THE LAST WORD ANYONE would use to describe me is “conservative”—at least not regarding most issues related to politics. But there’s more to life than politics: I remain old-fashioned on the issue of prescriptive versus descriptive dictionaries (strongly believing in the former) and the misuse of the designated hitter in major league baseball (not at all what you think).
And I am adamantly conservative about the correct use of grammar and punctuation and opposed to piss poor writing in all sizes and shapes. Oh, and I still think vanilla malt shakes are yummy! 1
Guess what? Absolutely NO Americans were involved in the attack on the US Embassy at Benghazi in 2012!
Nonetheless, I have subscriptions to several politically rightwinged newsletters, which I read daily. I confess to having a difficult time with their obsessive musing over such issues as our fellow transgender Americans, notably Caitlyn Jenner and anyone wanting to use a public restroom. What the hey, right? It’s all there to broaden my own point-of-view.
But today I will stick to basics and address an example of possibly poor writing in an article in one of those newsletters. This poor writing was one of two things: 2
1. unintentional (poor writing combined with no second-party proofreading, which could have happened on any site), or
2. intentional (poor writing in service of an ideology).
Eight Rep*lican-led, bi-partisan committees have investigated the attack on Benghazi and American response. None found evidence of wrong-doing by the Obama administration. There are no cartoons in the media or on the Internet by rightwinged artists addressing their heroes endless flogging of this dead horse. This cartoon by non-righty artist John Cole addresses that issue gamely.
Secret soldiers of Benghazi
The article, which I shall call “The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi,” concerned a major political and historical event of the 21st century. Here is a summation of that event in my words:
On September 11, 2012, Islamic militants attacked the United Sates Embassy in Benghazi, Libya. During the (apparently) unprovoked assault, four Americans were murdered, including J. Christopher Stevens, the first US Ambassador killed in the line of duty since 1979.
Now, please read that paragraph again and see if there is anything incorrect or grammatically faulty about it.
It’s black and white, with no political coloring, slant, or spin.
Poor writing in service to an agenda?
Back to the article! Writing about the movie 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi, the article states:
“13 Hours depicts the 2012 attacks at a US compound in Libya and highlights the response of an armed forces team as a result. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been harshly criticized for her role in the attack that killed four Americans.”
Now, please read that paragraph again and see if there is anything incorrect or grammatically faulty about it.
Hopefully you caught the problem: the second sentence can be easily read to mean that the Secretary of State of the United States had some kind of role in the attack on the American Embassy!
This is the kinda crap that people-who-vote-Rep*blican read and believe every day!
Nor did President Obama.
Nor did any other American. 3
The attack was carried out by the perpetrators I named above, Islamic militants.
Clinton, Obama, and other American officials—government, military, or intelligence—did have a role in the response to the attack, but not in the attack.
“Make definite assertions. Avoid tame, colorless, hesitating, non-committal language.” Hmnnn, well I suppose that our plucky writer may have had William Strunk Jr in mind when she penned the statement that is the center of my essay.
Truth should be obvious
Once said—no Americans were involved in the attack—the truth of the statement should be manifestly obvious. Here is how the writer’s statement should have read:
“13 Hours depicts the 2012 attacks at a US compound in Libya and highlights the response of an armed forces team as a result. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been harshly criticized for her role in the American response to the attack that killed four Americans.” 4
So then, why would a professional journalist—or one who pretends to the position (such as an unpaid contributor to on online journal)—write the words the way that she did? I will restate two possible answers:
a. She did not know that she was writing the information incorrectly.
b. She did know that she was writing the information incorrectly.
Neither allows us to form a positive opinion of her.
Another gem by John Cole.
Poor writing but with distinction!
So, now for a little background on the writer, provided by the newsletter: she attended a good college and graduated cum laude (with distinction) with a degree in communication and journalism. “After graduation, Kayla was awarded a media relations fellowship at a global security and intelligence firm in Washington, DC.”
So, I must make a basic assumption here: the first being that most colleges teach their communication and journalism majors the fundamentals of writing.
To assume that the writer doesn’t know the fundamentals of writing would be rather insulting.
The second being that these graduates leave college with the ability to create sentences with nouns, verbs, and modifiers (including prepositional phrases) in their proper place. 5
I also assume that these graduates are also taught the use of plainspeak and doublespeak, especially in advertising and politics (and, ahem, seduction, another old-fashioned concept forever corrupted by Andrea Dworkin and her ilk). 6
To assume otherwise—that she doesn’t know those fundamentals of writing—would be rather insulting to her. So we will assume that the writer knew exactly what she was doing.
