Friendly Advice to Journalists and their Editors
Today’s Wall Street Journal has an interesting and horrible story on war crimes: “Russia Turned a Bucha Building Into an Execution Site and Underground Prison,” by Thomas Grove. My advice is on a related but different issue and, don’t worry, it is directly related to America!
A broom is made of a long handle and a brush. If you find a long handle lying around, you should say that you found a long handle, not a brush. Similarly, a cartridge is made of (1) a primer affixed to the bottom of (2) a casing which is filled with (3) powder, and of (4) a bullet at the other end of the casing. If you find a casing on the ground, you cannot say (as states a caption under an accompanying photograph, a detail of which is reproduced below) that you have found a bullet. (The journalist is probably not the one who wrote the caption.) The bullet is the part that went through somebody and is most likely stuck into some object tens or hundreds feet away.
Perhaps it should be a condition of the job, even in America sadly, that journalists and their editors own and shoot guns. Similarly, a newspaper should not hire a journalist or an editor who cannot distinguish between a handle and a brush.
The same story confirms a different and (perhaps) more substantive idea. The journalist reports on a Ukrainian arrested by Russian soldiers and later detained in an infamous jail and torture center:
Mr. Zakharchenko said he wasn’t fighting and handed over his phone, a late-model iPhone his son had given him, so that the Russian soldiers could check the contacts and photographs. He watched a Russian soldier download the contents of his phone onto a computer and then look up his domestic identity number. The Russian officer then asked him about time he had spent in the Russian city of Tula as a welder in 2018.
Encapsulated there is one major argument against ID papers and “domestic identity numbers” (like on your driver’s license, passport, or social security card): they too easily allow the agents of a foreign or domestic tyrant to find information to persecute those they don’t like.