September 24, 2005

"Parents mourning their children in uniform lost in Iraq, and uncountable families motivated for first time to protest."

That's language found in an AP report about today's antiwar protest in Washington. How can that pass as professional journalism? The U.S. did not send "children" to Iraq. I get the poetic aspiration entailed in combining "parents," "lost," and "children," but save it for an opinion piece. And if the "families" are "uncountable," how do you manage to know what their motivations are and whether they have protested on prior occasions? How do you even know they are "families"?

51 comments:

Jacques Cuze said...

So what do parents mourn my fine rethuglican professor?

Jacques Cuze said...

The set of Integers are also uncountable, but I can always tell an integer from an irrational, my fine rethuglican lawyer type.

Too Many Jims said...

You are correct that the U.S. did not send "children" to Iraq in the sense that we did not send "non-adults". On the other hand, all of the people who died in Iraq were someone's child. I supposed "lost" is not a good word when died/killed is more accurate.

Would you prefer the first part of the sentence read: "Parents mourning their sons and daughters in uniform killed in Iraq".

The "uncountable" critique, is well taken and well put.

Ann Althouse said...
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Too Many Jims said...

Ann,

I do (and I did) understand your point. On the other hand, I personally don't see "children" as more emotive than "sons and daughters" (though I would clearly see the use of "babies" as such). On the whole, I agree that the press corps could do a better job of not buying one side or the other.

regards

Ann Althouse said...

Jim: Yes, "sons and daughters" would be an appropriate edit. A news report should not reach out for emotive language, especially where it's inaccurate. I might refer to my son as my "baby" if he died in battle, but it would be absurd for the news to report that a baby had died!

I object to the way the language used in the article buys into the protesters' opinions about the war, especially since it undervalues the choices made by the adults who died fighting for something. Of course, if that angle were played up in the report, it would also seem unprofessional. The important thing is to make the language neutral and factual.

MaxedOutMama said...

Ann, "uncountable" means "not very many".

Ann Althouse said...

Jim: Sorry to have edited my comment and then deleted the one that you responded to, putting the comments out of order. If you don't think "child" is more infantalizing than "son" and "daughter," think of a parent using the different terms in different settings, like in front of the son/daughter's friends or professional acquaintances. Would you say "My son made partner at the law firm" or "my child made partner at the law firm"? "My son is getting married" or "My child is getting married"? Obviously, child has a very different emotional feel to it and is easily perceived as inappropriate when speaking of the actions of an adult. To say "my child died in the war" is very different from "my son died in the war." The former would tend to be used when the purpose is to express opposition to the war.

Jacques Cuze said...

since it undervalues the choices made by the adults who died fighting for something.

The choices? Apart from the choice to sign up or not (and the miltary were recruiting outside the Astrodome), what choices did these soldiers have?

And died fighting for "something?" Just what noble something is that today? How many more must die for your something my fine rethuglican warmonger?

Jennifer said...

Quxxo: You are certainly entitled to your opinions about the validity of the war.

But, know that very few soldiers in the armed forces today have not enlisted or reenlisted since 9/11. That was, after all, 4 yeras ago.

Unless you believe all soldiers are too stupid to recognize the significance of their actions, you cannot possibly claim they did not make a choice to support the war on terror.

Nothing offends my husband more than people like you implying he's just a poor dumb slob who doesn't know any better. And then you claim that you're supporting him. Keep your support, thank you very much.

Condoleesa said...

I am with you on the "children" comment. I have a son in Iraq if he weren't a man he wouldn't be there.

I think that is part of Cindy Sheehan's problem. She still sees her son as a child rather than a grown man who made his own choices.

Becker said...

My son is a retired US Marine. He chose to become a Marine before 9/11. He called shortly after 9/11 and told us that he so glad he was a Marine and that we should sleep well because he and his guys would make sure the war didn't come back here.

His unit had 32 KIA's in the Sunni Triangle in 2004. Josh knew them all, we know some of the parents.

The universal opinion among Marine families that I know (a lot of them) is that our sons are not children. They are Marines. I don't know any parents who want their Marines to go back to Iraq, but I also don't know any Marines who would refuse to go. The command asked for volunteers to go from Okinawa directly to Iraq in December, giving up post-deployment home leave. They needed 45 Marines. They got more than 45 from whom to choose.

Cindy Sheehan does not represent the vast majority of military families. We overhelmingly support both the troops and the mission. Would we do things differently? Probably. But we don't, and won't, whine about the mission because we understand that Sheehan's behavior depreciates the service of all and the sacrifice of some.

