Passive makes for never proven guilty…of anything.
Harpers has an article worth reading on Mukasey and his recent statements regarding former Justice Department hiring practices. Notice the lack of consequences and the lack of actual actions on his part to fix the problem…it is now standard practice from my reading of the statement.
The conduct described in those reports is disturbing. The mission of the Justice Department is the evenhanded application of the Constitution and the laws enacted under it. That mission has to start with the evenhanded application of the laws within our own Department. Some people at the Department deviated from that strict standard, and the institution failed to stop them.
I want to stress that last point because there is no denying it: the system failed. The active wrong-doing detailed in the two joint reports was not systemic in that only a few people were directly implicated in it. But the failure was systemic in that the system–the institution–failed to check the behavior of those who did wrong. There was a failure of supervision by senior officials in the Department. And there was a failure on the part of some employees to cry foul when they were aware, or should have been aware, of problems.
I propose that any testimony in Congress, statement to the press, or a document that is 55% passive voice or more by scanning simply be discarded, the testifying or reporting offender then asked to return at a later date using active voice in at least the written statements. Maybe shushed in the oral statement. Same for the questioner who allows it.
Update: Reader Jill points out it is not passive voice. Okay. However, Mukasey’s language is passive: things evidently just happened. Jill is more accurate.
Update 2: Revised post Aug. 19.