The Guardian • Issue #2045


  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2045
Weasel Words heading

(special AUKUS edition)

Uncomfortable reading / əˈnkmfərtəbəl ˈrdɪŋ/

A lot of weasel words are an attempt to pre-emptively shield something awful from criticism. If something is wrong and bad, you can try to tell your audience that you’re brave for daring to say it. So it is with the recent nine-page “Let’s go to war” series, “Red Alert” from Nine Fairfax. It is indeed uncomfortable reading. It’s also excruciating, wrong and dangerous, so no, Nine, you don’t get any cookies for putting it out.

Unwritten rule / əˈnrtən rul /

Unwritten rules are definitely a real thing, as you’ll know if you go to someone’s house and break one. The weasly use of “unwritten rule” is as a way of praising someone for doing something they do all the time with impunity. In the Nine-Fairfax warmongering series (see Beating the war drums), former defence (sic) bureaucrat and Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) head Peter Jennings is praised for breaking a “powerful unwritten rule in Australia” by enthusing about a possible war with China. ASPI talks about war on a pretty much daily basis, the ABC speculates about it a lot as do other Australian media. Jennings is as brave for breaking that unwritten rule as I am for breathing.

growing militarism / groʊɪŋ ˈmlətˌihɪzəm /

(Andrew Probyn reporting on our growing militarism says we find China’s growing militarism abhorrent.)

Militarism, putting too much national time and energy into fetishising the military, is obviously a bad thing. Andrew Probyn, reporting on our $368 billion (and counting) commitment to buying nuclear-powered submarines, tells his readers that Australia finds China’s growing militarism “abhorrent.” If they really find militarism abhorrent, Australians must be filled with self-disgust after the Liberal Party tipped half a billion dollars into the national war memorial, not to mention overcome with self-loathing at the recent AUKUS decision.

Nobody / ˌˈnˌbd /

“Nobody” is a useful person. They somehow prove that people don’t want things they obviously do want. Butter didn’t melt in Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s mouth as she told the world that “nobody wants to see [military] escalation” on the day that a nation-impoverishing submarine deal was announced. Get ready to hear “nobody wants war” from people who obviously are really hanging out for war.

Motivation / mtəˈvʃən /

Motivation is a good thing, if we’re motivated in the right direction. That’s why we often hear the term used about exercise, health, and doing a really good job at work. You see it a lot in job interviews and on resumés. Three cheers for motivation! Motivation has a second weasely use when we don’t intend to lift a finger about something, but say it’s okay because we’re motivated in that direction. Take a second bow Penny Wong, who has explained that “Australia’s motivation is peace” in case anyone’s confused by her government ramping up military spending and joining a hostile alliance aimed at our major trading partner. Glad you cleared that up, Penny.

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