So, I have to assume that the “poor writing” was not a grammatical error, but political spin, as it shades Clinton negatively.
So, let’s look at the rest of her bio: “she was awarded a media relations fellowship at a global security and intelligence firm in Washington, DC.”
So, what does that mean?
Why not just state the name of the institution that awarded her this position, this “fellowship”?
Perhaps because the global security and intelligence firm is a rightwinged think-tank?
13 Hours: The Inside Account Of What Really Happened In Benghazi is the stories of five CIA security contractors who were there as told to author Mitchell Zuckoff. Only one of the men claims to have heard the “Stand down” order; the others heard it from him. The CIA chief denies having given that order and the multiple Congressional investigations have found no evidence to back up the contractor’s story. That didn’t stop the book from topping the New York Times Bestsellers list or millions of people from lining up to see the movie.
Those nebulous fellowships
Not coincidentally, rightwinged think-tanks offer these nebulous “fellowships” where a person with political or media connections is given an office, some business cards, and an annual stipend—often very generous indeed—to come up with ideas to further the rightwinged cause.
This often includes taking non-paying positions with Internet journals and then passing along everything opinion pieces to slanting “factual” statements to outright misinformation.
If my guess is remotely accurate, then the writer’s words make perfect sense: she crafted a statement that most readers will read and pass over without thinking about it, grasping the essential factness of the statement, but not consciously catching that they are being told that Hillary Clinton somehow had something to do with the attack on the US Embassy and the death of four Americans!
In other words, it qualifies as slanting and spinning, but not quite die-hard misinformation.
Oh, and it is poor writing . . .
FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page is the image being used to promote the movie 13 Hours. I flipped it for use as the header image o that to allow the white letters of the title to stand out. Apparently, the film is basically a high-action shoot-’em-up along the lines of other popular movies made by director Michael Bay.
The problem is he or the film’s producers needed to turn an action movie into a political statement: the key scene revolves around the CIA chief telling the contractors to stand down. Even the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee found that there was “no evidence of intentional delay or obstruction by the Chief of Base or any other party.” 7
PS: I suppose that I could have simply sent an email to the writer of this piece and address all the above directly with her. Which might have been a lot of fun, or not. She might have been forthright and honest, or not. Frankly, any answer she gave that didn’t jive with some of my conclusions I probably wouldn’t have believed anyway.
1 I also remain staunchly in favor of some social mores laughed at by many and sundry, including men-acting-as-gentlemen (holding doors, walking on the outside on a sidewalk, etc.), old-fashioned dating (actually asking another person out and then going to dinner, drinks, a movie, etc.), and not farting in mixed company (unless as a ‘political statement’).
2 I am not identifying the journal or the writer beyond acknowledging said writer to be female, as I don’t want them to cancel my free subscription.
3 That we know of. We are binge-watching the television series Alias where double- and triple-agents run rampant!
I added the reference to Alias to the third footnote above so I had an excuse for including a photo of Agent Bristow.
4 That is my being polite in my assault on the writing. If I wanted to point out that the final prepositional phrase is placed away from the word it modifies so as to better tie in negative emotions with Clinton, then I would suggest that the statement should have read:
“13 Hours depicts the 2012 attacks by Islamic militants at a US compound in Libya that killed four Americans. It highlights the response of a team of private military contractors as a result of the attack. Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been harshly and endlessly criticized to no apparent avail by her Rep*blican opponents for her role in the American response to the attack.“
5 I may, in fact, be assuming too much here, but what the heck, I’m in a frisky mood!
6 I hold Andrea Drowkin on a pedestal for her staggeringly brilliant, staggeringly misandric statement, “Seduction is often difficult to distinguish from rape. In seduction, the rapist often bothers to buy a bottle of wine.” Last time I was single, I considered having tee-shirts made with that emblazoned on the front accompanied by images of a glass of wine and a bouquet of flowers. What an interesting way to meet women that would have been, yes?
7 “The Republican-authored House Armed Services Committee report concurred, saying that “this issue appears to be settled” by the Senate investigation. 13 Hours‘ second major error is even worse: It claims that US air support could have helped end the attack, but that the US military prevented planes that were in range from taking off. The House Armed Services report found that the Department of Defense had no aircraft prepared for combat readily available and nearby.” (VoxWorld)