:: Friday, January 28, 2011 ::
The “Word Cloud” of Barack Obama
Posted by Edward Cline at 9:38 AM
President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech of January 25th does not defy analysis; it invites it. It is basically a reworking of his 2010 SOTU speech, with the threats, leftist ideology, and hysteria muted and recast so as not to cause a panicky rush for the exits. He spoke as someone who had for two years brutally abused a bound captive, and in an attempt to make up for it, offered the victim a giant cone of pink cotton candy in the way of “reconciliation.”
He sounded like MSNBC’s departed Keith Olbermann, heavily sedated.
I was stuck for a title for this commentary, weighing between its current title and one that contained a reference to cotton candy. But “word cloud” better describes the speech. A word cloud is a kind of mosaic of buzz-words or key concepts either smashed together or arranged in some logical format. The best one I can think of at the moment is “Three Things You Did Not Know About Islam,” which is narrated, animated and informative.
The White House brain trust put together its own word cloud for Obama’s speech. It is static but nevertheless informative, “giving greater prominence to words that appear more frequently.” The White House opus is a bewildering jumble of dozens of words that were repeated again and again by Obama; nouns, verbs, adjectives, and conjunctions in various sizes and hues all vie for one’s attention. It is entertainment for the easily amused and the congenitally entranced. However, one could subject Lincoln’s Gettysburg address or any of Churchill’s wartime speeches to the same toss-in-the-air visual word salad and produce the same effect. The White House word cloud means absolutely nothing, serves no purpose, and is a waste of taxpayer dollars.
Its total effect resembles the result of a vocabulary project assigned to kindergarten students by a progressive teacher to see how many words could be glued onto a single sheet of paper. Missing like a deafening silence from the mix-and-match are words that did not frequently occur in Obama’s speech, or not at all: freedom, liberty, capitalism, free markets, totalitarian, control, regulation.
Freedom occurs only once:
And America’s moral example must always shine for all who yearn for freedom and justice and dignity.
Au contraire. Obama’s policies will guarantee that there is no more freedom or justice in America, and there is no dignity in servitude. Who would want to immigrate here, except Muslims, whose creed lends itself perfectly to totalitarian rule?
Liberty does not occur once. Capitalism is nowhere to be found in the text. Invest and investment occur thirteen times, but by “investment” Obama meant government spending in enterprises and programs of his choosing or approval. Market appears twice in conjunction with stock market, and once in reference to creating a market for green energy and green jobs.
Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they’re selling. So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: By 2035, 80 percent of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources.
This is sheer fantasy. By 2035, if the oil industry is destroyed, and the country ground to a halt, those of us still alive will be riding donkeys or ponies or bikes to our government-created green jobs. Or walking. You can bet that by “clean energy sources,” Obama did not mean nuclear power, either.
Obama’s speech was an organized word cloud, ostensibly banal but loaded with political arsenic. The arsenic was the appeal to “pull together” to reach goals deemed by Obama to be worthwhile and unattainable unless Americans just forgot their freedom and fitted the yokes on their own shoulders. It was an attempt to sound centrist, compromising, and accommodating, without being any of those things. Inserted in the flow were key words that appear in the White House word cloud, words that were calculated to elicit a response. And respond the House chamber did, applauding eighty times.
Several marvelous stake-in-the-heart critiques of Obama’s speech have appeared. One of the most interesting is Daniel Greenfield’s “Obama’s State of the Soviet Union” on Canada Free Press. I do not agree with Greenfield that the president’s speech was exclusively crypto-communist; I am certain it was specifically fascist in content and appeal. Fascists, Nazis, and Communists in the past, after all, employed the same rhetorical styles, slogans, patter, and lexicons. Obama does not want to nationalize American businesses and industries. He may “fist” Hugo Chavez in collectivist camaraderie, but his agenda is different. He will allow businesses and industries to remain private, but set their goals.
Most of Greenfield’s piece is a fine, passionate disquisition on the vacuity of Obama’s promises and plagiarized Kennedy-like urgings (“Ask not for your freedom, but what your country can do for you in the way of jobs, education, high-speed rails, etc.”). On the theme of the speech, “Winning the future,” Greenfield has this incriminating revelation about that phrase’s origins:
As usual, the slogan du jour comes from the dictionary of the left. “Winning the future” was a common slogan on the left. While it was belatedly used by Newt Gingrich, it was most commonly employed in the 20th century by Communists and the far left. Two-time Lenin Prize winner, Danilo Dolci used it as the theme of one of his addresses. Jesse Jackson made use of it during his presidential campaign. Max Lerner gave a number of talks on “Winning the Future.” Mandela threw it in there. Most notably it was used by Lenin, “Our hopes must be placed on the young. We must win the youth if we are to win the future.”
What an indictment! As though Obama’s “Sputnik moment” was not great enough a clue. How many times must Moe twist Curly’s ears, or slap Larry on the head?
Claudia Rosett apparently grew tired of all the knee-jerk applause.
If I close my eyes and ask what the president outlined this evening, I get visions of 100,000 new (and unionized) engineering and science teachers criss-crossing rural America in windmill-powered, solar-paneled high-speed trains — questing after the three doctors who will still be in private practice once ObamaCare really takes hold.
