Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Weasel words

Don Watson, of Death Sentence fame, has set up a new website on weasel words.
It's a great pot-stirrer in the 'battle' to rescue our language from political spin, managerial verbiage and marketing fairy-floss.
They say:
This website is part of the fight back against the decay of public language. As it says in the Dictionary, let's make de-weaseling a key competency.
It's not apparent exactly who is behind the website, but I am sure Watson himself is involved. But this is no publicity gimmick. The website seems to do more than compliment his new book: Watson's Dictionary of Weasel Words, Contemporary Cliches, Cant and Management Jargon (the dictionary referred to). If we can judge the site by the response it has received from people who've sent in weasel words and other dastardly acts against language, the website is serving a deep need to vent.

That's right. You're encouraged to send in examples of weasel words etc or to 'dob in' a weasel word user, which are included on the 'language crimes' page! You can even make your confession as one who uses weasel words etc!

I would dob-in Queensland's head policeman, Bob Atkinson, who came up with a doozy when commenting on
Aboriginal people on Palm Island rioting (see my earlier post). Community anger broke into rioting when they heard the news of the Coroner's report on the injuries suffered by an Aboriginal man who had died in police custody. Atkinson claimed that the man and a police officer had fallen during a scuffle as they were getting him out of a divvy van. Atkinson's weasel words:
"it is my understanding that the injuries sustained by the deceased person were entirely consistent with that version of events."
Such inane words that smack of insincere back-covering. And people wonder why the Aboriginal community there hate the cops so much?

Read more!

Long's march and Palm Island's police terror

After walking as far as the Murray River, Michael Long has secured the meeting with PM John Howard that he was hoping for. He wants to highlight the situation facing Aboriginal people today, and ask the government to wake up to it. Long is an Aboriginal man whose family is from Tiwi Island and a former star football player with Essendon. His concern for the serious issues facing Indigenous Australians is certainly heart-felt, and he points out - rightly - that the government is not paying enough attention. Earlier this week, he told Mark Colvin of ABC local radio's PM programme:
“We want to be a part of the future and what's happening now with the indigenous future, if we let it go in the way it's going there will be no future. There will be no indigenous Australia.

And it's sad to say that, because I mean, we've got so many people dying, we've got third world conditions in our own backyard – health problems, educational problems, there's so many interconnecting problems that we need to address.”
He started walking from Melbourne about a week ago, aiming to get to Canberra to meet with John Howard to discuss Aboriginal issues. He gathered a lot of support and interest along the way. I don't know how much being a former star footballer had to do with this success, but I'm more impressed with how far he has been able to get Aboriginal issues back on the front page of some newspapers and radio coverage. But it didn't seem to make much of a dint in the Sydney Morning Herald, to judge from their website.

Long has decided to drive the rest of the way from Albury to Canberra, because he got his target of securing an appointment with John Howard. Patrick Dodson, the 'father of reconciliation', is meant to be joining him for that meeting. I hope that this means we're going to see and hear a lot more from Michael Long on Aboriginal issues.

Why? I think the recent Palm Island riots and continuing black deaths in custody illustrate how seriously the dispossession of Indigenous Australia is affecting people, and how urgently we must tackle the issues. It also illustrates that the bloody, heavy-handed, white-fella approach to policing and dealing with indigenous issues is still getting it WRONG!

The Queensland government's '5 point plan' to 'restore order' on Palm Island is just more police repression of the Island’s Aboriginal community, creating more shock and turmoil in the aftermath of the riots.

According to
Ian Townsend's ABC radio report, 80 ‘heavily armed and armoured” police landed on the Island to ‘restore order’ they raided Aboriginal peoples’ homes over the weekend. One woman reported what happened to her niece:
“The swat teams, pursuit officers, entered the premises forcibly, had my young niece lay on the floor and held a gun to her head, and she's only 15.

Now, where do these officers, where does the police commissioner get off traumatising 15-year-old and younger children?”
Read the transcript of Townsend's report to get a picture we're not getting from commercial news sources.

Read more!