02 December 2005

why speechwriters can do more harm than good

hogbody666 reminded me of this today:
At a February 12, 2002, news briefing, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld explained the limitations of intelligence reports:
There are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don't know we don't know.
That sounds like somebody said to him or a speech writer "it is important to know what you do not know", as in, being aware that you do not know certain things and what that means...and it got all fucked and garbled in the process of being made to sound even more profound than it is. And it is profound. I think the most important thing I learned while getting a Ph.D. is what I do not know, and that knowing that is probably more important in day-to-day professional and personal functioning.
Anyway, so in the end, an incredibly intelligent man, Rumsfeld, sounds like an idiot. He should have taken (and still should) more initiative in making sure what comes out of his mouth makes sense and does not befuddle.