Saturday, May 12, 2007

Speculation cubed

An absolutely classic example of the journalistic fluff, of which we complained of earlier, comes on the front page of The Times today, under the headline, "Brown reviews strategy on Iraq".

First, we get a slender item of news: Gordon Brown plans to fly to Iraq. Next we get a reasonable assumption: he is going there, "to review British policy and troop numbers" (but only an assumption). And now for the rest of the story:

His decision to make an early visit to see army chiefs on the ground and the Iraqi Government will raise speculation that Mr Brown would like to speed up the timetable for British withdrawal…
Actually, this brings us into a different dimension. The newspaper is not reporting on "speculation". It is reporting that a certain action will raise speculation. In other words, The Times is speculating on a possible course of action and then speculating that this will "raise speculation" – speculation cubed, so to speak.

When it then tries to stand up the speculative speculation, however, things fall apart. Referring to "one of the Chancellor's allies" (unnamed, of course), it extracts this quote:

His current assessment is that the the (sic) timetable is right. But such matters must be kept under review and that will be among the purposes of his visit, although his big concern is to make the people of Iraq feel they have a stake in their country through economic development.
In other words, the only speculation they can obtain is to the effect that the timetable will not be speeded up – simply, "such matters must be kept under review".

Meanwhile, when it comes to reporting on what is actually going on in Iraq, forget it! Whaddaya think this is – a newspaper?


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