The demonstrations being carried on this weekend by ANSWER are nothing more than a gasp by reconstituted Stalinists from ANSWER and Code Pink. They are so far to the left not even the congressional Democrats will show up.

pst314 said...

quxxo wrote: "...my fine rethuglican warmonger" etc.

quxxo, of course, is not anti-war, simply anti-American. Show him a communist-engineered genocide and he'll be all smiles. Show him Americans fighting Islamic fascists, of course, and he's filled with outrage.

quxxo's obsessive need to close every childish comment with "my fine rethuglican fill-in-the-blank" is merely the cherry on the sundae of his infantile hatefulness.

Pastor_Jeff said...

The other implicit assumption here is that Maureen Dowd was right about the "absolute moral authority" of those whose children die fighting in Iraq. The protestors must know more about how to combat terror because they're grieving, damnit! My parents' divorce scarred my psyche, so I should get to determine the divorce laws! My grandparents died of cancer that could have been cured but for spending on AIDS research!

Anyway, if you read the article, it's clear this was just another protest party for the whole range of liberal causes (Katrina! No IMF! Free Mumia!). Those Kos Kidz have trouble staying on message, so the AP has to jump in to help out.

Condoleesa said...

Becker, my son that is in Iraq is also a Marine. I was not anxious for him to go but like you am intensely proud of my son because he chose to go. I worry about him everyday and am anxious for him to come home but I know he is where he needs to be and is doing what he needs to do even if many in the United States don't approve or appreciate it. I have to believe they aren't seeing the bigger picture.

vnjagvet said...

The idea that I was a was a child as a twenty-seven year old lawyer when I was assigned to Vietnam is insulting and repugnant.

The use of such an emotional term as "child" in describing the brave members of the military services engaged in their assignements in Iraq is dispicable.

Terming those who criticize such dispicable reportage as "rethuglicans" is juvenile and demeaning as well as ignorant. What do you call registered democrats like me who agree with Ann?

What was the vote in Congress to authorize the President's use of military force in Iraq? Hint, it was not opposed by most democrats.

Finally, which of the spprox 22 "whereas" clauses in the congressional resolution authorizing are "lies"?

Which of those were drafted by the administration without congressional approval?

Chris said...
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Chris said...

"The set of Integers are also uncountable"

Um, no, it isn't. The set of integers is countable, the set of real numbers is uncountable. See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Countable

Not all that relevant, other than to point out that those who engage in nasty snark have a somewhat higher obligation not to make total fools out of themselves with basic factual errors.

Bruce Hayden said...

I think that the term "countable" may have different meanings here. You surely cannot count all of them, because they are infinite. But you can count them one by one, as opposed to real numbers that cannot (unless, they also happen to be integers, the set of integers being a proper subset of the set of real numbers).

Jacques Cuze said...

Chris, you are correct. Doh!

Too Many Jims said...

Ann,

I hate to even follow up on this point because, as I have said, in the main I agree with your critique of the article. That said, here is why I do not see "children" as being more emotive that "sons and daughters".

You are definitely right that when taken in the singular, it is much more emotive to say "child" than "son" (or daughter). Further, if you had more than one offspring of the same gender I would agree that it would be better to say "sons" (or daughters) rather than "children". The problem (for me) arises when you have a number of offspring but they are both male and female.

By way of example, my parents have 3 sons and 1 daughter. My mom does not think of me (nor my siblings) as a child. When I go to visit, my mom says: "My son Jim is coming to visit." When my brothers and I go to visit, she says: "My sons are coming to visit." When my brothers, sister and I go to visit, she says: "My children are coming to visit." (Even though all of us are over 30.)

I suppose when I saw the word "children" in that sentence I read "offspring" in the gender neutral (or is it inclusive) plural sense rather than reading it as "young people" in the plural.

PatCA said...

If that were the only example of loaded language in the article, that would be one thing. However, the whole thing is slanted to portray a misty, quasi-religious protest, an outpouring of innocence and grief.

Not quite. See it on C-Span. It's a sparsely attended hate feest. Rather than repeating the whole thing, check out proteinwisdom.com and his analysis of the article.

AJ Lynch said...

It's the same old song from the MSM. Ann, you are so right. And "uncountable" should only be used very rarely. Once I managed 6-7 professional managers and we had a lot of computer problems so we had to carefuly prioritize the plan to fix the mots serious problems. I used to go almost nuts when, in my staff meeting, a manager would say some error occured " a lot". Well, we get "a lot" from the MSM when it suits their story line.

