Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Weasel Words

In proper journalistic usage, someone on trial for a crime is referred to, not as “the criminal” or (unless you are the New York Post) “the perp”, but “the defendant”, or “the accused”, or “the alleged perpetrator”.

But for certain crimes -- effectively those where, in practice, the accused is considered guilty until proven otherwise, and often not even then -- namely, sex crimes.  As, currently, the Sandusky trial, where we regularly hear of “Victim 1”, “Victim 2”, etc.  As, from just a moment ago, the following was copied and pasted from the WaPo website:

‘Victim 5’ testifies Jerry Sandusky exposed himself in Penn State sauna

Not “alleged victim” -- just “victim”.  Which presupposes that the accused is guilty.

For more such examples, click here:

[Flash update]  Someone evidently drew the Post’s attention to this legal-semantic nicety, because just as I was about to post this, the Web site shimmered on my screen as it refreshed itself, replacing that headline with

Accusers testify Jerry Sandusky  used threats, gifts to win their silence

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