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Friday: February 24, 2006

Misplaced Snark

Filed under: — site admin @ 6:25 PM UTC

Jessica Wilson, one of Brian Leiter’s subaltern posters, writes about Abu Ghraib:

“Specialist” Charles Graner was sentenced to a mere 10 years; Pvt. Lynndie England just 3 years; involved higher-ups, Singh notes, have frequently been promoted.

I put off commenting on this, thinking that one of her academic friends would clue her in, but a week has passed and no one has. A simple question: why the quotation marks around “specialist”? It’s an ordinary enlisted rank (E-4), the same as a corporal (also E-4), or a bit lower, as a simple Google search will show. Here is the official list of enlisted ranks, with a note near the top that corporals take precedence over specialists. A private like England is an E-2, and the only thing lower is someone still in boot camp.

To return to “specialist”, is Wilson trying to make some kind of joke? For a sophomoric play on words, you would surely need to bring in a “general” to balance the “specialist”. There’s one available, Gen. Janis Karpinski, who was in command of all prisons in Iraq until she was demoted to colonel for not preventing the abuses at Abu Ghraib. Of course, mentioning her would rather wreck the point about higher-ups being promoted. So what is the point of the quotation marks around “specialist”? Has life in academia inclined Wilson to add “sneer quotes” (note the illustrative punctuation) even where they are inappropriate and inane, or can someone come up with a better explanation of what they are supposed to mean here?

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