The Guardian • Issue #2061


  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2061
Weasel Words heading


No, not the old Lou Reed song. “Vicious” is how how 9 Newspapers describe Paul Keating’s description of Jens Stoltenberg the secretary general of NATO. In case you missed it, Keating called Stoltenberg a “supreme fool” and “an accident on its way to happen” for trying to expand NATO’s reach into Asia by opening a liaison office in Japan. Certainly Keating’s words are not kind ones, but it depends how you feel about the issues. If Keating were a racist, his words would be “controversial” or even “colourful.” Since Stoltenberg is making the world a more dangerous place, we just call them “accurate.”

Rule of law

This is what PM Anthony Albanese says NATO expansion is about. Because Albo, like most people in our ruling class, sees US domination of the globe as a natural thing, so extending that domination seems lawful to him. The US gets to make the rules it likes, and ignore rules set by the United Nations. Israel constantly expanding its borders in defiance of UN resolutions doesn’t count for Albo because the US is okay with that. Their rules, their law.


Being a real expert involves knowing what you’re talking about, experience, and often qualifications. The weasly use of “expert” is when you want to quote someone and you like what they’re saying, so you make them an “expert” to give their words a bit of weight. If you see “experts say” in the media, it’s always a good idea to find out exactly what gives them that title.

Case in point: Albanese is going to visit the People’s Republic of China (it’s only one of our largest trading partners). Nine media, who like a bit of sinophobia with breakfast, have warned that “experts”are against this. The experts turn out to be James Paterson, a libertarian ideologue and Liberal Party Senator who has made alarmism about China his personal brand, and Ted Hui a former Hong Kong legislator who lives in Adelaide. You can see why both men would have opinions about the trip (they’re against it), but not what makes them actual experts. Kevin Yam, another former Hong Kong politician living here is cited by the same piece as a reason for Albanese not dropping in on Beijing. Yam is fine with Albanese visiting China, so the journo buries that inconvenient fact deep in the article. Experts are first and foremost people who say things you agree with, it seems.

Rail – against

There’s a little group of words only used in headlines. When was the last time you called something a “stoush” or described someone deep in romance has having a “romp?” “Rail” is like that. “Rail” is how people in news stories say things when the writer wants to make them sound hysterical. So it is that a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman is “railing” against external interference, while James Paterson just “says” things, weaselishly telling us that Paterson is calm and realistic (for depicting China as practically at war with us) while Mao Ning is nasty and hysterical for opposing foreign interference in her country.


It’s good to have ambition, but it’s weaselish if you have ambition when you could just do something. If you’re in a share house, would you rather have a clean kitchen, or a dirty kitchen and a housemate who has an ambition to do the dishes? Thought so.

Anthony Albanese has said that his government has “set the ambition” for Australia to be a renewable energy superpower, which would be nice if he didn’t lead a government which has approved a ton of fossil-fuel projects against scientific advice. He also spends a fraction on renewable energy compared to subsidies for fossil-fuel producers, but he’s got the ambition, maybe we can shelter under that when the planet heats up.

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