posted by Carl V Phillips
I was inspired today by a particularly dumb and annoying new policy recommendation from a very different realm, though one that is certainly as bad as anti-THR. It got me thinking: There are certain phrases that the ANTZ use that have some semi-legitimate meaning in their mind (or they think they do) though by any normal reading, they make a claim that is false. I thought it might be useful to start a dictionary of sorts for such phrases, so that the many interested people who do not speak the particular convoluted jargon will be able to see though to the truth. Thus, the trANTZlator.
[For those who are not familiar with the term, ANTZ = anti tobacco and nicotine zealot. It is a very useful term because it captures the type of people with a vague reference when a more precise term like “anti-tobacco/nicotine extremist” or “prohibitionist” or “tobacco control industry” might not be quite right.]
The fact that we can identify a translation does not change the fact that these are lies. They still communicate a claim to the reader that the author knows to be false (or should know). Indeed in some cases this makes it the worst kind of lie, where the author carefully chooses words that are designed to communicate the falsehood but that that allow him to make the disingenuous protest that it was literally true. This is the worst kind of lie because it is clear that the author knows that he is lying and knows that this is wrong, and so is working quite to hide from that fact.
So as an example of trANTZlation, consider a claim by the generally ANTZ-like and clueless American Academy of Pediatrics (via here). Based on evidence that kids who are just parked in front of the television for hourse have worse outcomes than they who get constant attention (duh!), they claim:
“media – both foreground and background – have potentially negative effects and no known positive effects for children younger than 2 years”
What could they possibly mean by “no known positive effects?” Some kids like television or music radio or whatever. Enjoying something is certainly a positive effect, even if there are also negatives. Some children are much more inclined to calm down fall asleep if they can watch a few minutes of National Geographic shows about fish. Well, at least one child anyway.
This type of phrase is familiar in the anti-THR realm, in the context of claims like “flavors have no positive effects” or “e-cigarettes have no known positive effects”.
It turns out that the (lying!) phrase “no known positive effects” has a translation. It is: If you do not like to do this, then there is no reason to do it. So, you should eat vegetables even if you do not like eating vegetables. But a child who does not want to watch a little television should not be pushed to do so. Similarly, if you would rather be abstinent than use a low-risk nicotine product, by all means be abstinent.
This translation becomes clear when you consider that those people with a god complex become so accustomed to only telling the rest of us “everyone must do X” or “everyone should avoid doing Y” that they lack vocabulary for anything else. If something does not fall into their “everyone must” category then they simply do not have the vocabulary to say “but go ahead if you want to or know of a good reason”. They do not recognize that anyone would want to do anything other than for their reasons (which lead to the “everyone must” demand), nor that anyone else might have some knowledge about what is best for them.
Someone’s life made a lot more pleasant by flavored e-cigarettes or a child sleeping better thanks to educational television? Those do not mean that everyone should be encouraged to do it, but it is great for some people. But that does not fit their require-or-forbid view of the world. So they are left with the weird phrase “no known benefit”, which says to the average reader “this is bad in every way”, while it really just means “we are not going to try to force you to do this”.
[Update: Dick Puddlecote had already criticized the absurdity of the television recommendations when I posted — I was behind on my reading. He is a bit more …um…blunt than even I am, but if you are interested, click over to it and be sure in particular to read the comments.]