Terminological Inexactitude

93669099_d7d6337a8b_oI occasionally listen to HardTalk on the BBC, depending on the guest.

One thing I find remarkable about that programme is that it goes from being Outrageously-Over-The-Top-Heckling-Of-The-Guest Talk to Fluffy Pillow Talk, depending who is on it.

I just listened to a largely uneventful episode with Douglas Alexander which was on the whole about Labour Foreign policy and election strategy.

The only thing that really made me sit up and listen was the host, Stephen Sackur, describing Tony Blair as a “conviction interventionist“. Not a war criminal or a starter/supporter of illegal wars then? Not a liar at all?

The linguistic contortions they go through to make Britain not be the bad guy are sometimes quite remarkable.

Oh and did you know that Vlad was a conviction buyer of big spear and stake type things?306


  1. Except that “conviction interventionist” is quite a good and accurate description. It’s not pejorative but neither is it particularly supportive. As a description it doesn’t prevent one considering him liar, a war criminal, or a supporter of illegal wars. Any of those may be true (I’d personally acept at least two out of three). But he does consistently speak, and consistently acted, in favour of military interventions, and it seems clear enough that he does so out of conviction. So where’s the problem?

  2. You’re right to note this. The basic concept is liberal interventionism, which can be posited more or less neutrally.

    But the effect of this construction (“conviction interventionist”) is normative.

    ‘Conviction’ implies honesty, sincerity, merit, etc etc.

    It jars because we (apart from John Rentoul of course) still have too-vivid memories of Blair’s mastery of ‘sincerity’ and the grotesque places it took us, and the legacy of carnage and hatred it has left us.

  3. It would also show bias for the BBC to call the Reverend Tony a war criminal. He hasn’t yet been found guilty in any court except for the courts of hindsight, cultural relativism, negative thinking, crypto-Chomskian revisionism, common decency, the quasi-demonic spirit of the universal anti-Aaronovich, etc., etc.

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