In “private practice,” and in hiding? Rosett is too optimistic. ObamaCare means to enlist all medical personnel into his army of the future. Draft dodgers, or physicians in private practice, will be eliminated or sent to reeducation camps to get their minds straight. But then Rosett notes:
Two years ago, this was our time, now was our moment. Now, after two years under President Obama, it is no longer our moment, but our “Sputnik moment.” A Sputnik moment is when you suddenly realize your enemy is way out ahead of you. So, when did we fall behind? Does this mean NASA can now forget the Middle East outreach business and carry on sending Americans into space? And why is our government making three-year plans to “double our exports by 2014″? I’m all for trade, but why the targets? Five-year plans, or three-year plans, are for planned economies.
True, and not necessarily for communist ones.
Mark Alexander of The Patriot Post also offers a biting critique of the speech. He offers evidence of Obama’s first priority in an “abbreviated version of the SOTU”:
"I want ... I believe ... I've seen ... I've heard ... I said ... I will be ... I'm asking ... I don't know ... I challenge ... I urge ... I set ... I know ... I'm proposing ... I ask ... I took ... I made ... I would ... I intend ... I've ordered ... I will not ... I've heard ... I am eager ... I'm not ... I'm not ... I'm not ... I am ... I've proposed ... I care ... I recognize ... I'm willing ... I've proposed ... I created ... I don't agree ... I am prepared ... I hear ... I will submit ... I ask ... I will veto ... I will travel ... I call on all ... I know ... I stand..."
I do not think Hitler employed so many forms of “I” in any of his speeches. But all tyrants and wannabe tyrants are naturally narcissistic and obsessive about controlling everything; in short, neurotic. Alexander reminds his readers to keep “in mind that nothing Obama proposed has an authorizing provision in our Constitution.” We, however, occurred 149 times, and us 24. We are a “great nation” because in the past we “pulled together,” and it is incumbent upon us to don the yoke to pull the wreckage across the landscape according to his plan. What caused the wreckage? Not Obama’s policies. The deficits just “happened.”
Now is the time for both sides and both houses of Congress – Democrats and Republicans – to forge a principled compromise that gets the job done. If we make the hard choices now to rein in our deficits, we can make the investments we need to win the future.
Let me take this one step further. We shouldn’t just give our people a government that’s more affordable. We should give them a government that’s more competent and more efficient. We can’t win the future with a government of the past.
What is a “principled compromise”? Principles should not be compromised or adulterated. Those that are, are merely “stances” hiding a pretence. The principles were never there. Republicans may be ready to surrender half a loaf to the Democrats, who have no bread of their own to negotiate. But they and Obama will in the end possess half a loaf, and in a spirit of bipartisan magnanimity, be ready to compromise even further. Follow the syllogism, and see who winds up with the whole loaf.
Who are “we” who regard “our people” as the dependents and wards of government? Note the inadvertent assumption of ownership – by Obama, by Congress, by every bureaucracy. And in what sense should a government be “more competent and efficient”? In taxation, regulation, and guidance? Should Americans want a government that is expert and skillful in stiffing them of their wealth, their liberty, and privacy? And, under ObamaCare, their lives? They should fear such a government.
Excuse us, Mr. President, our future – not yours as a politician – can be “won” with a government of the past that was limited, corralled and restrained in its powers, and which protected and upheld individual rights. That kind of government has not been seen here in perhaps a century and a half. But what exactly were you referring to as a “government of the past”? The Woodrow Wilson administration? FDR’s? Eisenhower’s? JFK’s? Bill Clinton’s? One as “well-intentioned” as theirs, but not nearly as all-encompassing as what you are suggesting by insinuation?
No answer will be forthcoming from Mr. Obama. His meaning is disguised in a word cloud. Fools, believing that Obama’s word cloud is similar to a palm lined with forecasts of the future, will read into his words their hopes for a change from his statist ideology. Leftists, the entitlement class (read Medicare, Social Security, tax and tariff advocates, and others of that sort), career politicians, and gluttons of earmarks will be assured that “the battles of the last two years” will be renewed.
Republican representative Kevin Brady penned a negative wish list in Investor’s Business Daily, “What The President Shouldn’t Say Tonight in The State of the Union.”
I hope the president doesn't apply the word "invest" as a synonym for "spend.”… I hope the president doesn't continue to claim credit for "pulling our economy back from the brink and restoring growth."… I hope the president doesn't claim he "heard the American people" and "got the message" from the November election… I hope that the president doesn't continue to pour billions of dollars into subsidies in an attempt to create green energy jobs or invest in premature technologies, while shutting down proven energy sources… I hope that his words will be matched with deeds. Soaring rhetoric will not restore the American people's confidence in their government. President Obama needs to signal that there has been a serious change in direction, not just another rhetorical pivot.
Brady’s hopes were dashed. The president discussed everything Brady hoped he would not. There will be no serious change in the administration’s direction. The American people, if they have any sense, will not have their “confidence” in government restored, but instead their certainty in its malign purposes buttressed. Brady prefaced his hopes with, “Tonight, this president is at a crossroads.” In terms of his reelection prospects, yes, that is true. But in terms of his agenda, no, he is not at a crossroads. Only his rhetoric has pivoted, not his policies. He is ready to “win the future” by “moving forward as one nation,” just as he was in 2008, 2009, and 2010.
