Dangled out to dry? 自生自灭

2019.11.15

Reader question:

Please explain “dangled out to dry” in this sentence: Agricultural products are frequently “dangled out to dry” in international trade negotiations.

My comments:

A variation from the expression “hung out to dry”, “dangled out to dry” here likens agricultural products to wet clothes being hung out to dry in the open air.

If you hang wet clothes to dry in the open air, under the sun and in the midst of wind, you are leaving them to the elements, of course, possibly some very harsh conditions. If the wind gets really gusty and dusty, for example, the clothes will get dirty, if not blown off the cloth line altogether and never to be found again.

Metaphorically speaking, if you hang someone out to dry, you leave them to their own fate. In other words, you abandon them.

Those who are hung out to dry, of course, feel helpless, like they’re being exiled or marooned, like being sacrificed or scapegoated.

In relation to our example, when a trade war is started, farmers are usually the first to suffer the consequences. Importers, for example, often immediately refuse to buy any farm products from the exporter, which leads to price drops, which in turn leads to many farmers stopping growing any crops, which, in the longer term if the trade war persists, leads to bankruptcies and eventually a few farmers hanging themselves.

Sorry about the last image of farmers hanging themselves, but it is a picture that actually helps us understand the nuanced meaning of the expression “hung out to dry”.

To wit, being hung out to dry is not a good feeling to have, nor a happy situation to be in.

Here are examples:

1. A NOBEL laureate who quit after making sexist comments about women in science insists he was treated harshly.

Sir Tim Hunt claimed he was ‘hung out to dry’ by University College London and not given a proper chance to give his side of the story.

‘I have been stripped of all the things I was doing in science. I have no further influence,’ he said. ‘I have become toxic. I am finished.’

Sir Tim left his role as honorary professor of life sciences after telling a conference in South Korea that the ‘trouble with girls’ in the lab was that ‘you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry’.

In an interview yesterday he insisted his remarks were ‘jocular and ironic’ and that UCL had not given him an opportunity to explain himself. ‘At no point did they ask me… to put it in context,’ he told The Observer. ‘They just said I had to go. There has been an enormous rush to judgment.’

- ‘I was hung out to dry,’ claims top scientist fired for ‘sexist’ speech, Metro.co.uk, June 15, 2015.

2. NFL players reportedly defended Colin Kaepernick and blasted league owners during a rare face-to-face meeting last October amid widespread public criticism over a national anthem protest movement that was started by the ex-49ers quarterback.

In a room at NFL headquarters in New York City, the players, who sat in alternating seats with the league’s 30 owners at a large table, demanded to know why Kaepernick was, they believed, being blackballed. The quarterback has not taken the field in an NFL game since the 2016 season, when he began kneeling during the Star-Spangled Banner to protest perceived police brutality against African-Americans.

I feel like he was hung out to dry,” Eric Reid, a former teammate of Kaepernick who has also kneeled, told the room, according to the New York Times. “Everyone in here is talking about how much they support us. Nobody stepped up and said we support Colin’s right to do this. We all let him become Public Enemy No. 1 in this country, and he still doesn’t have a job.”

Retired wide receiver Anquan Boldin also said the owners needed to let “people know it’s not just the players that care about these issues, but the owners, too.”

- NFL players slam owners in heated meeting for leaving Colin Kaepernick ‘hung out to dry,' report says, FoxNews.com, April 25, 2018.

3. Jeffrey Sterling knows the inconvenient truth.

American politicians don’t care about protecting whistleblowers except for when they do.

Until last month, Sterling was possibly the most famous CIA whistleblower in American history. In 2010, Sterling, who lives in O’Fallon, Mo., with his wife, Holly, became one of only five Americans at the time to have ever been charged with espionage under the Espionage Act of 1917. He was accused by the federal government of leaking national secrets to author and journalist James Risen for his bestselling book “State of War.” Despite denials and a circumstantial case, Sterling was convicted and spent about two years in federal prison in Colorado. Earlier this year, his probation ended and he became, for the first time in more than a decade, a truly free man.

His tale began in a very similar fashion as the reported CIA whistleblower who might bring down the presidency of Donald Trump because of his or her damning complaint about the ill-fated call to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that has led to House impeachment proceedings.

Both agents complained about their particular issues first to CIA supervisors.

In Sterling’s case he had issues with the failed “Operation Merlin” in which the CIA was seeking to disrupt Iran’s planned development of nuclear weapons. In the current case, the whistleblower reported that Trump had asked the Ukrainian president to investigate a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, a potential Democratic candidate for president in 2020.

Fearing their complaints fell on deaf ears, both agents then went to Congress.

Sterling took his complaints to the Senate Intelligence Committee during the presidency of Barack Obama. The current whistleblower went to the House Intelliegence Committee.

Here, they share a similar experience.

Under the American system of government, and specific statutes, one of which was strengthened under the leadership of former Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill just a few years ago, whistleblowers are supposed to be protected, so those they are complaining about can’t simply retaliate to cover up their potential misdeeds.

That’s not what happens all too often in practice.

“The first thing the CIA did was run to the attorney general and the White House” when the Ukrainian phone call whistleblower came forward, Sterling noted. “That is exactly what happened to me. I went to the Senate Intelligence Committee, and their first stop was the CIA.”

Here, as Sterling outlines in his new book out this month, “Unwanted Spy: The Persecution of an American Whistleblower,” is where their paths diverge.

“In their eagerness to punish someone for their embarrassment,” Sterling wrote, “they looked around for a scapegoat. They found me.”

No doubt, Trump and his enablers are attempting to do the same thing to the president’s whistleblower — and perhaps a second one as well — in the contemporary case. But the media, and Congress, have come to the whistleblower’s aid.

Sterling was hung out to dry.

It’s why he hopes this current episode in American whistleblower history brings attention to the need to better protect those in government who put their lives, careers and reputations on the line to expose malfeasance.

“I like the attention the political leaders are giving to the concept of protecting whistleblowers,” Sterling said. “But there should be even-handed treatment for all whistleblowers. This is shedding a light on whistleblowing and the protections that are needed. But what about the others? What about Edward Snowden? What about John Kiriakou? What about me.”

- Local spy offers advice to CIA whistleblower at center of impeachment inquiry, StLToday.com, October 8, 2019.

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About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)


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