing at least a few howls of derisive laughter at the policy positions put forth within the story. The Times apparently isn't that paper. But if it paid better attention to its own prose, it could at least be the sort of party sheet it's trying to be.

* Somehow, "make no frenemies" seems lower on the coolness scale than "when you have to kill a man, it costs nothing to be polite."

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2 Comments:

OpenID q-pheevr said...

>Mitt Romney has assembled a foreign-policy platform rooted in the belief that adversaries such as Russia must be confronted for backsliding on democracy and like Israel must be supported in the face of common threats such as a nuclear-armed Iran.

>Should you be a native first-language speaker of English, or one of those pesky foreigners who can diagram our dern sentences better than we can diagram 'em ourownselves, that one's pretty easy to figure out: adversaries such as Russia must be confronted, and adversaries like Israel must be supported.

In my professional opinion, the sentence as it stands can't mean that, or anything else, for that matter; it's just not a well-formed English sentence at all. If you wanted to turn it into a grammatical sentence with that meaning, you could change "and like Israel" to "and ones like Israel" or "and those like Israel." Or, if you wanted to make it grammatically well-formed without adding or changing any words, you could set off "like Israel" with commas: adversaries such as Russia must be confronted and, like Israel, must be supported. (I dunno, it could be a keep-your-friends-close-and-your-enemies-closer kind of thing. Makes about as much sense as anything else in the Washington Times.)

11:46 AM, July 04, 2012  
Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

Well, it's not saying Israel is an adversary, it's kinda saying we have adversaries that are like Israel. Or maybe it's saying our adversaries such as Russia must be supported like Israel is supported. Or something...

The Times is still reeling over Santorum losing, though, so maybe they should take a time out.

5:38 PM, July 08, 2012  

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