highly coincidental = "suspicious," "not just coincidental"

Geoffrey Nunberg nunberg at ISCHOOL.BERKELEY.EDU
Thu Jan 2 21:09:53 UTC 2014

 From Howard Kurtz' Fox News piece on the Times' Benghazi story:
> I am not going to accuse the Times of having a political motivation, such as aiding Hillary Clinton’s reputation, any more than I am going to disparage the motivation of conservative commentators and Republican politicians who are taking serious issue with the paper’s report. This was not a fiery editorial, it was an ambitious story. But it does seem highly coincidental that various partisans have adopted narratives that either help or hurt the Obama administration. http://fxn.ws/1irx2Ul

Is Kurtz being ironic? It doesn't read that way -- and if you took out the "highly" or replaced it with "purely" the "but" would make no sense, since the assumption that everyone was acting in good faith would make it plausible that the alignment of people's positions and their political interests was coincidental. In fact a search on "highly coincidental" turns up a number of cases where the phrase means "probably not coincidental" or "suspicious":

> Suffice it to say, right or wrong, within a week of the Brookings Institution’s public criticism, we see that Congress is moving to cut the proposed Promise Neighborhoods, a proposal that had been based entirely on the success claimed by HCZ. We don’t know if the congressional move is a result of the influential Brookings report, but it seems highly coincidental and noteworthy, no?
> "It's highly coincidental," said defense attorney Joseph Cheshire, that the charges are being dropped a week after the director of a private DNA testing lab acknowledged that he initially, with Nifong's knowledge, withheld from the defense test results showing none of the players' DNA was found on or in the accuser's body.
> MetroPCS hopes the pushed back date will allow “additional” time for stockholders to check the company’s financial position and consider the “compelling benefits of the proposed combination with T-Mobile to create the leading value carrier in the United States.” The timing of the move to push back the meeting seems highly coincidental amid news that the largest stockholder in MetroPCS would vote against the merger.

> In the context of the recent heated debates you had with the Chief over the police budget, some might think it is highly coincidental that you and/or your assistants happened across what you allege were two officers from the ACTION team not doing anything job related.


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