Archive for November, 2004

>The War Metaphors of Spinspeak

Wednesday, November 24th, 2004

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Mainstream Media head-shaking, eye-rolling “news reports” from Iraq continue to incorporate three hoary metaphors which Military Analyst Victor Hanson deftly exposes as fallacious spin in a report in National Review Online.

The three spinspeak-soaked metaphoric old chestnuts:

  • You break it, you bought it = Now that we were foolish enough to invade and “wreck” Saddam Hussein’s happy paradise, we have to repair it.
  • We had to destroy the village to save it. = Why do you have to be so destructive just because those guys in black hoods are shooting at you from minarets, shelling you from mosques and storing bombs in hospitals and schools?
  • Like a broken mercury thermometer = You can’t win because when you attack the bad guys they disperse like droplets of mercury from a broken thermometer.
  • >Jailhouse Spin

    Monday, November 22nd, 2004

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    Question: When is a “resident” not a “resident”?

    Answer, as reported on the Editorial Page of the New York Times: When the “resident” is an “imported constituent” doing time in a prison located far from home.

    The Times, in a flush of unwonted realism about voting rights and all that, opposes the practice by the U.S. Census of counting jailed criminals as “residents” of the mostly rural congressional districts where their assigned habitats are located.

    The Times argues that these “residents” are really “imported constituents” who should be counted in the population of wherever they were living and conducting their anti-social activities prior to being assigned by some judge “temporary” residency (maybe only 5 to 10 years). Otherwise, The Times correctly points out that counting “imported constituents” skews the population count used to determine how Congress passes out goodies and how congressional district lines are drawn.

    Moreover, if the “temporary constituent” gets out in less than 10 years for good behavior, the U.S. Census will still be counting the “constituent” at the temporary residency rather than at the “constituent’s” old home plus possibly a new one.

    The Times editorial fails to address whether “imported constituents” are voting while still in prison by absentee ballot or at their last place of residency or both.

    >The Top 12 Election Spinspeak List

    Wednesday, November 10th, 2004

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    Here are the election language pollution winners: the “Top Twelve Spinspeak Obfuscations” of the presidential campaign.

    The Top Twelve List including only spinspeak minted or reminted for the campaign was compiled as a supplement to the newly-published Spinspeak II: The Dictionary of Language Pollution. All selections were made using the dictionary’s key criteria of packing familiar words with new, tendentious meaning and moving them away from reality.

    The “Top Twelve”:

    nuance = fogword for blatant political hypocrisy as in nuancing one’s position on an issue on which one takes all sides many times.

    Massachusetts liberal = negative engorgement icon for implying that deep down all liberals are rich, godless, elitist socialists who pander to the poor, gays and blacks; encourage murder of the unborn; appease deadly enemies foreign and domestic, and laugh at morality..

    urban = fuzzball for liberal; takes the place of the rather threadbare fuzzballs “mainstream” and “progressive.”

    plan = gift-wrap packagetalk for a “real,” usually “secret” or certainly sparsely detailed solution for every major problem without pain or cost. Such plans usually have little or no cost because they will be offset by canceling “tax breaks for the rich,” “eliminating waste, fraud and inefficiency” and canceling handouts to select “special interests.”

    sensitive war = mushmundspeak for war that must be conducted with only one or two minor casualties on either side somewhat like no-loser school sports and painless fishing.

    global test = delayspeak for we covert appeasers carry a Big Stick and will smite our sworn enemies mightily as soon as congenital obstructionists such as France and the kleptocrats in the U.N. say they approve.

    nuisance = cozytalk for equating terrorists who blow up school buses, behead people at random and plot everyday to obtain dirty nuclear weapons as nothing more worrisome than pickpockets, noisy motorcyclists and prostitutes down on their luck.

    imminent = peacenik worldendtalk for only when the bad guys are coming over the walls is preventive war justified.

    but = negation codetalk fuzzball for here’s what I really, really think, therefore, forget everything that I just said and, in fact, anything that I said in the past (at least for the present).

    two Americas = fantasyspeak for fellow-traveler nostalgia for an America divided between overfed “malefactors of great wealth” in high silk hats and underfed “mill workers” who sit around chipped kitchen tables piled with unpaid bills under flickering bare light bulbs; deep roots in American commiespeak.

    Wal-Mart voter = elitist cutespeak put-down for all of those dopes in “flyover country” who voted for Bush.

    accurate fake = denialspeak for insisting that that the facts in a clearly fake, discredited document are really, really “accurate.”

    >Spinning “Why We Lost”

    Saturday, November 6th, 2004

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    Here are definitions of seven spinspeak words and phrases currently enriching Democratic explanations of “why we lost”:

    ignorance = smearspeak for 59.6 million voters who are stupid or they would have voted for John Kerry.

    Wal-Mart voter = cutespeak put-down for anyone dumb enough to vote for George W. Bush. See flyover country.

    sad = denialspeak codetalk for the world is disappointing place that just doesn’t recognize how smart we are and how much better things would be if we were in charge; often “sad, sad” or “so sad” along with appropriate lookspin (head shakes, eye rolls) and soundspin (mournful tones).

    flyover country = pejorative cutespeak for self-anointing as superior the self-appointed elitist, amoral residents of New York and California as compared to the Bible-thumping Neanderthals living in between the two coasts. See: Wal-Mart voter.

    big capitalists = Halloweentalk for “Halliburton” and the American business system without reference to the creation of the world’s greatest economy.

    religious right = Halloweentalk for demeaning as a redneck moron anyone who regularly attends weekly church services or seriously mentions without apology religious faith.

    moral values = blatant negative engorgement for redefining morality and family values to mean outlawing abortion and gay-baiting.

