Thursday, May 18, 2017

Lies of Omission

In the family we call this "R.L.Moore-ing," after the great mathematician and teacher who insisted that it wasn't a lie if everything you actually said was the literal truth. One of my characters uses this in the current book: already self-conscious about being young for his position at 23, when he meets an Older Woman of 28 and she asks his age, he says, "I'm still on the right side of thirty."

I've come across a more practical application in Andrew Mango's biography of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. In a passage about negotiating the withdrawal of foreign armies from Turkish territory at the end of the First World War,

"Pelle urged Mustafa Kemal to stop the movement of Turkish troops towards the neutral zone of the straits. Mustafa Kemal refused, saying that his government had never recognized the existence of the neutral zone, nor could he hold back his victorious troops. Unless an armistice was signed, they would march rapidly on Istanbul. But when Pelle had left, Mustafa Kemal turned to the Turkish journalist Falih Rifki and said with a smile, 'Our victorious armies... I don't even know where they are. Who knows how long it would take us to reassemble them.'"

That may come in handy during negotiations for the end of the war in INSURGENTS.

And it reminds me of a story that I consider the ultimate achievement in R.L. Moore-ing. The notebook I copied this story into has temporarily disappeared, dammit, so I may get some details wrong, but this is the gist of it:

Up-river from the British headquarters, some local warlord is making trouble. A young lieutenant is told to take a boat up river and tell the warlord to cut it out. "And what do I do if he refuses?" "It's not worth starting a war... I suppose you'll just have to turn around and come back."

Up the river we go, and in due course the lieutenant conveys the British ultimatum to the warlord. "And what if I refuse?" the warlord asks.

"In that case, I should, with regret, be obliged to carry out the second part of my instructions."

The warlord caved.

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