Only those bedazzled and mentally benumbed by his word cloud will believe he is changing direction. They should deconstruct that word cloud and piece together the words to form whole sentences. Then they would see the ominous message contained in the State of the Union.
4 Comments ::
:: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 ::
The Spinning Tops of Paul Krugman
Posted by Edward Cline at 12:56 PM
Spin. An interesting word. It has a variety of definitions in as many realms of human activity, such as in finance, music, and even computer science. In politics, it means exaggeration, fabrication and falsehood. Its political role in “civil discourse” means that truths, facts, theories, or accusations can be “spun” out of whole cloth from a single thread, or out of context, or “twisted” beyond recognition, twirled to tweak into existence a perceived fact to reflect positively or negatively on someone or some thing.
In advertising, spin means creating an entertaining or appealing image around a product. For example, the old Wilkinson Sword razor blade TV ads used to end with two swords coming together with a metallic clash. Benson & Hedges used to promote its cigarettes with a series of TV and print ads that showed how smokers were inconvenienced by the longer Benson & Hedges cigarette. (Wilkinson Sword is no longer in business as an independent company, and cigarette ads are now banned from TV.) Chivas Regal had a print ad of a man sidling up to an attractive woman at a bar. And Capital One’s barbarians, to my knowledge, are still asking viewers what is in their wallets. I liked all these ads. They are examples of benign spin, not of brainwashing by “hidden persuaders.”
For four days, the nation was bedazzled (or browbeaten) by the spin that because Sarah Palin (and her alleged coven of radio and television witches and warlocks) believes in gun ownership, because she is outspoken in her views of government and of those in it, because she uttered some gun-related verbs (e.g., “reload”), because she employed the visual device of putting certain Democratic voting districts under her “crosshairs,” and because she is more or less associated with “rowdy” town hall Tea Partiers, she was in part, if not wholly, responsible for the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the murder of six people during a political event in Tucson on January 8th. She was a contributor to the “climate of hate” and the vitriolic “polarization” of political debate. Or so everyone was to believe, because Democrats and leftists usually regard most Americans as chuckle-headed morons ready to be taken in by a campaign of dissimulating bombast.
That is also called “spin.” It is the malevolent kind. It leaves one who is acquainted with elemental logic in a state of bafflement, with one’s head spinning, as well, by the arbitrary, selective clustering. There are word salads, and there are concept salads. There is nothing logical to see in them. But concept salads are more revealing than any Rorschach test of what one “sees” in blots of spilled ink.
But for a moment let us assume that, in its root etymological meaning in relation to political rhetoric, spin was initially inspired by the illusion created by tops. Stationary, a top’s decorations and markings are clearly visible and distinguishable. But as a top spins, its colors and markings blur into horizontal streaks and bands. And for as long as a top is spinning, those streaks and bands are distinguishable. They seem real. When the top comes to rest, however, the truth is visible again. The bands and streaks are illusory.
Much vigorous spin was applied also to President Barack Obama’s Tucson “memorial” speech of January 12th. He did not so much memorialize and remember the victims of the shooting in that city, as promote himself, his statist agenda, and his tenuous popularity. Liberal columnists and pundits are still spinning the speech, calling it dignified and appropriate and the mark of a great president. It is now being disclosed that the whole affair was a super spin, complete with an Organizing for America slogan emblazoned on T-shirts and with applause prompters. These revelations will not matter to the spinners.
Paul Krugman, Nobel laureate, alleged economist, and consummate spinner at The New York Times, is always busy spinning his top and pointing to the bands and streaks on it to advocate one statist scheme or another, claiming they are the real thing and that it is a shame that gravity and inertia keep affecting the top’s spin and bringing it to a rest. I say alleged because, when his disconnected fiscal and financial ramblings are pitted against the thinking and deliberations of Adam Smith, Frédéric Bastiat, or Ludwig von Mises, or even against the economic observations of thinkers such as Margaret Thatcher, Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell, he is more to be consigned to the class of Jared Loughner’s mental aberrations than he is to the realm of sane and credible economic theory.
Then why examine anything he has to say, if his ramblings defy rationality? Because even before his elevation to the Lords of the Nobel Prize, he was an “authority” on not so much economics, as on the collectivist morality behind statist economics. His allies in collectivism and statism take their cues from him. We have a duty, he claims, to rob productive or rich Peter to pay unproductive, needy, or unthrifty Paul, never mind the consequences, which assure the mutual, egalitarian impoverishment of all. But to Krugman, that would only be “fair.”
The Gray Lady, perennial champion of “need,” is “standing by her man” and allowing him to go on about “civility,” even though his pugnacious and accusatory assertions in “Climate of Hate” have been rebutted by the facts behind Jared Loughner’s eminently non-politically motivated criminal actions. Facts will not stand in the way of Krugman. The facts, he asserts – indeed, a moral imperative – are to be found in his bands and streaks. Those, however, are the markings on a top designed by a student of Jackson Pollok.