Brendan said...

Ann, I second your objection to the loaded language in this piece, but you and others weren't so troubled by prose when Steven Vincent was plainly "murdered" (not just "killed") by rebels in Iraq. The two words aren't automatically interchangeable.

Bangkok Rules said...

quxxo said:
"The set of Integers are also uncountable, but I can always tell an integer from an irrational, my fine rethuglican lawyer type."

The integers certainly ARE countable. Methinks you wouldn't know an irrational number from a can of hairpsray, you dumbass poseur.

x_dhimmi said...

One thing we can be fairly certain of is there were more protesters than JENNIFER C. KERR has fingers and toes. Otherwise, she surely could have counted them.

Nickygrack said...

Hi!
I commented on this earlier at FR. Here is the link to the discussion.
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1490656/posts?q=1&&page=1#1

Troy said...

Quxxo: Rethuglican...?

Sounds more like a really mean Church of England bishop.

Oh wait! I get it... it's like Dumbocrat, Damnocrat, Dimocrat, Democrap, Democlap (if they've touched Clinton!)

I know.. you're thinking "Idiot."

I know how you feel.

Das said...

Yes good points all. In fact AP should just tell their cub reporters to refrain from using rhetorical adjectives like "uncountable" or "countless"; unless they are doing science reporting on atoms, stars or germs, et al...

DavidC said...

"Children" n. pl. "A son or daughter; an offspring."

"Uncountable" = "Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, noting that organizers had hoped to draw 100,000 people, said, "I think they probably hit that." (from AP)

Hope that helps those of you having problems with this damned English language.

Sloanasaurus said...

Cindy Sheehan is an apologist for Saddam Hussein and the terrorists just as the same ilk were apologists of Ho Chi Min and Castro and Mao and Hitler in past wars. Every war has its appeasers and traitors. It's hard to believe they exist because making excuses for Saddam and the terrorists seems so moranic. But they do....

Das said...

Also, Condoleesa, God bless your familiy and son. Wish I knew how to say more.

DavidC said...

Das, et al -

"uncountable" adj. "Too many to be counted, innumerable: an uncountable number of tourists."

Being that there were about 100,000 people in the protest (referencing the same AP article), I'm certain "uncountable" is being used in the correct context.

This wacky English language... Who has time for it anymore?

Das said...

DavidC,

English isn't pesky - it's dwonright wonderful; now tootle off and enjoy a novel by James Gould Cozzens where you can enjoy countless adjectives used like, "uncoutable."

mcg said...

Well, DavidC, 100,000 is far from uncountable by even your definition of the term. So we must either conclude that the AP reporter needs a dictionary or he/she chose the word for its emotive content.

Which is it?

DavidC said...

Mike –

The definition of “uncountable” isn’t debatable. If you’d like to prove me wrong by making the uncountable, “countable,” by all means attempt to survey 100,000 roaming activists. Let me know how it goes.

jar said...

I was in DC today for the book festival but got to see some of the protestors and talk to a few of them. The ones that I talked to were in their 70's and I was surprised to see them with anti-war signs. (almost all men too which I found interesting.) There weren't a lot of them but I did not expect to find this age group there.

jar said...

PS The reason they were movtivated to march - their grandchildren.

Bangkok Rules said...

davidc says:

"The definition of “uncountable” isn’t debatable."

But which definition applies is certainly debatable. I think the correct choice is "can't be counted because the event hasn't happened yet."

XWL said...

I delved into DailyKos and RenaRF has a photo diary entry of the protests.

Outside of the media mob around the staged march surrounding Rev. Jesse Jackson, the crowds look somewhat uncrowded.

One other observation guaranteed to upset some commenters, another noticeable aspect of the people that this DailyKos contributor captured is that they are awfully and consistently white (with very few exceptions).

This event did happen in what has long been referred to as "Chocolate City". Guess the locals were too busy to join the fun.

Oh and I didn't see a lot of signs about how they support the troops, just a lot of signs about how evil Boooooosh is.

And these are the photos selected by a supporter, go over to Michelle Malkin's blog to see the rest of the story.

Murky Thoughts said...

