Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Examples of the Inordinate Love of Universal Quantifiers

Stephen Flynn, Meet the Press, last Sunday morning: "We have never had enemy boots on our ground." Really? What about the War of 1812?

One often hears: "Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East." But Turkey is in the Middle East and is a democracy --flawed though it may be.

This too is often heard: "Before 9/11/01, the U. S. mainland had never been attacked." Nonsense, War of 1812.

Tom Brokaw: "The World War II generation is the greatest generation." Phrased in terms of a universal quantifier, and with a sidelong glance in the direction of Anselm of Canterbury: "The WW II generation is the generation than which there is no greater." So it was greater than the Civil War generation, the Revolutionary generation, and every other generation in human history?

There are uses of language other than the fact-stating use. But when one is supposed to be stating facts, one must make an attempt at getting them right. There is too little respect for truth these days, and too much indulgence in empty rhetoric and wild exaggeration.