Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Santa Should Leave Justice Scalia and Ann Althouse Copies of Strunk and White's

manual on writing.  And or if they already own a copy? Both should reread it.  Particularly  the part about effective communication:  

"Vigorous writing is concise." 
And as well:

"Clarity is not the prize in writing, nor is it always the principal mark of a good style. There are occasions when obscurity serves a literary yearning, if not a literary purpose, and there are writers whose mien is more overcast than clear. But since writing is communication, clarity can only be a virtue."

Now why am I barking up this tree?  Well, there was a story going around about how Justice Scalia got in it with some student, during a lecture  at Princeton U.  The student took issue with what on the surface seemed  to be a horrible, vicious comparison  by the justice, between  bestiality and homosexuality.  Althouse chose to revisit the topic this week, based on something that happened on her page yesterday.  She chose to defend  the justice on grounds of (merely) employing  a rhetorical device.  Now as a mostly honest person, who has had fun with language, and has  been known to use language to mess with people, if not fuck with their heads, I say that Ann Althouse was being full on, totally bullshit, with that defense,  I bet she knows damn well she was defending the justice for nothing more respectable than being an Incoherent Fucking Asshole   when instead, he could have been communicating clearly.

Lawyers know better.  My best piece of written work was in what we call a "Lawyer Letter."  My task was to effectively communicate the idea to the other lawyer that I was going to fuck up his client so badly, they would be very smart never to file the lawsuit against my client to start.  And of course I could not be concise, or clear about that.  I had to employ all kinds of sleight of hand and indirect, not exactly-really threats  to not only communicate the right level of, "Fear me  --  you can't withstand my wrath," but do it without  actually  being actually threatening.  And I was successful.  (Bitch backed down, and my client never was sued on the contract.)

But on the other hand, when lawyers write for court filings, it's usually the opposite we strive for.  Be concise.  Be clear.  Avoid being tricksy.  Play it straight.  And since Althouse is a law prof, she should know that better than I do.  She has to grade tests, every year, and has been doing that, for years and years.

Now I could go longer, but I will head for the door, almost presently.  Saying it politely, the justice is known for having a wicked  sense of humor.  Saying it bluntly, he is known to enjoy fucking with people.  (And he's far from alone among jurists, in that regard.  Ask some trial lawyers.  Many are likely to say too many judges/justices think that is the main part of the job.  Well, the part they most enjoy, at the least.  And they are too accustomed to getting away with fucking with people. )

No need for a rhetorical device here.  The truth  says it well enough.  So what Althouse was defending there was not rhetoric, or cleverness  (I have encountered so few actually clever people in my life that I wonder sometimes  if I have even met one.  But I digress.)  She was merely  defending the disreputable practice of fucking with people.

That's all it is dearie, no matter how much bullshit you use to over complicate it.

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