But in his first relatively lucid commentary on matters, “A Tale of Two Moralities,” Krugman adumbrates the “moral divide” between his vision of America and that of his freedom-oriented adversaries, and states that this conflict exists and must be resolved. Of course, he comes down on the side of statism, and feels compelled to sneer at “the other side.”
He begins by virtually beatifying Obama over his Tucson speech.
On Wednesday, President Obama called on Americans to “expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.” Those were beautiful words; they spoke to our desire for reconciliation.
But antithetical opposites cannot be “reconciled.” The “hopes and dreams” of Obama or of his father or of anyone else who advocates “social justice” or socialism or a permanent welfare state cannot be “bound together” with the “hopes and dreams” of those who protest the elimination of their freedoms by the imposition of legal servitude. Slave-masters and the enslaved are not on the same moral page.
For the great divide in our politics isn’t really about pragmatic issues, about which policies work best; it’s about differences in those very moral imaginations Mr. Obama urges us to expand, about divergent beliefs over what constitutes justice.
Here Krugman presents a false dichotomy: the “moral” has little to do with “what works.” It is just our “imaginations” that count. Called by another name, it is wishful thinking. But the moral is the practical, because moral practicality is justice. If the indentured servitude of the productive among us is “moral,” then it is both unjust and impractical, for the beneficiaries of that servitude will reap rewards they refuse to “imagine.” It will be justice when the enslaved or the fettered produce as little as possible, or not at all.
One side of American politics considers the modern welfare state — a private-enterprise economy, but one in which society’s winners are taxed to pay for a social safety net — morally superior to the capitalism red in tooth and claw we had before the New Deal. It’s only right, this side believes, for the affluent to help the less fortunate.
This is where Krugman begins to lapse from lucidity. America does not have a capitalist economy, although private enterprise and productive work are the source of whatever wealth it can boast of. (And productive work should not include the paper-shuffling and regulation-minding of government employees, wherever they may be employed.) America has a mixed economy, one of private enterprise governed by controls and regulations. It is beginning to assume the features of fascism, in which the government allows private ownership of production but establishes the goals and means of that ownership. This was the character of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan. The trend in America began long before Roosevelt’s New Deal.
America has never had a fully capitalist economy. But, note that Krugman feels free to characterize capitalism as “red in tooth and claw.” That is his “imagination” at work. And any nation that has established a tax-supported “social safety net” cannot claim to be capitalist.
The other side believes that people have a right to keep what they earn, and that taxing them to support others, no matter how needy, amounts to theft. That’s what lies behind the modern right’s fondness for violent rhetoric: many activists on the right really do see taxes and regulation as tyrannical impositions on their liberty.
Which, in fact, taxes and regulations are, regardless of who “sees” them. The “modern right” does not have a “fondness” for “violent rhetoric.” Advocates of limited government identify wrongs in the calmest rhetoric possible. If the liberals and the Left feel admonished or intimidated by such “harsh” language, there is no semantic alternative available other than gibberish. What one has worked to own or create would not otherwise exist for a government to assess and tax. The forcible taking of it is basically theft – by a criminal, immediately; by a government, over a lifetime, through extortion.
It is the Left that has a fondness for violent rhetoric, from the “kill the pigs” calls of the 1960’s and 1970’s, up to Saul Alinsky’s “target and isolate” advice to leftist radicals, and Obama’s less than genteel suggestion about guns and knives. Right-wingers, libertarians, free-marketers, and Tea Partiers do not have a history of robbing banks, occupying universities, obstructing property with noisy demonstrations, taunting and battling the police, fire-bombing military recruitment offices, destroying private and government property, and advocating the violent overthrow of the government.
There’s no middle ground between these views. One side saw health reform, with its subsidized extension of coverage to the uninsured, as fulfilling a moral imperative: wealthy nations, it believed, have an obligation to provide all their citizens with essential care. The other side saw the same reform as a moral outrage, an assault on the right of Americans to spend their money as they choose.
This is true. There is no “middle ground” between those positions. In Krugman’s “imagination,” wealthy nations automatically have a Kantian moral imperative to provide for the needy, regardless of whether or not they “need” or want medical insurance or anything else deemed “essential.”
Krugman then makes this statement:
Commentators who pine for the days of civility and bipartisanship are, whether they realize it or not, pining for the days when the Republican Party accepted the legitimacy of the welfare state, and was even willing to contemplate expanding it. As many analysts have noted, the Obama health reform — whose passage was met with vandalism and death threats against members of Congress — was modeled on Republican plans from the 1990s.
This is also true. Both Presidents Bush sanctioned the growth of big government and the expansion of the welfare state. They built on what the Democrats had created. Krugman does not dwell on the fact, but this was possible only because of the moral and philosophical bankruptcy of the Republicans. The Republican notion of preserving freedom has been to advocate putting just one handcuff and one fetter on just one wrist and ankle, instead of on both wrists and ankles, as the Democrats propose.
Krugman becomes nasty later on his article. The “other side” is guilty of moral turpitude.
Regular readers know which side of that divide I’m on. In future columns I will no doubt spend a lot of time pointing out the hypocrisy and logical fallacies of the “I earned it and I have the right to keep it” crowd. And I’ll also have a lot to say about how far we really are from being a society of equal opportunity, in which success depends solely on one’s own efforts.
