Friday, August 17, 2018

"There Is No Way To Tell" - Hogwash

In an Anchorage Daily News story Thursday about Chinese attempts to hack Alaska state computers, reporter Alex DeMarban writes:

"It is not unique, nor would we draw conclusions about its timing or source," Baird [a spokesperson for Gov. Walker] said. "There is no way to tell if the activity is related to the recent trade mission to China, and a review by the Office of Information Technology has found no evidence that state networks were hacked in this instance."
I find phrases like "there is no way to tell" troubling.  Most times, especially when we're talking about human acts, there IS a way to tell.  It's just that Baird doesn't have access to the people who know.

I'm sure Baird would say, yeah, Steve, of course - all that is implied.  I can't explain every little detail.

But it does matter, because most people don't think past those words.  Don't think, well, somebody most know and therefore, there is, actually a way to tell.  They just accept it at face value.  It would be much more transparent if he said something like, "Computer people at Tsinghua University know, but so far they haven't told me what happened."

"Nobody knows" is another way to say "I don't know" without sounding so bad - after all, nobody knows.  There are things nobody knows - events in the future, or so long ago that no one who remembers is still alive.  But when police inspecting a crime or politicians tell us 'nobody knows' be ready to ask follow up questions.  Sir, somebody must know.

This is often just a power phrase, a way to say something that makes you look stronger or smarter or better than you really are.  It was only about two weeks ago I posted about another power phrase - Make No Mistake.

These are terms that should cause you to listen up really carefully and to push back on the person talking.

I don't think that everyone who uses these phrases is consciously attempting to manipulate others.  They are said so often, that people's tongues seem to utter them as filler.  But then, that's a clue that they aren't paying close attention to the words and phrases they're using, which leads to other problems.

I added "Hogwash" to the title as an afterthought.  I've gotten a few hits on an old post entitled, "The Origins of Hogwash."    Enough that I figured that term had come up somewhere that lots of people saw.  Today I read an analysis of the spat over former CIA chief John Brennan's losing his security clearance.  Brenna says 'hogwash' several times in his response.  And 'hogwash' is a good answer often, when someone says, "There's no way to tell."

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