What’s wrong with everybody? Can’t anyone comprehend English these days? Perhaps comprehension has been dropped from the school curriculum. Aren't children expected to master comprehension at about eight or nine years of age any more? I'm sure English teachers used to set a passage of text and pupils had to reproduce the gist of it in their own words to demonstrate that they’d properly understood it.
“[Reading] comprehension involves three levels of understanding: literal meaning, inferential meaning, and evaluative meaning.”
Something has happened. For some reason, it's become commonplace for politically motivated journalists and their followers to maliciously fail to comprehend ‘news’. and no-one seems to bat an eyelid at the alarming proliferation of “Quote mining”.
On TCW David Keighley examines the BBC’s responses to the Emily Maitlis and Naga Munchetti affairs.
By way of a personal declaration of non-interest, I can’t stand any of the BBC’s flim-flam formats which feature Hello Magazine style items sandwiched between the inane banter of a pair of BBC anchors on a sofa in a garishly lit BBC studio. Like many of you, (probably) I hadn’t been following The Naga Manchetti ruling, but I have heard it discussed in the media.
I gather that Naga Munchetti’s Beeb colleague had invited her to opine on President Trump’s “racist” remark, which had been retrospectively revised (‘quote-mined’ ) to infer that President Trump had told the ‘squad’ (of BAME congresswomen) to “go back to their own countries”.
I have actually seen President Trump’s whole Tweet - the full monty - reproduced on the TV screen with just the relevant words emboldened. Yet despite the entirety of the tweet being clearly visible, the crucial caveat “and then come back and fix it ” was completely ignored. Some kind of collective blind spot? (Has Ilhan Omar hypnotised the whole world?)
Here’s an example of the type of ‘quote mining’ we'd normally dismiss as laughable when used to promote some godawful film, play or book.
“David Turner-Samuels (for the Eye): With your permission, my lord, I will read an extract from The Times Literary Review — "Lord Russel's works could be said to be pornographic…"
David Hirst, QC (for the plaintiff): Read the rest of the sentence.
David Turner-Samuels: "But they are not."
See what I mean? “Read the rest of the sentence” - but of course no-one has any appetite for the rest of President Trump’s sentences.
Naga’s opinion concerned her personal experience of ’racism’ - all perfectly legitimate, but nothing much to do with President Trump because any alleged connection was entirely predicated on a deliberate misinterpretation of what he'd said. The whole silly business blew up because the media decided to scoop words out of a longer passage in order to paint President Trump as a racist. And it’s easily forgotten why he made that remark in the first place. It was in response to the blatantly racist conduct of the congresswomen in question. This is getting really silly.
Look at the relentless, malicious, politically motivated journalistic hounding of PM Boris Johnson.
Firstly, we have the watermelon smiles and picaninnies. All taken out of context and repurposed to ‘prove’ “racist belittling” of persons of colour by Boris. Flippant and reductive maybe, but racist only if one ignores the context. Then we have those wretched letterboxes and bank robbers. Racist against Muslim women? How so? Taken out of context again. (And are we really supposed to see the full-face veil as anything other than ridiculous?) This language-related madness is being deliberately uncomprehended for political purposes.
The most recent Boris-related hurricane in a teacup blew up over the Bill-and-Benn-undermine-Brexit-act being disparagingly referred to as the ‘surrender’ bill. To the Remain lobby that might sound flippant and disrespectful, but it’s an accurate label nonetheless. The ‘foul’ comparison between an MP and a turkey and something fictitious about traitors is so lame I can’t be arsed to go into it. Especially in the light of the long list of truly foul language thrown around by angry lefties.
To pile incomprehension upon incomprehension, I watched a snippet of a conversation about this language business on Sky News. A person of colour known as Poet George and a young conservative with a Geordie accent were invited to discuss this problem.
Poet George expressed horror over the MP whose name he couldn’t initially recall who had used the “N” word. Here we are.
“A Conservative MP has been suspended from the party after it emerged she used a racist expression during a public discussion about Brexit.
Anne Marie Morris, the MP for Newton Abbot, used the phrase at an event in London to describe the prospect of the UK leaving the EU without a deal.
She told the BBC: "The comment was totally unintentional. I apologise unreservedly for any offence caused."
The Conservative Party later confirmed she had had the whip withdrawn.
Announcing the suspension, Theresa May said she was "shocked" by the "completely unacceptable" language.
"I immediately asked the chief whip to suspend the party whip," she said in a statement.
"Language like this has absolutely no place in politics or in today's society.”
As any fule other than Poet George must kno, in the olden days, before the N-word was censored, that particular ‘unmentionable in the woodpile’ phrase was intended to illustrate a concept:
Back in the Enid Blyton era, when friendly gollies with waistcoats and striped trousers were objects of affection and the N-word was casually used by all and sundry to describe a shade of brown with no offence intended and not exclusively reserved for rap artists of colour to bandy about amongst themselves, anyone could freely use all sorts of phrases and metaphors. Then, with all its good intentions, along came the ‘enlightenment’, which paves the road to the kind of hell in which anyone can be caught out for unintentionally committing acts of racism such as accidentally saying “coloured person" instead of 'person of colour'.
Anne-Marie Morris MP duly apologised and grovelled and so on, and after a suitable period had the whip restored. Apologising for using such an out-of-touch phrase might have made sense, but she was probably even sorrier that she'd been unfairly accused of racism.
Nowadays we deliberately misunderstand and mis-comprehend whatever suits us. The media cavalierly repurposes quotes and sound-bites until they’re devoid of literal meaning, inferential meaning, and evaluative meaning.
Apologies in advance for any offence caused.