The first definition of the transitive verb “infer” is: To conclude from evidence or premises. The political/rhetorical problem with the grammar here is that a transitive verb takes a direct object, i.e. Someone infers something. Donald Rumsfeld wants reporters to refrain from inferring anything about anything he might or might not say about connections between Iraq and al-Qaeda. The problem with this is, of course, that as language-using, rational animals we humans must infer. To suspend inference is to give up willingly one of evolution’s most potent human defense mechanisms. It also happens to be politically convenient for a defense secretary to suggest reporters do this unnatural (and unethical) thing.
The Rhetorica Network
I offer commentary on the rhetoric of the American conversation, especially as it unfolds in documentary film, the news media, and politics. Check out my feeds on Twitter and Instagram. Also be sure to see my work at Carbon Trace Productions, a non-profit documentary film studio in Springfield, Missouri. I am a Professor of Media & Journalism at Missouri State University. I teach classes in mobile journalism and documentary filmmaking.
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