The Guardian • Issue #2075


  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2075
Weasel Words heading


Michaelia Cash repeatedly described a proposition for Indigenous people to have a democratically elected body that could represent them, aka the Indigenous Voice to Parliament, as “risky.” Michaelia Cash was fine with the ruinously expensive and dangerous AUKUS subs deal, and was part of a Coalition government that worked hard to make Climate Change worse, and stuffed up vaccine delivery, so we’ll take our advice on what is and isn’t risky somewhere else thanks.


Normally a way of describing kittens, puppies, and grandchildren, ‘cuteness’ in the hands of Peter Dutton seems to mean ‘facts that make Peter Dutton look bad.’ Australia’s ASIO boss, Mike Burgess has called for restraint by public figures, not long after Dutton – reaching for his trusty dog-whistle, implied that all pro-Palestine demonstrators are undesirable foreigners. Dutton has called for an end to the ‘cuteness.’ Presumably Burgess should come out with it and say that Dutton is a dogwhistling bigot, or just be quiet about any facts which make his former boss look bad.


Protesting against war crimes in Palestine is ‘hateful’ according to Peter Dutton and Sussan Ley. Credit where credit is due, after implying that all Black Victorians are gang members and making unsubstantiated allegations of child abuse in the Northern Territory, our Opposition Leader definitely knows one end of a hateful statement from the other.

Humanitarian crisis

A humanitarian crisis sounds very matter-of-fact. It’s also what language buffs call ‘passive voice,’ something that just happens without the speaker having to name the person causing it. So it’s weaselly to talk about the ‘humanitarian crisis’ in Gaza as though there’s a hurricane or an earthquake there. What’s happening in Gaza is a crime against humanity and there is definitely a responsible party.

Stability (the rock of)

Keir Starmer, the British UK Labour Leader has asked if Labour can deliver the “rock of stability” people need to move forward in their lives. It’s hoped that if he gets into power he’ll be less spectacularly incompetent than the British Tories have been. The weaselly use of ‘stability’ is that it can be another way to say that ‘none of the bad things are going to change.’ This is the sort of stability Australians were treated to when their nice shiny new ALP government delivered massive tax cuts to the well-off, and an insane nuclear submarine agreement.

Virtue Signalling

This is a meaningful term. It’s used when someone does a thing that shows concern for an issue, but they’re doing it to just to show that they’re a good person. Really they don’t care about the issue at all.

From this definition, you can see that Virtue Signalling is a loaded word – it depends on assumptions about what’s going on the mind of the person who is accused of doing the signalling.

The weasel use of ‘Virtue Signalling’ occurs when someone does that mind reading. I have a ‘Vote Yes to the Voice’ bumper-sticker on my car. Was I genuinely concerned about Indigenous people, and sincerely convinced that the Voice was a good idea, or did I just want to seem nice? Does my mental state even matter, if I’m promoting a good idea?

The weasel use of Virtue signalling happens when someone who knows it’s a bad look to be publicly bigoted complains about virtue signalling instead of coming out and saying they don’t like Black people getting something good.

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