We, The People (Not You, Fatso)

Thomas Jones observed the following of Andrew Keen in the LRB recently:

As is so often the case with conservative polemic, Keen takes it for granted that he and his readers know who ‘we’ are.

This is correct, as far as it goes, but the abuse of the first person plural extends far beyond the confines of conservative polemic.

Here’s what Joschka Fischer said in the Guardian recently, in conclusion to a piece calling for greater transatlantic co-operation between the EU and the US.

A new transatlantic formula would mean that we had a greater say in decision making, in exchange for a greater share of responsibility.

He may have been translated, but even so. ‘We’ means, at minimum, you, me, and Joschka Fischer. So -I’m not that concerned with you- how would I have a greater say in decision making as a result of this new transatlantic formula? Imagine if Kim Jong-Il received a shipment of 10 Aran sweaters, and he proclaimed that thanks to a new shipment from Ireland, ‘we’ (meaning the citizens of North Korea) now had greater access to non-limestone based quality garments than ever before. Is there any significant difference between the function of ‘we’ in his statement and its function in Fischer’s statement?

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