Posts tagged ‘Aaron Blake’

The Meaning of Words

We live in a world where language is at best sloppy. People say all kinds of things that are untrue or are gross over exaggerations. Since I spent a lot of my career working where the language and structure of words is really important, contracts, I pay attention. Commercials are a great training ground if you are interested, in what they say and don’t say. With the continuous stream of lying and misrepresentations coming out of the White House and President DFF it gets worse. But one thing that may bring us back a little is the Mueller investigation. The meaning of words is really really important when you are being investigated and to the law.

This morning I picked up (downloaded, but picked up sounds more homey, wait! What does homey mean again? See what I mean about words?) the Washington post and there was a great article where a journalist took apart the Roger Stone interview with Chuck Todd. It was all about the meaning of the exact words and what seemed to be said and was not. Here is a small part:

With that as background, I’ve pulled out some of Stone’s comments Tuesday and provided a careful parsing.

“I never had any advanced knowledge of the content, the source or the exact timing of the WikiLeaks disclosures.”

What first struck me when watching Stone’s interview was his use of the word “exact.” Just because you didn’t know the exact timing of something doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t know it was coming at some point.

In addition, Stone says he didn’t know about the “content” or the “source” of the leaked documents. Again, these are things you might be aware of if you had coordinated, but not necessarily so. It would be much simpler for Stone to say, “I had no advanced knowledge of the hacked emails,” but he’s oddly specific here.

Nit picking? I don’t think so. If we want to really understand something we need to understand what we are being told and not told. What we are not being told is way more important than what we are. Here is my favorite:

I can say with confidence that I know nothing about any Russian collusion or any other inappropriate act.”

This seems like a blanket denial, but consider this: Stone doesn’t concede that WikiLeaks is allied with Russia, and he argues that it does important journalistic work. He was even asked by Todd if he thought working with WikiLeaks would be treasonous, and he said it would not be.

“No, actually, I don’t think so because for it to be a treasonous act, Assange would have to be provably a Russian asset and WikiLeaks would have to be a Russian front, and I do not believe that is the case,” Stone said. He called Assange “a courageous journalist” and said his “track record for accuracy and authenticity is superior than the New York Times or The Washington Post.”

So Stone’s thresholds for what constitutes collusion and “inappropriate acts” seem to be pretty high — and don’t include anything he’s accused of.

See it just depends on how you define words and trick yourself. Remember Bill Clinton’s “I did not have sex with that woman?” That is true only if you only define sex as intercourse, which Clinton did for his benefit. But of course he did have sex with that woman in the broader context of what sex entails.

So why do I bring this all up. Well the meaning of words is about being precise. Great literature is precise in an unusual way, it explains the human condition in a way that allows us to be there and understand. The really good stuff uses language in a way that connects with us. But Roger Stone and so many others are masters at being imprecise while seeming precise. Many commercials do the same thing, and our normal conversations, Twitter, and Facebook are the very definition of imprecise, not well thought out thoughts. Being precise in 146 characters is usually not possible. That is why President DFF uses it so much, because all the underlying assumptions of the statement itself are unexposed and protected from onslaught. All this is about reason, the thing we seem to be losing, critical thinking.

The author of the above article, Aaron Blake, did a masterful job of showing how reason makes things clearer. You think you clearly understand his denials, and then you use your reason to see they are really non-denials. It is why so many are misled today and why many of our news talking heads end up with a false narrative. They did not have the training to parse the words and recognize it in others. Now you have an example. Start listening more carefully and may even find it is fun. Yes most of them out there are lying sacks of ….