Occasional reflections on Life, the World, and Mathematics

Aggressive passive voice


A front-page article in yesterday’s Times attacks Labour’s election strategy as having been too left-wing. Much of it is framed as a family feud, with David Miliband expressing retrospectively his certainty that his brother Ed was leading the party — and the nation — to disaster. But beyond this hyper-personalisation, we also have remarks that combine anonymity and the passive voice in an effort to make special interests sound oracular:

One of Labour’s most generous private donors warned Mr Miliband that the party was seen as too anti-business and that the mansion tax was “completely insane”.

Here we have a completely disinterested ordinary citizen — an exceptionally “generous” one — reporting that, regardless of his own personal opinions on the matter, he had found that Britons from all walks of life from his broad social group, were united in finding Labour too “anti-business”. At gatherings in their modest Chelsea flats, they agreed that none of them could see any rational purpose in taking extra taxes from people on the completely adventitious pretext that they happen to have big houses. (What’s next? Taxing people with big ears? Why wasn’t that proposed under Red Ed?)

So then we have an anonymous claim about how Labour is “seen” by unnamed other people, on the basis of investigations not specified, being delivered to us in a front-page report in the Times. Presumably this has something to do with the man’s generosity…

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