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Monday, January 9, 2012

Ross Mirkarimi Update: Allegations of Abuse "Out of Context." Say What?

Posted By on Mon, Jan 9, 2012 at 12:40 PM

click to enlarge La famille Mirkarimi - LUKE THOMAS, FOG CITY JOURNAL

There was, understandably, much talk about the awkwardness of Ross Mirkarimi's Sunday inauguration as San Francisco sheriff. The progressive stalwart and former supervisor is facing allegations of domestic abuse; if things go badly for him he could be booked into his own jail.

Yet that awkwardness didn't seem to faze the Mirkarimi family much during yesterday's ceremony. Addressing the press afterward, Eliana Lopez, Mirkarimi's wife, interrupted her husband to firmly state that the allegations of domestic violence were "completely taken out of context."

The truth of what happened at chez Mirkarimi on New Year's Eve is not known to anyone but the principals. But the notion that, somehow, these allegations have been misconstrued because they've been "completely taken out of context" is baffling. In what context would claims of domestic abuse -- the physical effects of which were allegedly documented by the neighbor who filed the charges -- be in  some exonerating context?

It would seem the term "out of context" is out of context here.

Of course, this may be reading too much into the phrase "out of context." For decades, this has been what people who wish to cast aspersions on the media have used as something of a catch-all to clean up for any unfortunate thing they might have said or done. 

The Oxford English Dictionary lists its first usage as 1940. That instance, in a publication titled Econometrica, reads: "Our national indexes of wealth, income ... etc., are out-of-context summations of such data." That's hardly in the same context as Lopez's statement -- but it's not hard to find many such usages of "out of context" as a synonym for "I didn't say what I said":

  • Ike Lashes Out at Kennedy In Island Furor, Chicago Daily Tribune, Oct. 16, 1960 (The White House today accused Sen. John F. Kennedy, Democratie Presidential nominee, of quoting President Eisenhower out of context and intent in the dispute with Vice President Nixon);

  • 'Lust' Remark Out of Context Says Rosalynn, Boston Globe, Oct. 6, 1976 (Rosalyn Carter, wife of Democratic presidential nominee Jimmy Carter, said yesterday that the controversy over her husband's remarks about lust in a Playboy magazine interview will subside...)

At the present, it remains unclear how allegations that Mirkarimi grabbed and bruised his wife's arm, leading her to allegedly send a distraught text to a neighbor -- who purportedly filmed this bruise prior to filing a police report -- have been taken "out of context." 

Perhaps that elusive context will grow clearer in the future.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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