By Tom Squitieri
Red Snow News
WASHINGTON — In a Defense Department world where a “readout” — the name of the staid press release that portends to describe in detail a meeting or event — can be written weeks in advance, the idea of journalists being accused by Pentagon officials of trying to parse words for clarity and precision left some bemused, pondering, and underscoring the paucity of actual information.
Writ large, during the last Pentagon on-camera briefing, Deputy Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh was asked why meetings with the Chinese are defined using the word “discussed” when meetings with the Russians are described as “talks.”
“Are we planning on having talks with China, something more substantial? Instead? — are they going to go in a room and just discuss talking points?,” one reporter asked Singh.
Singh’s reply: “Seems like a bit of parsing of words here.”
Yet the words used by the Pentagon in the readouts do mean different things, as the reporter explained.
“One is we just go in and have a conversation; the other is we go in and have high talks,” the reporter said. “So they keep using ‘discussed’ all the time when we’re only describing China. We never say the word “talk”. “They went in and had high — high talks.”
Singh suggested the reporter was “reading a little too much into some of the wording here, just in terms of discussed, met with, had a conversation. I mean, we’ve used certain — certainly, different words to characterize meetings, but I think the biggest takeaway that I would urge you to consider here is that this was an open dialogue.”
Words make a difference. Poet R.M. Engelhardt was not at the Tuesday briefing, so we will respond in his stead: “Words are powerful. Words make a difference. They can create and destroy. They can open doors and close doors. Words can create illusion or magic, love or destruction. … All those things.”
You say discussion, they said talk. Or dialogue. Or discourse. Or parley. Maybe bull session, rap, pourparler, skull practice. Perhaps confabulation. And there is always argy-bargy.