The Guardian • Issue #2092

WEASEL WORDS

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2092
Weasel Words heading

Commitment (strong)

So you’ve heard about Australia’s Home Affairs office cancelling visas while Palestinian people were in mid-flight. Some were stranded in Cairo, and one man is stuck in the airport in Türkiye. Home Affairs was very apologetic and promised to fix the situation as soon as possible.

Just kidding. Home Affairs stalled and said they had a “strong commitment to assisting people who are trying to leave Gaza.” Turns out that a strong commitment is something that you have to a project when you’ve done the opposite.

Resilient

Normally a way of staying that someone is hardy, ‘resilient’ is also a handy way of telling someone that you’re not going to help them, even though you could and probably should, so they’re just going to have to suck it up. Hence ‘resilient’ and ‘resilience’ are popular words with institutions trying to save themselves money instead of helping. This word was last given an outing by none other than the Australian Labor government in a meeting with Pacific Islands nations, in order to change the topic from what the Albanese government is not prepared to do (stop opening new fossil-fuel operations) to what it is prepared to do (promise a bit of money and the right to migrate here in return for Australia controlling a sovereign nation’s foreign affairs).

Uncompetitive

The Australian Financial Review’s Jennifer Hewett has cast a thoughtful eye over the Australian economy and found that our taxation system is not ‘competitive.’ What she’s hinting at is a yarn as old the hills; the idea that if they’re taxed, large companies will go out of business or go somewhere else, taking jobs with them. The only solution, if we want to have large companies that don’t pay much tax here, is to have lower taxes for corporations. It’s a race to the bottom that Hewett wants us to win.

Audacious

(no, not Zorro, just a scheme for ExxonMobil to save money
by leaving a lot of its redundant oil rigs where they are)

This word suggests daring, bravery, and flair. See it in a headline, and you’ll be wondering if they’ve made James Bond movies fun again, or if Zorro is in town. No such luck; ‘audacious’ turns out to mean what headline writers call ExxonMobil wanting to just dump most of their old oil rigs instead of recycling them as they promised when they built the things. So it’s ‘audacious’ to save yourself a ton of money by polluting the environment for everyone else? If anyone has a car they don’t need, just leave it on some ExxonMobil executive’s front lawn. Audaciously of course.

Vassals

This is one of those transitive nouns, in the same way that countries we like have ‘governments,’ while naughty countries have ‘regimes.’ Peter Hartcher, Nine new-spapers political editor and warmonger-in-chief thinks that the United States has allies, like Australia, while China* has ‘vassals.’ He’s worked this out while being angry with ASEAN states Cambodia and Laos for not toeing the US line on China*. Australia could only be more vassal-like if it wore tights and a tunic like an extra from a Robin Hood movie, but gets to be called an ally for rolling over when told.

*who else? It’s Peter Hartcher we’re talking about here

Extremist

This is one of those rubbery words; we all know what it means roughly, but one person’s extremist is another person’s activist. The British Tories have had a shot at defining it. Under David Cameron, ‘extremist’ meant ‘opposed to basic British values.’ Cameron didn’t spell out what those values were.

Now Home Secretary Michael Gove has defined extremism as  ‘promotion or advancement of an ideology based on violence, hatred or intolerance’. To colonised people around the world, those are British values.

The Guardian can also be viewed/downloaded in PDF format. View More