But there is no “hypocrisy” or “logical fallacy” in the idea. Why is wanting to keep what one has earned “hypocritical”? One has earned it, or one has not. “Earning” is not synonymous with theft. He does not answer. Why is it a “logical fallacy”? Krugman offers no evidence to support that assertion, either.
His remark about success depending “solely on one’s own efforts” identifies him as an apostle of John Rawls’ morbidly egalitarian A Theory of Justice (1971), in which “original positions” and “final outcomes” are equalized and weighted in favor of the “least-advantaged.” One’s skills, ambition, ingenuity, perseverance, and values are “unfair” if they net one rewards. If one is, say, less skilled, or less hard-working, or simply a mediocre performer, then one should be boosted to the level of one’s superior. That would be “fair” – to the envious. Envy is now a “moral” virtue. If one has no skills and does not work at all, then one somehow has a right to everything the skilled and ambitious attain, because the latter simply lucked out in the distributive “lottery” of skills, ambition, and so on. Who or what “distributed” the advantages? Neither Rawls nor Krugman provides an answer.
Others adopt the Rawlsian mantra and claim that one’s abilities, skills, vision, and success are somehow bestowed on one by “society,” and that it is one’s moral duty to “give back” to it, voluntarily or by law. Such a perspective discounts the volitional nature of man’s consciousness and demotes it to a passive role. It implies that the content of one’s mind is not one’s own, but the property of any random stranger or group of strangers. One is merely a “steward” of the property of an absentee landlord.
The hidden premise in Rawls’ theory is that, ultimately, it is the professional parasite, the moocher, the career welfare state beneficiary and system gamer, who is the “least-advantaged” and who requires a “safety net.” In Krugman’s “imagination,” one’s success in achieving one’s values is directly responsible for another’s luckless failure. Ergo, the achiever “owes” the non-achiever.
Krugman’s article is one long endorsement of egalitarianism by decree. Its “moral” foundation is the impractical, suicidal code of altruism, and its political expression is collectivism.
Right now, each side in that debate passionately believes that the other side is wrong. And it’s all right for them to say that. What’s not acceptable is the kind of violence and eliminationist rhetoric encouraging violence that has become all too common these past two years.
Again, the “violence” has been perpetrated by the Left, and the “eliminationist” rhetoric has also been a monopoly of the Left, and for much, much longer than a mere two years. No Tea Partier ever told Democrats to shut up, or smeared them with the allegations of racism or bigotry or knuckle-dragging.
We all want reconciliation, but the road to that goal begins with an agreement that our differences will be settled by the rule of law.
No, we do not all want reconciliation. We do not agree that it is possible, practical, or even desirable. Reconciliation means compromise, of “one side” surrendering in part or in whole its principles and values, just to “stay in the game,” while the “other side” – Krugman’s side – not only “stays in the game,” but sets its rules.
And how will differences be settled, and by whose rule of law? Should it be the law founded on the “practicality” of laissez-faire, individual rights, and the preservation of liberty, including the freedom to employ “violent” rhetoric? Or the fiat law of legislators, bureaucrats, czars, and the dispensers of “fairness”?
Yes, there are “two moralities” in conflict. Krugman does not bother to delineate them other than in a crude, superficial manner. The purpose of his article is to blur the distinctions between them by making an appeal for “non-violent” discourse, in which A would be equated with non-A by both “sides” of the conflict. That is the goal of Krugman’s spinning top, to vitiate the epistemology and metaphysics of the sane and the owners of their own lives.
2 Comments ::
:: Saturday, January 15, 2011 ::
Together in Chains and T-Shirts
Posted by Edward Cline at 11:19 PM
Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not,
Diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy. – Ernest Benn
On the premise that words have meanings, and in the spirit of vitriol, eliminationism, toxicity, and incivility, I offer here an inflammatory, abrasive, and indecorous critique of the latest bucket of double-talking swill to be dumped on America by the White House.
On Wednesday, January 12th, President Barack Obama delivered a “eulogy” that magically but predictably morphed into a campaign speech before some 14,000 people in a university sports arena. It was a slyly spun delivery that fooled such stalwart “right-wingers” as Glenn Beck, Brit Hume, and Michael Gerson, and won their wholesome praise and uncritical adulation. Even dependently acerbic Charles Krauthammer, usually so sensitive to the nuances and syntaxical trickery in Obama’s speeches, and so mercilessly forthright in his appraisal of the president’s utterances, was taken in.
Appearing on Fox News, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer said the speech was a “remarkable display . . . both in terms of the tone and the content,” adding, “You could only conclude that he did exactly what he had to do in a difficult environment,” The New York Times reported.
Those concessions leave one doubtful of the moral certitude of the “right” and of conservatives.
Republican Senator John McCain, defeated for the presidency by Obama in 2008, went out of his way to congratulate Obama in a Washington Post article in calling for a “gentler form of politics.” His article could have been written by Obama’s speechwriter.
President Obama gave a terrific speech Wednesday night. He movingly mourned and honored the victims of Saturday's senseless atrocity outside Tucson, comforted and inspired the country, and encouraged those of us who have the privilege of serving America.
