from "blood libel" to "pogrom"
aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jan 14 22:43:11 UTC 2011
From a Washington Times editorial defending Sarah Palin for the use of
> This is simply the latest round of an ongoing pogrom against
> conservative thinkers. The last two years have seen a proliferation of
> similar baseless charges of racism, sexism, bigotry, Islamophobia and
> inciting violence against those on the right who have presented ideas
> at odds with the establishment's liberal orthodoxy.
So now the blood libel has escalated to "pogrom", has it? After all, a
blood libel is usually followed by a pogrom. What next? A genocide?
Clearly, there is some redefining going on.
But this is not, actually, why I wanted to cite it here. I was more
interested in the second sentence and its serial "and". Or is it? More
specifically, what is the antecedent object of "against"? Is it
"baseless charges" or "inciting violence"? In other words, is "and"
connecting "inciting violence" with the other "baseless charges" or does
it make it parallel to those "baseless charges". This is a significant
distinction, especially in the current political climate. One is merely
a litany of random accusations, the other is a justification for the use
of "pogrom" here. And I am not convinced a serial comma before "and"
would have made a difference.
In terms of style, I've often found that serialization of items of
different weight is more likely to be misinterpreted unless the heavier
items appear toward the front, i.e., in this case, if "inciting
violence" preceded at least two terms among "racism, sexism, bigotry,
Islamophobia". Moving it away from the heavy clause also might help. As
I said, I see it a question of style, but might there be a syntactic
justification for the ordering being important in interpretation?
In other words, if the statement was meant to include "inciting
violence" among the "baseless charges", it might have been better in
> The last two years have seen a proliferation of similar baseless
> charges of racism, sexism, inciting violence, bigotry and Islamophobia
> against those on the right who have presented ideas at odds with the
> establishment's liberal orthodoxy.
Of course, that presents a different problem--now we got an incitement
of "violence, bigotry and Islamophobia" that, again, is exactly the
opposite of what is meant. So there is no perfect solution then, is
there? And, given that it was supposed have been crafted by competent
writers (a debatable point, I'm sure), there is also the question
whether the ambiguity was deliberate (designed to deceive) or accidental
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