Pop goes the weasel

Christopher Sheil has an excellent parsing and analysis of John Howard’s “denial” statement in relation to the Scrafton allegations. As I mentioned in Chris’s comment box, the critical weasel aspect is that Howard’s statement in his initial paragraph “I had spoken to Mr Scrafton entirely about the video” (as well as “my sole purpose …” in paragraph 2) focuses entirely on what Howard said and intended, and is conspicuously silent on what Scrafton said to him. That is, at no point of Howard’s statement does he actually deny Scrafton’s claim!!!! In fact he’s very careful not to do so while making it appear that that’s what he’s saying (mostly by focusing on what Scrafton didn’t say in the Bryant interview, and hoping casual readers will get the impression Howard is denying that Scrafton said these things to him!). As others have commented, it’s a masterpiece of the weaseling craft.

Chris is promising further parts to his analysis, and I’ll link to them here as he posts them. I think this issue has further to run, but I have to confess that my own attention span is almost exhausted for the moment.

Update – Here’s part 2 of Chris’s analysis.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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John Quiggin
John Quiggin
2022 years ago

It’s not clear what Howard hopes to gain from using weasel words rather than an outright lie. Supposing conclusive evidence turned up to verify Scrafton’s account (and it’s hard to see how) would anyone really care about the fact that the statement could be parsed so as to make it not technically false?

I know a lot if RWDBs would make a big thing of the ambiguity, but the same people would happily defend a proven lie if it became necessary, falling back on other techniques like shooting the messenger etc.

John Quiggin
John Quiggin
2022 years ago

That should read “a lot of RWDBs”

Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2022 years ago

“It’s not clear what Howard hopes to gain from using weasel words rather than an outright lie.”

IMO, Howard is doing it because he actually believes his own bullshit – the surest sign of terminal decline in any politician – that he isn’t a liar. It would be too psychologically unsettling for him to lie about not being a liar, so he weasals about not being a liar, and his conscience is clear.

Mind you, nobody in punter land is going to notice his statement, much less deconstruct it for truths, half truths and weasal words – not while they’re thinking about Jana’s knee, in any event. The importance of the Scrafton affair, as I’ve said before, is that it adds another layer to the general impression that Howard can’t be trusted to tell the truth, never mind the details. It’s a funny thing. Before, Howard was teflon – he could tell huge porkies but nothing would stick. Now, I strongly suspect, he is superglue. Everything he says will be treated with suspicion. If suspicion becomes cynical contempt, as it did for Keating in his final months, Howard is toast.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

“I think this issue has further to run, but I have to confess that my own attention span is almost exhausted for the moment.”

Mine too Ken. Mine too. I’ve not got a lot in reserve for Jana’s bloody knee either though I did think of waxing lyrical about that waste-of-space piker, Sally Robbins…briefly.

cs
cs
2022 years ago

John raises a good question, and I think there is an answer other than Dave’s plausible speculation. Assuming (if only for the sake of the argument} that the man is as guilty as sin, remember that this was Howard’s formal first response, and was therefore drafted in a context within which he would have been uncertain as to what his reply would in turn pull from the woodwork. Does Scrafton have witnesses to his phone calls? Does he have a contemporaneous note under his table? Etc, etc would have been the questions going through the mind of the inner circle. This set of weasel words thus gave him maximum wiggle room, in the event of subsequent revelations. If, for example, the mention of the photos was placed beyond doubt, Howard’s reply would be something like, ‘well I suppose it is possible that he mentioned the photos, but I was completely focused on the video, which was what I rang him about, my sole purpose in ringing him, and I have no recollection of what he may or maynot have said about them’ etc. In short, Howard was conveying his best appearance of a rebuttal, while not doing so pending the way the story went. The great tergiversator, in action.

Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2022 years ago

“that waste-of-space piker, Sally Robbins”

It’s off subject, but I think it highly likely that the piker Robbins and her extremely bitchy and bullying team mates were educated at private schools, since rowing is exclusively a private school sport (apart from pseudo private schools like Sydney High).

Looks like the values they were taught weren’t all that great, eh, Prime Minister?

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
2022 years ago

Hi Dave. Who knows if you are right or not but Paul Watson has interesting blog on class and rowing but takes a different view.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

Paul has indeed got a wonderful post up about it but like Ken, I got a bit lost trying to find the point. It didn’t matter though because it’s great to wander around in it while you’re looking:)

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

“It’s off subject, but I think it highly likely that the piker Robbins and her extremely bitchy and bullying team mates were educated at private schools, since rowing is exclusively a private school sport (apart from pseudo private schools like Sydney High).”

You’re right Dave and this surely must make her lamentable cop-out even more unacceptable – and I should say that artlessly offering that odious ‘New Idea’ cliche, “this can only make me stronger,” only exacerbated it. Like me and all private school types, Sally should have been inspired by the immortal injunction of Capt Algernon Drummond RA, as recorded in the ‘Eton Boating Song’:

“Twenty years hence this weather,
May tempt us from our stools,
We may be slow on the feather,
And seem to the boys old fools,
But we’ll still pull together,
And swear by the best of schools,
But we’ll still pull together,
And swear by the best of schools.”

I rest my oars.