Oy, vat a niggler! "Children," "offspring," what difference does it make to those at the sixth grade reading level? This AP wire stuff goes out on TV too, you know. With "families" even in the strictest sense you haven't even half a leg to stand on, since everyone belongs to and represents a family. Ditto for a literal reading of "uncounted." (How many protesters would you personally reckon came to the protest with a family member. Would you guess zero or do you have a specific number in mind? Otherwise, my guess is your guess would be something like "uncounted.") The only sensible way to construe your complaint is as a suggestion that the reporter reported what she did without talking to many people who told her they came with family. That's slander.

Brando said...

I agree with you, Murcky. Ann’s criticism is rather inane.

Poor Ann, with all those uncounted republicans mixed in the with green haired hippies at the protest, she must be experiencing a lot of cognitive dissonance. If only the AP could more precisely emulate the “fair and balanced” Fox News…

Ann Althouse said...

Murky: Looking out on a number of people that you call too large to count and asserting that it consists of "families motivated for the first time to protest" is plainly inaccurate and emotive. And obviously you can't call several people a family on the ground that they all have families. If the reporter talked to them to get the information, then they weren't "uncountable."

Why are you so motivated to defend this reporter! My post contains very basic, obvious observations. Those of you who are taking issue with me look awfully biased.

Your assertion that AP is on such a low level that it doesn't even matter when they use the wrong words is rather foolish in a post where you're trying to accuse me of slandering them.

Susan said...

"Children" n. pl. "A son or daughter; an offspring."

Am I missing something? I thought Ann was talking about connotations not definitions.

Troy said...

I saw the protest on C-SPAN and on an "end of Dish Network Channel (I think it's chnnel 9,461 (or something) called Free Speech TV. All the protestors were definitely countable -- quantifiable? measurable? verifiable? as numerous as the plugs on Sheps' head?

As Steve Earle said (oh to go back to the Copperhead Road days!)... the crowd would be bigger, but "They've" (and you know who "they " are!) made it difficult to get there.

Ann... Anyone who quibbles with your original post is being obtuse. Reading the AP story I could "see" the reporter's tear-stained face as tapped out the story gently while thinking of all these barely pubescent virginal smooth-faced boys forced at gunpoint to slaughter Iraqi children. After all even Zarqawi has a Momma.

I need a tissue and a bucket.

Too Many Jims said...

Ann said . . .
"Those of you who are taking issue with me look awfully biased."

Is this statement in regard to this post only or in regard to all of your posts?

mcg said...

by all means attempt to survey 100,000 roaming activists. Let me know how it goes.

Uh, counting 100,000 persons is easy by crowd management standards.

DavidC said...

Mike -

I'd expect you to know the difference between "survey" and "count." Counting people isn't the question, it's finding out if they were motivated for the first time to protest. Are you reading the same thread and AP article as the rest of the class?

Hence, I'll repeat myself (read it slowly this time): "If you’d like to prove me wrong by making the uncountable, “countable,” by all means attempt to survey 100,000 roaming activists. Let me know how it goes."

mcg said...

First of all, I never gave you permission to call me Mike; that is not my name.

Secondly, the defintion of "uncountable" is, of course, "too many to count", not "too many to survey" or "too logisitically impractical to count."

Even so, it would have been entirely possible to do such a survey had it been attempted. Thus it is not a matter of impossibility but, frankly, of unwillingness.

The bottom line is that the term uncountable was used hyperbolically, for its emotional content; and frankly, I think you know it.

Murky Thoughts said...

'Looking out on a number of people that you call too large to count and asserting that it consists of "families motivated for the first time to protest" is plainly inaccurate and emotive.'

Huh? I'm not even sure what you're complaining about. It's not purely clinical in tone, no, and it's not precise, but it's not necessarily misleading.


'If the reporter talked to them to get the information, then they weren't "uncountable."'

Do you expect her to talk to everybody there? What she writes is, superficially at least, utterly consistent with proper polling principles: She could have randomly talked to 30 people, 4 of which came as couples and 26 of which came in families. If you extrapolate that over the whole uncounted crowd that implies a large number of people who came in families. But if your sample is small it's statistically unreliable, so as ordinary people speak "uncountable" is totally reasonable and, I'd have thought, intelligible. As far as "protesting for the first time" perhaps that's something that came up in her interviews with 3 of 5 families. If her sample was random, that suggest a very large number of families were protesting together for the first time, which totally stands to reason, given how long it's been since we've had a war. Your parents might have brought you to their Desert Storm protest when you were 5 in 1991, but it's 2005 and you're 19--you're more likely go to the protest with your dorm mates...unless you're protesting the bloody death of your brother.

Camp Kohler said...

The only thing that headline forgot to include was puppies and kittens.