The president appropriately disputed the injurious suggestion that some participants in our political debates were responsible for a depraved man's inhumanity. He asked us all to conduct ourselves in those debates in a manner that would not disillusion an innocent child's hopeful patriotism. I agree wholeheartedly with these sentiments. We should respect the sincerity of the convictions that enliven our debates but also the mutual purpose that we and all preceding generations of Americans serve: a better country; stronger, more prosperous and just than the one we inherited.
The question is: When political opponents begin to sound like each other, as McCain and Obama do here, and invest effort to soften their principles (if any) and criticisms, so as not to sound “hurtful” or “caustic,” and seem to be saying the exact same things, what difference will it make to the electorate? When no one brings any metaphorical weapons to a fight – recall Obama’s advising allies to bring a gun when the opposition brings a knife – what else can be substituted but Aunt Emma’s Etiquette for Polite Political Engagement?
Who wins in such a confrontation? The party that has the most to hide, the most to protect, the most to shield from criticism. In this case, the Democrats. If one is reluctant to call a leftist a leftist, a socialist a socialist, a power-luster a power-luster, who gains in that political version of tag football? Civil discourse by the opponents of the administration’s policy of statism will only mean their defeat. “Civil discourse” in the spirit of compromise and bipartisanship can mean only the routing of the White House’s “enemies.” As novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand noted in her prophetic novel Atlas Shrugged in 1957:
In any compromise between food and poison, it is only death that can win. In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit.
When the chief target of the Democrats and the Left, Sarah Palin, responded to the libelous charge that she was in large part responsible for Jared Loughner’s homicidal mental state, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) also joined in the “civil tongue” mantra over Palin’s use of the otherwise odious term blood libel:
In response to rampant speculation that a map that had appeared on Palin’s website, which placed a crosshairs-like image over Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ district, may have inspired the shooting, Palin responded that “journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn.”
The Anti-Defamation League responded with a statement issued by national director Abraham Foxman, in which he noted, “while the term ‘blood-libel’ has become part of the English parlance to refer to someone being falsely accused, we wish that Palin had used another phrase, instead of one so fraught with pain in Jewish history.”
Foxman acknowledges the secular currency of the term “blood libel,” but denies its legitimate usage at the same time. The ADL subsequently called for Americans to “reach out.”
As one part of our overall effort, ADL has launched a campaign to make this the moment when our country dramatically shifts the tenor of our national discourse—an appeal for leaders to work together to change the bitter climate of political and policy debates. Our call is not directed at Republicans or Democrats. It is a call for all America’s leaders to consider the impact of their words and to reject appeals that exploit voters’ fears, frustrations and prejudices.
An impromptu but none too subtle slogan for the memorial service, originating in Obama’s “Organizing for America” (aka, “Organizing of America”) was “Together We Thrive.” Attendees of the memorial service, as they entered the stadium, were handed blue T-shirts bearing that slogan. There is a picture of rows of stadium seats with the T-shirts neatly folded over the chair backs. This leaves one to wonder: Why did it take so long for the service to be orchestrated? One presumes it would have taken time to have all those T-shirts produced and sent to Tucson. Or were they really produced in Tucson?
Who were all those people? Did they arrive by the busload from out of town, from out of state? That would have taken time to schedule. It would be interesting to know the composition of the audience. For it was not strictly a memorial service, but a performance for an audience, and nationally televised. Why did it feel to free to cheer, virtually on cue? One smells the manipulative hands of George Soros and the Democratic National Committee behind the whole memorial-cum-rally.
Why a stadium? Why did not those who had a more intimate connection – the husband of Gabrielle Giffords, the relatives of Judge John Roll, and the relatives and friends of the others killed and injured during the Tucson shooting of January 8th – insist on a more private occasion, held, say, in a chapel, with attendance limited to perhaps two hundred, including the press? Perhaps saying “no” to the White House’s desire to transform the service into a podium for pontificating was thought to be an offense to the office and fraught with a perceived insult that may have had unpredictable consequences. It is, after all, hard to reject the wishes of a party one suspects is imbued with delusions of absolute power.
His speech? Here is a selection of ideological non sequiturs to ponder:
On Saturday morning, Gabby, her staff and many of her constituents gathered outside a supermarket to exercise their right to peaceful assembly and free speech.
Is the recent rule-making of the Federal Communications Commission on broadband availability but an overture to an administration-sanctioned takeover of the Internet? What else could it be but an overture, a first installment?
They were fulfilling a central tenet of the democracy envisioned by our founders –- representatives of the people answering questions to their constituents, so as to carry their concerns back to our nation’s capital. Gabby called it “Congress on Your Corner” -– just an updated version of government of and by and for the people.
The Founders never envisioned a democracy – except as an overture to tyranny – but an individual rights-defending, limited government republic. But this is something we either cannot expect Obama to understand, or correctly assess his hostility to, on the evidence of his words and actions. And when the concerns and questions of the people were carried back to Washington in 2009 and 2010 – sometimes by their representatives, but mostly not – how were those concerns and questions treated by Obama’s Congress? With arrogant dismissal and the condescension of an elitist political class.
