"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)

Monday, November 28, 2005

Responding to Damaging Accusations: A Tutorial 

So, the story of our use of Soviet-era gulags continues to gain traction in the worldwide media (except, of course, for the domestic press, which continues to avert its collective gaze most demurely). The EU is threatening to lean on any member states which may have participated in such horrors, while the US lamely insists that it needs "more time to respond."

But I enjoyed the reactions of the Polish and Romanian governments, as demonstrated by this article from the Financial Times. When confronted with evidence of wrongdoing, one might opt for the "non-denial denial:"
Leszek Laszczak, spokesman for the Polish defence ministry, said: “No people suspected of terrorist activities were held in military bases on the territory of the Republic of Poland, either as a result of an agreement with the US government or with any other institutions of the US.”

Note all the weasel words and phrases - "[n]o people suspected of terrorist activities," "held in military bases," "either as a result of an agreement with the US government or with any other institutions of the US." There's lots of wiggle room in these carefully chosen statements, which is why they present a textbook example of the "non-denial denial." It's not as easy as it looks.

Which is why, in the alternative, one might prefer simply to stonewall:
A spokeswoman for Traian Basescu, Romanian president, declined to comment.

Either way, it's all good.

 

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