December 29th, 2018

(no subject)

Several months ago, the Oxford Union invited a couple of RT editors to give a talk. The opening, by one of them, Nikolay Bogachikhin, a managing editor of RT UK, started like this:

I should probably give you a content warning that what you are about to hear now and what you are about to be exposed to has been called propaganda, fake news, and foreign agent's information; so for those of you who are not that brave-hearted... That was just a joke. (link)

This brought to mind an episode from another talk, also at Oxford Union, by Yanis Varoufakis:

And we have this remarkable situation, where in our infinite wisdom — this is an ironic phrase, just in case you didn't get it... (link)

Which made me reflect that attempts at humor, followed by an immediate explanation that such an attempt was made, is probably a sign of insecurity with the language or with a particular communicative situation; proficient speakers, comfortable with deadpan, aren't likely to comment on their attempts at irony. But then I listened some more to this Bogachikhin fellow, and felt ashamed of even thinking to compare him to Varoufakis. Varoufakis is fluent in his somewhat idiosyncratic English; Bogachikhin’ command of English, in contrast, is very poor. I was surprised that a man with such linguistic abilities would occupy an editorial post in the British branch of RT, and sad that he was invited to present RT’s editorial viewpoint. Next to him, the other RT editor (from Moscow) was a fountain of eloquence; but they both pale in comparison to how an RT anchor could have presented their case. Or compared with Vladimir Pozner, who gave a decent talk at Yale recently.