Sartre, Not Sabras

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In her analysis of Charlie Gibson’s interview with Sarah Palin, New York Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley may have been a bit too critical.

About Gibson she wrote: “But his attitude was at times supercilious: He asked if a nuclear Iran posed an ‘existential threat’ to Israel, as if it were the land of Sartre, not Sabras.”

I don’t mean to be supercilious, but this is the problem with a TV critic dabbling in political reporting. Anyone who reads the newspaper — and particularly stories about Israel — knows that there’s nothing hoity-toity about  the way Gibson asked the question. The term “existential threat” could hardly be more commonplace.

But just to be sure, I checked the Jargon Database, which specifically knocks out the Sartre option.

Existential Threat
Surprisingly NOT something one finds covered in a college philosophy textbook, this is regarded as a military or terrorist threat to the existence of something, usually the United States. Usually involves nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons.

Posted on September 12, 2008

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