    And, here is some spinspeak for tomorrow:

  • Defeated VP Candidate Edwards: “the battle rages on” particularly for “the mill worker”…”the mother” who can’t pay the bill for her daughter in an emergency room (no specific malady mentioned)…”the young person who’s worked hard and wants to go to college”…”the young child” of color…”the mother (possibly a different one) who wants to know why her son was sent over there and will not come home.” (The phrase “the battle rages on” presumably takes the place of “hope is on the way.”)
  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi: It’s not about soul searching. It may be about how we can educate the American people…”
  • Clearly, the problem after all is the “ignorance” of 59.6 million voters mostly living in “flyover country” and shopping at Wal-mart.

    >The Final Campaign Spin: Commiespeak Revisited

    Friday, November 5th, 2004

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    Sen. John Edwards, in his little noted and not-so-concessionary remarks introducing Sen. John Kerry’s concession speech, gave one last spin to the Edwards’ signature “Two Americas” riff — a land of “flickering lights” where most Americans sit around the old kitchen table” piled with bills presumably beneath a bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling.

    Again Edwards saw all those suffering “faces” and vowed “this fight has just begun” to create “One America” – a reference to the ingenious Kerry/Edwards “plan” to transform the “Two Americas” into “One America” by “making America America again.”

    Apparently, even as the Kerry/Edwards campaign plunged to defeat, the campaign handlers failed to explain to Edwards that that the origins of his favorite spinspeak are embarrassing to say the least.

    The phrase “Two Americas” is, of course, Halloweenspeak (a popular spinspeak phylum) for a frightening, unfair America where “the rich” (those who have achieved the “American dream”) vs. everybody else (those who are still working on it). It assumes that no matter how well you may be doing on your pursuit class war sells as long as someone is doing better.

    Sub-definition: Those who are already aboard the good ship “American Dream” (with some important exceptions) are always conspiring to prevent everybody else from coming aboard. Important exceptions include the very rich Senators Kerry and Edwards and an assortment of other big jackpot winners who are Kerry-Edwards supporters.

    Sub-sub-definition: for rhetorical purposes, “the rich” is a relatively small group in the economic upper-strata; for tax purposes, of course, “the rich” are just about everybody not on welfare.

    The soft linguistic underbelly of the phrase “Two Americas” as currently employed is made clear by usage of the same phrase a half century ago by James P. Cannon, chairman of the Socialist Workers Party.

    Cannon, an American Trotskyite Communist leader and convicted conspirator in a plot to overthrow the U.S. government, titled his keynote speech to the Socialist Workers Party in 1948 “The Two Americas.” In the speech, Cannon defined the “Two Americas” this way: “One is the America of the imperialists—of the little clique of capitalists, landlords and militarists who are threatening and terrifying the world….the other America (is) the America of the workers and farmers and the ’little people.’”

    Cannon’s solutions include establishing a “workers and farmers government” and reorganizing “the economy of the country on a socialist basis.”

    “Eventually the economy of the entire world will be united and planned on a socialist basis,” Cannon forecast rather inaccurately. “This will bring universal peace and undreamed of abundance for all people everywhere.”

    As any master spindoc would be first to point out, ever since the collapse of the of the Soviet Union this kind of “workers of the world unite” talk is no longer a big political grabber even among the deep thinkers in Hollywood. Moreover, most of the “little people” today are living better than most of “the rich” were 50-years ago. But the human propensity to the sin of envy has not been abolished; 150 proof class envy is indeed still merchandisable. And in many liberal salons and academic groves there remains much repressed ol’ time nostalgia for the Communist paradise. Accordingly, to give “Two Americas” bumpersticker credibility, this commiespeak has been reblended: “the capitalists, landlords and militarists” have become simply “the rich” and “the workers and farmers and little people” are simply everyone else fighting for (well-packaged) scraps.

    The solution — “One America” and “making America America again” – is a High Spinspeak answer to the problem. The two phrases are, of course, fuzzballs that can be filled with the content of the listener’s choosing including that great plum pudding, the American dream.

    “Making America America again” also has a compatible and nostalgic spinspeak etymology. The phrase comes from a poem of protest by Langston Hughes, a notable black poet. In Hughes’ poem, “the farmer (is) bondsman to the soil…the worker, sold to the machine…the Negro, servant to you all…(and) America, the land that never has been yet.” Despite the poem’s title, “Let America Be America Again,” Hughes makes clear that “again” would really not be “again,” but a first, a fact the spindocs writing Kerry-Edwards speeches appear to have missed.

    Hughes died in 1967, three years after passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act which vastly improved life for millions of black Americans over the last 40 years. Demographic statistics show that Hughes’ poem, which offers little hope, was already dated spinspeak when he died.

    In its usage in the Two-Americas-to-one America spin, “the American dream” falls into the spinspeak mister-nice-guytalk phylum. It is clearly intended only as political bait for the unwary. Surely, based on past experience with generous liberal pols, the real-world prize that waits at the end of this gauzy rainbow is that all strivers for the American dream get to pay for the party.

    As Economist Thomas Sowell points out “the belief that liberal, extremist movements are for the poor may or may not be the biggest fraud but it is certainly the oldest.”