There are so many things that make The Wall Street Journal editorial page a source of personal fascination--the undying faith in voodoo economics, the staunch defense of executive privilege and disdain for independent counsels during Republican presidencies alternating with disdain for executive privilege and staunch defense of independent counsels during Democratic presidencies--but perhaps the most intriguing is the wildly promiscuous use of quotation marks. Over the years, it's become an obsession of mine.
Like most of us, the Journal uses scare quotes to signify that a term is misleading. A 2007 editorial on climate change complained that "political and media activists attempt to stigmatize anyone who doesn't pay homage to their 'scientific consensus.'" As a matter of grammar, if not as a matter of fact, this is perfectly clear: The Journal believes no scientific consensus on climate change exists. Likewise, the Journal holds that tax cuts do not reduce revenue and will unfailingly scare-quote any term that implies otherwise--i.e., "The estimated 'cost' of this fix to the Treasury over 10 years would be some $632 billion."
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