By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Questions raised in the passive voice

I’d expect this crap from Michael Graham. But what’s with the New York Times?

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich called President-elect Barack Obama “this motherfucker,” and whined that the Obama operation wasn’t willing to play along with his corrupt plans to sell off Obama’s vacant Senate seat — that is, Obama and company would only offer their “appreciation,” when what Blago really wanted was cash. And here’s what Jack Healy writes in the New York Times:

Although prosecutors said Mr. Obama was not implicated in their investigation, the accusations of naked greed and brazen influence-peddling have raised questions from some about the political culture in which the President-elect began his career.

Thus does Healy follow two crucial rules in cranking out garbage like this: use the passive voice, and darkly allude to the raising of questions.

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Questions raised in the passive voice (II)


  1. NewsHound

    This is garbage.Credit goes to Mr. Obama, for as much as we know, in providing integrity and dignity in a toxic environment.No one in their right mind should be blaming Mr. Obama if the voters of Illinois have elected a con artist who most likely is mentally ill, or close to it. Not only is the Times writer out of it, but the paper apparently is being edited absent of the dignity and integrity we have seen in Mr. Obama thus far.

  2. An Astute Observer

    Why do I get the impression that this would be OK with you if the parties were Republicans?Smear-smear-Cheney-Bush-Haliburton-Palin-tanning beds-rape kits-blah-blah-blah-smear-smear

  3. lovable liberal

    Dunno, AO, maybe you’re projecting.

  4. zimbabwhat

    It’s not actually passive voice, but I see your point.

  5. Prospecticus

    Harry Smith (CBS) and Terry Moran (Nightline) have alluded to the possibilities of Obama’s implication, even though Fitzgerald never has. A more interesting question would be did any of Obama’s team work with Fitzgerald since the election or perhaps prior to it?

  6. O'Reilly

    1. passive voice, 2. darkly allude to the raising of questions and the 3. “from some” or “some say” construct, as in “some say” Obama comes from this cesspool politics. What Jack Healy wrote is not reporting, it’s rumor mongering and it belongs on the editorial page of the Washington Times. Did you ever see Michael Graham on Greater Boston? I did. It was the show about Rosie’s Place disinviting that crazy comedienne. Everyone was up on their own moral standard high horse. I wrote Emily and asked her to listen to Michael Graham’s show and take a look at his website before she invited him back on. He really does his listeners a big disservice. I can’t tell whether he’s stupid and intentionally misinterprets the facts for partisan purposes. What’s your bet?

  7. Bill Baar

    It’s easier for some to use the passive voice than to straight out write Obama’s COS Rahm Emanuel had repeated meetings with Blagojevich and gave the Gov a list of names of candidates acceptal to Obama. The meetings have been recorded by Fitz. (Obama should ask the transcripts be released? Imagine the bleeps between those three: Rahm Rod and Harris.)I think a good deal of MSM doesn’t want to ask straight forward question that have straight forward answers.That’s when the passive voice becomse handy….

  8. Dan Kennedy

    zimbabwhat: OK, it’s worse than passive voice: we have accusations raising questions. People raise questions. Jack Healy raises questions, though the conventions of journalism do not allow him to write that. Too bad, because it would make his and the Times’ hackery more clear.

  9. NewsHound

    If there is doubt, as always we need a vibrant media to investigate. This has nothing to do with anyone being Republican or Democrat.

  10. Ani

    I understand that special elections are expensive and take time, but even the “political horse trading” that everybody seems to be falling all over themselves to say is acceptable in choosing an appointment to a vacant office turns my stomach — sounds like too much “group think” to me. I would prefer an election. Ditto for the NY (Clinton) senate seat.

  11. Steve

    NewsHound: we need a vibrant media to investigate. This has nothing to do with anyone being Republican or Democrat.I suppose the NEED to investigate has nothing to do with anyone being Republican or Democrat, but whether the media ACTUALLY investigates seems to. The pit bulls of the 90s turned to lapdogs for Bush.

  12. Peter Porcupine

    DK – expect to see more passivity in voices.I’ve said before – since the media has an actual stake in Obama’s success (as his failure would spotlight the selective nature of pre-election coverage, and their own compliance, as in the JFK era, in overlooking messy facts that might smear the halo of a REALLY NICE GUY…)- questions relating to Rezsko, et al, from ChicagoHackarama would be soft pedalled.I just didn’t expect it to happen so soon, and the passive voice device IS irritating, and does nothing to restore their lost credibility no matter what they may hope (See? I DID write about that, right HERE, sort of…).BTW – Point of Order – no matter WHAT the podium says, Obama is not yet President Elect. If he WERE complicit in these things, the Electoral College could make another choice on Monday, as nothing binds them to vote as their state’s popular vote directs. (I had to say that, as the whole President-elect thing is annoying too).

  13. lovable liberal

    Obama may not have received any pro forma Electoral Votes, but he’s already the leader of America, since Duhbya checked out long ago, and the government is running on little more than inertia at this point. And there’s no one else who could do the job.

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