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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Politics stoops low (again) with 'knives out' commentary

Some election commentators, as well as some Press reporting, make me feel sick. Now that Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has made some progress in the first debate, knife stabbing metaphors are pouring out of the pores of political outlets.

And I'm sure it's not just me that feels sick about it - any victims, friends or relatives connected to stabbings will not feel at all comfortable that terms like 'knife sharpening' are being bandied about - whether in politics, the workplace or elsewhere. To suggest the violent career 'death' of a political opponent is not something to be savoured like some kind of favourite meal - in fact, it is immoral to will or wish the death of another by any violent means and should be abhorrent to those with a conscience.

The relish shown by the headline writers is truly appalling: "Knives out for Clegg"; "Knives out for LibDems". In fact, it's lazy journalism. Such 'knifing' talk needs to be questioned and challenged. Worse still are those (mainly older) commentators who are loving to talk about dark political manoeuvrings that might lead to achievement of some kind of Julius Caesar moment. Those that relish this language ought to stop, think, reflect and re-evaluate their style of language.

You can view the huge array of political knifing comments here. Once again, politics is managing to demonstrate an underlying flaw and failure of our society - that it must use knife analogies to achieve political and other 'ambitious' ends.

Well, it should stop. It is no example to set society at large, let alone any impressionable young people. If not, knife crime culture will remain embedded in the UK psyche. Take the knife metaphors out of the English language - now (please).


  1. danny obrien17/04/2010, 10:05

    This is not only in the election coverage, but is also seen in the sport pages.
    I feel the same as you that jounalists could find a much better way to report stories then to use KNIFE metaphors.

  2. I quote the Daily Mail newspaper.

    Here are just SOME of the 'knife' headlines the Daily Mail has used in the last few years, despite according to last statistic in the media a knife crime every 24 minutes:-

    'Blair buddy puts knife in Brown' (Double Page spread)

    'Doctors have knives out for kitchen tools.' :(The article explains that the tools referred to are kitchen knives)

    'Who will wield the knife?' (Double Page spread)

    'Knives are out' (The headline in Peter Hitchen's column printed mid knife amnesty, arguing that the amnesty would be a complete failure). Youngsters tell me that "knives are out" means "get the knives out".

    'Knives are out for Orliath'

    'After a week to forget, the knives are out'

    'Why the BBC's knives are out for Osborne, Mandy is getting away with murder'

    'Romeo and Juliet: Knives are out for a roving Romeo'

    'Knives are out for marriage'

    'The knives are out for Gordon after poll disaster in Glasgow'

    'Usmanov's knives out for Gunners in Moscow talks'

    'Now the knives are out for Mrs Obama'

    'Knives out for Labour's 'golden couple'

    'Knives are weapon of choice for violent criminals', new figures reveal (any surprise after all these headlines?)

    'Knives are in youngsters' DNA,' minister warns [as it's revealed A&E treats 38 stab victims a day] (is it any surprise?)

    'The abyss facing us on knives'

    'Knives out for Ancelotti...' (similar headline was used by the Daily Mirror on the same day)

    'Knives out: Delia Smith attacks 'foul-mouthed' Gordon Ramsey' ..continued next post

  3. ..continued from last comment

    'Tom Parker Bowles gets the knives out'

    'Labour loses as knives out for Tory leader'

    'Day of long knives as jobs cut'

    'Knives are out for Charlie'

    'Knives are out for Goldsmith...'

    'Knives and forks out for Ming'

    'Record numbers found carrying knives'

    'Knives are out for Lord Levy as Blair rift grows'

    'Now the Whitehall knives come out for the honest general'

    'Night of frocks and knives' [TV Showbiz]


    'Knife deaths at record 6 a week'

    'Day of the long knives at City Hall as Boris axes 120 jobs'

    'Now they will stab him in the front'

    'THE SHADOW OF THE KNIFE' (Front Page headline)

    'KNIVES OUT FOR GORDON RAMSEY' (Double page spread)

    'KNIVES ARE OUT FOR ALESHA' (Double Page spread)

    'KNIVES ARE OUT FOR GORDON BROWN' (Front Page headline - it was the very first time that the Daily Mail used the knives are out metaphor in headlines, July 2001)

    'Why no one (apart from Charles Clarke) is rushing to put the knife into Mr. Brown'

    'Cameron plans his own night of the long knives'...

    'Moses twists the knife...'

    News article body text:- 'This coming week marks the first anniversary of Brown's premiership - and the knives are being sharpened.'

    News article body text:- 'The knives are being sharpened for the Health Secretary.'

    News article body text:- 'In the wake of the credit crunch, however, the knives are out.'

    City News headlines:- 'Knives are being sharpened', and 'Barclays Knives'

    Sport article body texts:-

    'The jeers of the crowd were assailing his ears and, in the background, he could hear the sound of knives being sharpened.'

    "As the knives were being aimed at Avram Grant with the body of his side still warm, John Terry made a secret vow to breath new life into Chelsea"

    According to my research between 2001-2009 a large number of murders were caused by these triggering headlines and article body texts. In being published mass media, a small minority are catalysed to commit knife crime by these phrases. I published an article in Inside Time newspaper, the in-house newspaper in prisons asking whether knife metaphors had led to knife crime. 4 knife crime criminals responded that the "metaphors" had driven them mad etc, 2 of the responders had commited murders they say as a result.

    I am hoping to take the matter further, and rid the newspapers of "knives are out" "knives come out" and "knives are being sharpened" to stop literal misconstrual.

    I monitor occurence of these phrases using google alerts. Whenever an alert comes in, if it's a popular paper, knife crimes soars. Then it all goes quiet again until another "metaphor" is published, and it all starts up again. Appalling scandal! Thank you for your post!


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