The day before Yesterday I read an article about Outfoxed, the documentary about how Fox News serves as a propaganda outlet for a certain political viewpoint, and one of the things mentioned was that Fox News talking head use a particular phrase to get a bit of information out that they don’t want to attribute to anyone. That phrase is “some people say.” For example, if you want to air an anonymous smear of George W Bush, you might say, “Some people say George W Bush has never read a book with no pictures.” Once you’re familiar with this cheap rhetorical trick, it’s amazing how well it stands out. Obviously, Fox News didn’t come up with it and doesn’t have a monopoly on it.
For example, just last night I was watching the Daily Show, and Rob Corddry was interviewing an idiot who’s trying to build a “Counter Clinton Library” in Little Rock, Arkansas so that people know the “truth” about the Clinton Presidency. The library will contain a number of exhibits, one of which is “Death,” which is, of course, about all the people Clinton had rubbed out during his political career. Corddry asks the guy how many people Clinton had killed, and he responds, “Some people say Clinton had at least 70 people whacked.”
It’s kind of depressing that I never caught on to this cheap rhetorical trick myself. Although I will say that a few years ago I started to notice how often I (and other people) used “they say” to pretend to lend an authoritative air to claims that are being made. “Some people say” is just a more nefarious mutation, I guess.