And by “government of and by and for the people,” Lincoln surely did not mean mob rule by the United Auto Workers, the SEIU, manufacturers of solar panels and ethanol, and other groups with a vested interest in billion-dollar handouts and subsidies.
Speaking of Gabrielle Giffords and one of the murder victims, Phyllis Schneck, Obama said:
A gifted quilter, she’d often work under a favorite tree, or sometimes she'd sew aprons with the logos of the Jets and the Giants to give out at the church where she volunteered. A Republican, she took a liking to Gabby, and wanted to get to know her better.
A sly appeal for “bipartisanship”?
Speaking of Gabe Zimmerman, the Giffords aide who was also murdered, Obama remarked:
As Gabby’s outreach director, he made the cares of thousands of her constituents his own, seeing to it that seniors got the Medicare benefits that they had earned, that veterans got the medals and the care that they deserved, that government was working for ordinary folks.
“Ordinary folks”? Another patronizing and populist sop. The only legitimate “work” the government can perform is to protect individual rights, and not help people get their alleged welfare state entitlements.
And we are grateful for the doctors and nurses and first responders who worked wonders to heal those who’d been hurt. We are grateful to them.
But not grateful enough to refrain from advocating and signing legislation which will make those doctors, nurses and first responders indentured servants of the state and of any person who claims their skills as a right.
But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized -– at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than [sic] we do -– it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.
Who was the first “polarizer”? Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik, who, in addition to reporting a crime almost immediately after its commission, made improper political remarks about everyone being culpable for Jared Loughner’s mental state. His rant set the tone for what was to follow, a kneejerk smearing by a desperate Left of anyone speaking his mind about the political state and direction of the country. Dupnik excoriated “the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business,” and claimed that Arizona was becoming a “Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”
And when discussing political differences, why is “wounding” a necessary consequence of speaking one’s mind and disagreeing with another person’s political notions or ideology? Why not lay the blame “for all that ails the world” on a particular philosophy and moral code? Why engage in any “civil discourse” if one cannot name one’s own premises and conclusions without risking the wounding of someone’s tenuous self-esteem?
Yes, we have to examine all the facts behind this tragedy. We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of such violence in the future.
Which “old assumptions” are these whose elimination would “lessen the prospects of such violence in the future”? Identifying the facts of reality? Identifying culprits and the guilty? Naming names and producing evidence? The inviolateness of the First Amendment?
Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let’s use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy and remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together.
It is only by pointing fingers and assigning blame that one can identify wrong ideas and the perpetrators of disastrous policies. The “hopes and dreams” of the Tea Party are not shared by anyone who takes for granted big government and billion dollar. No “empathy” is possible between the two groups.
Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point-scoring and pettiness that drifts away in the next news cycle.
This may or may not have been a reproachful allusion to the likes of Paul Krugman and other liberal pundits who immediately began to smear Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, and other opponents of Obama’s policies. Obama cannot have been unaware of the vicious mud-slinging that Sheriff Dupnik’s remarked instigated. But then, Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and other Democrats disdained Americans who protested their collectivist agenda, raising contemptible point-scoring and pettiness to a new plateau of political dissimulation.
The most despicable part of Obama’s speech occured at the end, when he used the death of nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green as a point of comparison, and suggested that he is the moral equivalent of her.
And I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us. I want to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it. I want America to be as good as she imagined it. All of us -– we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.
Aside from the offensive notion of putting himself on the same moral plane as a child – this man who uses gangster metaphors to advance a gangster government – Obama’s remarks are puerile to say the least. Mozart at the age of nine understood the principles of composition and developed the imagination to write music which adults of his time could not even conceive of. With all due respect to Christina Green, I do not think she was such a prodigy that she had developed any adult expectation or conception of what America politically should or should not be. This is Obama tugging at his audience’s heartstrings and pleading for similitude. It is his politics as usual.
Fortunately, there are those of us who will not fall for the rhetoric. We know that together as a chain gang bound together in the mutual fetters of sacrifice, selflessness, and timorous civility, we will not thrive, but move as one in a state of ignominious poverty and servitude.
9 Comments ::
:: Monday, January 10, 2011 ::
The Scarecrow of “Violent Language”
Posted by Edward Cline at 8:08 PM
On the heels of excising the “hurtful” language from Mark Twain’s novels, come the calls for mellowing the “caustic language” of anyone criticizing big government or its recent depredations against the country and its citizenry. The occasion is the attempted murder (the charge of “attempted assassination” is arguable; the victim was not a head of state) of Gabrielle Giffords, Democratic U.S. representative from Arizona, on January 8th during a political event outside a Safeway store in Tucson.
There is a drive on now to blame the Tea Party, “right-wingers,” and any frank discussion of Obama and/or liberal politics for the shooting. The liberal/left is scrambling to cast a pall of “responsibility” on the authors of any “toxic rhetoric” alleged to have “encouraged” the shooter Jared Loughner to act out his fantasies and to “take action” against a perceived enemy. The abrupt shift of focus from Jared Loughner the mad man to the necessity of “civil” discourse could only be orchestrated by the left.
