The Guardian • Issue #2063


  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2063
Weasel Words heading


How can “pressure” be a weasel word? Surely there is either pressure or there isn’t. That’s true if we’re talking about car, bike, or other tyres – you can put a pressure gauge on them. Pressure on politicians, however, is more nebulous. Sometimes the pressure is real – the people are on the streets and angry, other politicians are threatening to resign. The weaselly use of “pressure” is when journalists talk about it as though there’s any other pressure than their own hot air.


Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), is when a foetus is harmed by alcohol consumption by the mother during pregnancy. You’d think it’d be a no-brainer to put a little warning label on bottles of alcohol – nothing fancy, just a pictogram of a pregnant woman with a bottle and the words “Health Warning: Alcohol can cause lifelong harm to your baby.” David Littleproud and Richard Colbeck said that little label would be “an unreasonable cost burden” on the alcohol industry. Not to worry; Littleproud and Colbeck are nasty Coalition politicians. Progressive Labor politicians in Queensland and Victoria were also against the label, although Victoria’s Health Minister defied her own cabinet and voted for it. Take a bow Daniel Andrews and Annastacia Palaszczuk, and remember any reduction in alcohol-related damage to foetuses is despite, not because of you.


Just another way our media make bigotry, racism, and fascism seem like fun. Since it’s an unwritten rule of a lot of the Australian print, radio and television journalism that racism and bigotry can’t be described as such, “fiery” will do the job. See also “outspoken” and “controversial.”


Like “pressure,” “reputation” can be a real thing, an honest way of describing what people think about something, or it can be something that a journalist pretends is real, when it’s really just that particular journalist trying to make a non-issue into a real thing. Nine journo James Massola, famous on a small scale for swooning over Jenny Morrison’s charisma during the last federal election campaign, has tweeted about the damage to Victoria’s “international reputation, if not Australia’s” caused by the Andrews government’s decision not to host the next Commonwealth Games. No confirmation was given that governments in China, the USA, or Europe know what a Commonwealth G-ames is.


Riding a motorbike if you’re drunk is risky. We know that, because we have access to road accident statistics. Likewise, we can check the famous assertion that flying is safer than driving, by just looking it up. The weasel use of ”risky” is when there’s no risk to an action, but the opponents of that action really don’t have much to say. So it is for the Voice to parliament. There’s a lot we don’t know about how the Voice will work out, but just calling it “risky” is a fig-leaf for zero evidence of actual risk


This implies that you have principles, that those principles are good ones which all reasonable people would agree with, and that you’re prepared to act on those principles. Well done, have a medal. Anthony Albanese is cheering on NATO expansion and signing Australia up to military expenditure that is all about US domination of the globe, and not about protecting the people who voted for him. Naturally he’s being described as “principled” in the Nine papers.

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