Quote: “It’s a public policy issue of how much surveillance creep we will tolerate in the 21st century.” Howard Bass, a lawyer who got Minneapolis’ red-light camera system overturned, in USA Today.
Figure of Speech: epiphonema (e-pih-pho-NEE-ma), the strategic sound bite. From the Greek, meaning “speak out upon.”
Scientists have released research showing that intersection surveillance cameras really do stop people from running red lights — by 96 percent in a Philadelphia study. When the cameras were removed in Virginia Beach, violations tripled. So the issue is all about reducing traffic accidents, right? Or about getting drivers to obey the law?
Neither, says attorney Bass. It’s about civil liberties.
Figaro loves the rhetorical punch of “surveillance creep,” which Bass borrowed from the military’s “mission creep.” The lawyer’s version is a very cool, if slippery slopish, epiphonema — a figure of thought that proves the antiquity of the sound bite. Long before gel-coiffed pols preened on Fox, the ancients summed up arguments in a memorable passage or phrase.
There’s no better way to label an issue. Who is pro-accident? Who’s openly anti-law? Nobody. But few people other than Dick Cheney are for surveillance creep, either.
Master the epiphonema, and the world is your rhetorical oyster.
Snappy Answer: “What about lawyer creep?”