Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Friday 14 December 2012

A load of crystal balls

I think it's fair to say I'm not a morning person - though if the Mail is to be believed (as ever, a very big 'if'), I am certainly not alone.

And, as I try to work up the resolve to face the day, there is one thing that is guaranteed to put me in a bad mood; premature prognostication.

The BBC's lamentable habit of regurgitating political party press releases as news is bad enough, but there is an irritating tendency for this to stray into the world of predicting the future:
Ed Miliband will acknowledge... He will emphasise... But he will also say...
Among his proposals will be...
The piece from the Today programme and the BBC website quoted at OoL by the Quiet Man, who has much to say on the actual content of the speech, is typical of the practice.

I'm sure Mr Miliband intends to say these things, and that his autocue is primed and ready, but who can really say that he will?

Those of a religious persuasion often formally acknowledge this uncertainty; the interjections 'deo volente' or 'insh'Allah' exist because of a long-standing and widespread acknowledgement that no one can say for certain that something will definitely happen.

Whether you attribute it to chance or divine intervention, it seems somehow arrogant to ignore the possibility of illness, say, or a traffic jam or - admittedly a long shot - a meteor strike, as if your certainty guarantees that the described event will take place.

It's a subject that has been aired here before (see Mystic Ed and his Crystal Balls) and, since it springs from the arrogance of the BBC and the political machinations of spin doctors, will doubtless surface again (and again, and again....).


  1. Tomorrow morning, I'm likely to say now what will I have for breakfast. Then I might say time to go to the loo and so on.

  2. JH, indeed; perhaps something about broadcast media makes those involved forget the existence of conditional verbs, just as their anxiety to get the story first means they report the news, in some cases, before it has happened.


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