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Judgment day

Victory through Unspeak

Among the sickening gloating coverage of the execution, itself gloating, of Saddam Hussein was the New Year’s Eve front page of the Observer newspaper in Britain, which added to its huge screengrab of the notorious cellphone official video the headline: “Judgment day”. Not only did this evince a curious contempt for such nice legal distinctions as that between a judgment and the execution of a sentence, it also, in apparently adverting to the subtitle of Terminator 2, sought to bring to the sordid quasi-judicial killing of a mass murderer something of the apocalyptic grandeur of a James Cameron sci-fi epic. Nice work. (See also Graham’s forum post for more post-Saddam Unspeak.)

Two days into 2007, the New York Times printed the following illuminating paragraph:

Mr. Bush still insists on talking about victory, even if his own advisers differ about how to define it. “It’s a word the American people understand,” he told members of the Iraq Study Group who came to see him at the White House in November, according to two commission members who attended. “And if I start to change it, it will look like I’m beginning to change my policy.”

With some admirable economy, Mr Bush thus admitted two things. First, that he is desperate to hide from the American people the fact that he does, indeed, want to change his policy; and second, that the instrument with which he will cover up this change is the handy word “victory”, now confessed to be a nearly hollow word, whose only remaining vestige of meaning lies in the fact that Bush is determined to keep saying it, in a kind of incantatory or phatic communication of noble striving towards an indefinable goal.

A note for statistics-lovers: on in 2006 there were 95 posts, totalling 53,099 words, or nearly two-thirds the length of Unspeak itself. There were 1,214 comments totalling 180,702 words, or an awful lot. Keep speaking back, and Happy New Year!

  1. 1  John Fallhammer  January 5, 2007, 1:01 pm 

    Small point. Didn’t the cellphone video come out latish Sunday*? So it can’t have been in the Obsurder. I don’t get to see the physical editions, but the Ob seems to have had a picture from the official video with the rope round SH’s neck. Tuesday’s Graun did have a cellphone grab, of SH with his neck broken. So which is it, eh?

    *: When I heard the news on Saturday and they said the official video didn’t show the actual drop, I made a bet with myself that the drop would be on Youtube before the end of the weekend. The great thing about making bets with yourself is that you always win somehow.

  2. 2  Steven  January 5, 2007, 1:17 pm 

    You’re right: it was the “official” video. (Soon to be released with DVD bonus footage?)

  3. 3  Graham Giblin  January 5, 2007, 2:48 pm 

    Think I may have the answer to what “winning” means – guest host Stuart Varney (an English American) on Fox’s Cavuto:

    STUART VARNEY: Well, let me put out something positive about Iraq, if I may for a second. Look, we took the fight to the enemy. We divided the enemy. The enemy is now fighting itself. America’s interest is surely being well-preserved and well-protected. We are in a fact, in a way, winning and preserving our interests.

    See it here

    Sometimes I wake up and think I am in a nightmare because no-one makes any sense any more.

  4. 4  Graham Giblin  January 6, 2007, 8:44 am 

    I just looked at that again. “Winning” is pretty surely Unspeak, and so is “preserving our interests” isn’t it? But what exactly are these “interests” that are being so cleverly preserved?
    I thought the “enemy” was Saddam and his cronies. Now it seems the entire Iraqi population – those to whom the Coalition supposedly went to bring freedom and democracy – are the enemy. When did this change happen; when they churlishly refused to strew rose petals before the feet of their liberators?

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