The assassination, an embarrassing security failure in the Turkish capital, forced Turkey and Russia to confront a new crisis tied directly to the Syrian conflict, now in its sixth year.

This appeared in the New York Times after Russia’s ambassador to Turkey was killed in Ankara.

How did anyone at the Times know that the parties were forced? They didn’t.

Familiar elements are put together in a semblance. The journalists never write “I am going to predict the future of a complex, opaque, unpredictable system with incomplete information” — but that’s what is happening here.

Both Turkey and Russia were party to some diplomacy in the past few days. But were they forced into this confrontation by the assassination? I can’t imagine that. So it’s a double fault — speculation on something unknowable in the future and assertion as to the mechanism by way of loose diction. It sounds logical when read quickly and probably felt logical to the writers.

This other paragraph hardly needs parsing for its hollowness. If it is too early to tell don’t speculate. And notice how low the bar they’ve set for themselves is — if he turns out not to be a member, then they can still claim this paragraph as honest if he turns out to have ever sympathised with a radical element anywhere at any time.

While it was too early to tell if the gunman acted alone, his use of jihadist slogans and his invocation of Syria raised the possibility that he was a member, or at least a sympathizer, of an Islamist group like Al Qaeda’s Syria affiliate or the Islamic State, two organizations that Turkey has been accused by allies, including the United States, of supporting in the past.


One thought on “Diction

  1. re: paragraph 2, I think you have to keep in mind that the audience for the NYT is Americans, who are extremely eager to blame everything on ISIS. There have been a number of incidents this year that were quickly blamed on terrorism that were not ultimately terrorist in origin. What we need in the US is facts, and this is one thing the NYT tries to provide for its readers: facts, rather than unsubstantiated claims (no matter how probably they may appear).


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