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March 10: Sacred Obligation
Sometimes official language and even reporting in the media hides more of the truth than it reveals. This is especially true in times of armed conflict. To highlight the gap between the official narrative and other possible interpretations of events, we have crafted an imaginary scene between two entirely fictional characters.
INT/EXT. Washington Bar — NIGHT
Two men standing at a bar. One is the journalist, Lee Matthews. The other is thespokesman, Ed Costa.
LEE MATTHEWS: Thank you for agreeing to a private conversation outside of any official context.
ED COSTA: Yeah, it’ll do both ofgood to have a frank conversation, for once. You know, it’s all about respecting the truth, not always an easy thing to do in our jobs. But just to be clear, none of this is on the record.
LEE MATTHEWS: Trust me. I’m just trying to get a handle on a rather complex situation. After all, I can’t always be sure that what you say officially is always the unvarnished truth.
ED COSTA: Well, we told youwould invade and even announced the approximate date. We may have been off by a week or so, but it happened exactly as we predicted. This isn’t another case of Saddam’s WMD.
LEE MATTHEWS: I grant you that. And I admit it sounded incredible when you guys started insisting that you knew for sure the Russians would invade. Some ofthought it was just bluffing.
ED COSTA: Come on, you didn’t trust. Now you know we would never lie to you. And, hey, you have to hand it to our intelligence services. Now that I think of it, you owe me and the intelligence community an apology for doubting our word.
LEE MATTHEWS: Actually, if you remember correctly, what I openly doubted was when you said there would be a false flag operation to justify the invasion. That never happened.
ED COSTA: Well, it could have happened, but the result is the same. We got the invasion right.
LEE MATTHEWS: But you promiseda false flag. Instead of that, we watched sitting in front of a TV camera and rattling off a litany of historical reasons explaining why he felt compelled to mount an operation of denazification.
ED COSTA: Well, all that history was fake news, wasn’t it? Fake news, false flag, what’s the difference?
LEE MATTHEWS: Well, some of the history he cited made sense, at least to the Russian people, and nobody in DC wants to acknowledge it. We in the media couldn’t follow all the details, but shouldn’t you guys have been aware of both the reasoning and the motivation it represented?
ED COSTA: We were aware. As you saw, we predicted the invasion.
LEE MATTHEWS: Actually, you guys toldthat by predicting the invasion and announcing it publicly beforehand, that would prevent from invading. So, you were wrong about that.
ED COSTA: Who can predict whatwould do?
LEE MATTHEWS: I thought that’s part of the intelligence community’s job, anticipating the enemy’s reaction.
ED COSTA: Well, yeah, we thought that might happen.
LEE MATTHEWS: Given the catastrophe that is now taking place for the Ukrainian people, whose suffering is likely to continue and most likely get worse, don’t you think that strategy of trying to prevent an invasion and failing to do so was a costly mistake?
ED COSTA: It will be costly for the Russians, thanks to the measures we’re taking in the form of sanctions.
LEE MATTHEWS: But it has been very costly for the Ukrainians, on whose behalf you guys are doing all this. And it is beginning to have tragic consequences everywhere, even in theand obviously in Europe, which is to say, the populations covered by . Couldn’t you have prevented the war by taking seriously Putin’s complaints about and working something out? I mean, like anything? War is a pretty serious business.
ED COSTA:is sacred, as is ’s sovereignty. So, there’s some suffering. There’s a principle to defend. And how can you negotiate with a madman?
LEE MATTHEWS: If I take you literally when you sayis sacred, this sounds like a holy war. A lot of American experts, from the late George Kennan to John Mearsheimer today — guys you’ve read and studied — they took Putin’s reasoning about national security seriously. And they certainly didn’t view as sacred.
ED COSTA: Sorry, when I saidwas sacred, I meant it is necessary because, thanks to it, things have been pretty peaceful in Europe until made his move. All its members are happy with . So, we see no reason why that happiness shouldn’t be shared. Spread it as far as possible. And, as you know, asked to share that happiness.
LEE MATTHEWS: Well, didn’t Bush push that idea before anyone inthought of it? In any case, isn’t the whole question the factor that provoked the invasion and started a war that seems helpless to address?
ED COSTA: As all your colleagues in the media have been repeating — and I’ll ask you to do the same — this is an unprovoked war. Repeat after me. This is an unprovoked war.
LEE MATTHEWS: Are you saying the Russians are wrong to see the expansion ofand the supplying weapons to nations that border as a provocation?
ED COSTA: Of course, they’re wrong. How could a country that once allowed itself to be dominated by communists be right?exists only for peace. That’s what aircraft, tanks, missiles and nuclear bombs are all about. They’re so frightening, no one would ever dare use them. Everybody knows that. What we’ve been expanding is peace, not war.
LEE MATTHEWS: Are you saying that the war currently raging inshould be seen as an example of peace?
ED COSTA: Hey, theisn’t at war with . isn’t at war with . We’re just helping things along, to protect the innocent. When this blows over and sees how we have been able to cripple their economy, we will all be at peace again.
LEE MATTHEWS: Why then is’s Zelenskyy begging the to join the war?
ED COSTA: You know these Slavic politicians. (LAUGHS) It’s probably a cultural thing. They get overexcited about nothing and hallucinate that we’re up to some devious games. They begin to imagine that we aren’t there for one simple reason: to ensure their safety and future prosperity. That’s the permanent mission ofand, of course, the eternal mission of our exceptional nation, the .
LEE MATTHEWS: So, tell me, what is the exact date the intelligence community has predicted for Biden’s victory speech on a Black Sea aircraft carrier in full military garb?
ED COSTA: Hey, we can’t predict everything.
LEE MATTHEWS: I’ll say. And I expect there are a few Ukrainians who now agree.
DISCLAIMER: This dialogue is entirely fictional. Despite some superficial similarity, the names Ed Costa and Lee Matthews are not meant to refer to real people such as Ned Price and Matt Lee.
Why Monitoring Language Is Important
Language allows people to express thoughts, theories, ideas, experiences and opinions. But even while doing so, it also serves to obscure what is essential for understanding the complex nature of reality. When people use language to hide essential meaning, it is not only because they cynically seek to prevaricate or spread misinformation. It is because they strive to tell the part or the angle of the story that correlates with their needs and interests.
In the age of social media, many of our institutions and pundits proclaim their intent to root out “misinformation.” But often, in so doing, they are literally seeking to miss information.
Is there a solution? It will never be perfect, but critical thinking begins by being attentive to two things: the full context of any issue we are trying to understand and the operation of language itself. In our schools, we are taught to read and write, but, unless we bring rhetoric back into the standard curriculum, we are never taught how the power of language to both convey and distort the truth functions. There is a largely unconscious but observable historical reason for that negligence. Teaching establishments and cultural authorities fear the power of linguistic critique may be used against their authority.
Remember, Fair Observer’s Language and the News seeks to sensitize our readers to the importance of digging deeper when assimilating the wisdom of our authorities, pundits and the media that transmit their knowledge and wisdom.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
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