Philosophy 101: All of the blather has its roots in determinism. If one is constantly exposed to violence (or to “violent” words), one will be somehow programmed to commit violence, if not now, then at some time in the future. This idea views all men as ticking time-bombs who must be disarmed, even if it means removing their tongues. Ideally, they say, society should be an environment of fields of daisies and solar panels and unconditional tolerance for all, even for the insane. If one is constantly exposed to pacific rhetoric, one will always be disposed to peaceful demonstrations of agreement or opposition.
Determinism, of course, denies men their capacity for thought and volition. Whatever his mental state, whatever mental parallel universe his mind lived in, Loughner chose to do what he did. In reality.
It is almost laughable, watching the MSM, E.J. Dionne on the Washington Post, Paul Krugman in The New York Times, and others try to "pin the rap" on the Tea Party, conservatives, and anyone else deemed guilty by them of "hate speech" and "ugly rhetoric." It is so predictable. And, of course, on Sarah Palin (no, I am not a fan of hers). They are all "responsible" for the shooting. Poor Jared Loughner was just an unfortunate, receptive "pawn" of talk radio and indiscriminate "blogging." It is an “evil” environment that Loughner grew up in, so he cannot really be blamed for his actions. Only society. Or, rather, the “right” side of it. Up come the scarecrows of “violent” or “hateful” language.
Of course, The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) is shedding crocodile tears over the event, when it has approved of far greater massacres in the name of Allah and has nothing to say about Hamas’s goal of eliminating Israel, which would mean something greater than a shooting outside a grocery store. It is much like Al Capone or his lieutenant Frank Nitti sending flowers to the funeral of a rival gangster he has had rubbed out, complete with a nicely-worded card of consolation for the gangster’s surviving family.
In a statement, CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said: "We offer sincere condolences to the friends, colleagues and family members of all those killed or injured in this brutal and senseless attack. We must come together as a nation to mourn the dead, pray for the speedy recovery of the injured and reject the extreme partisanship and inflammatory political rhetoric that can contribute to such tragedies."
We are not implying here that Giffords was a gangster. But, “inflammatory political rhetoric”? What was Loughner’s “rhetoric,” other than the diffuse, wildly careening statements of a deranged person that had no politically identifiable foundation, other than some inchoate conspiracy theory about government control of grammar and brainwashing, with a bias to the left? Conspiracy theories are a dime a dozen, with equal proportions shared by left and right. One truly could not fix one’s “crosshairs” on what Loughner thought; the “target” keeps jumping around in and out of sight. Literally.
Michigan CAIR booster Dawud Walid wept copiously on his Weblog about the shooting, then played the Muslim victim card almost immediately.
Now imagine if Loughner’s last name was Muhammad, or if Loughner was a convert to Islam. Elected officials such as Rep. Peter King (R-NY) would be using yesterday’s attack as further proof that American Muslims need to be watched closer and that we aren’t doing enough to stop such attacks. And no doubt, media would be discussing now the looming danger of homegrown terrorism.
Just imagine it! Victimhood at last! Well, Mr. Walid, that was not what happened. But if there was ever a candidate for conversion to Islam, Loughner’s application was exemplary and complete. He was growing more and more disconnected from reality and in need of a realm that would save him the effort of rational thought: Islam. Either that, or writing his ticket to a maximum security mental institution.
I’d like for there to be more discussion in the media about the growing intolerance in America and the passive radicalization of America via the Tea Party Movement and their champion Sarah Palin regarding the caustic language environment that we live in which opens up the door to such attacks.
And if the “discussion” leads to the subject of Islamic violence around the globe, a violence sanctioned by vitriolic rhetoric by Islam’s spokesmen, what will he have to say? No rebuttal is possible. If the “dialogue,” “discourse,” or “debate” does not go his way, and he loses the engagement, then what?
His wishes are being fulfilled. Islamists focus on “caustic language,” namely any language that exposes Islam as a political/theocratic ideology bent on conquest and the establishment of universal Sharia law. The MSM and the liberal establishment are focusing on such language, as well.
The Washington Post published a rather insipid analysis of Loughner’s “ deteriorating mental state,” and several readers took the bait to basically blame the First Amendment and Sarah Palin for Loughner’s action. More interesting were those reader comments, which fell in line with the charge. Here, without correction of grammar or syntax, are some reader comments on The Washington Post article:
“The nutcase was an avid Sara Palin fan. I hold Sara Palin and her rhetoric responsible for this mess.”
“People get killed and the gun nuts seem to rejoice in their peculiar interpretation of the 2nd amendment (which always seems to omit that "well-regulated militia" part). Very sad, predictable and unfortunately all too common in US culture.”
“The Palinisation of America is a sad thing to watch.”
“Yesterday, this forum was filled with the very hatred that Congressman are saying caused the problem... as my congressman said it was rhetoric from the right that spurs such violence. The sheriff did his part by blaming political rhetoric as the cause. So all the name calling by people who are, I guess, still upset over the outcome of the elections. This was a crazed lunatic and the system let him go. A result of p. c. . Innocent until he does something. Now we know more, and the sheriff should look at his comments and learn.”
“Am I to believe that a mentally unstable young man watching newscasts of Tea Party attendees carrying guns to public meetings was not influenced by theses images? Isn't that what he did? Listen to the anger of Tea Party defenders. Have these folks learned anything from this violent event?”
These comments echo Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik’s out-of-turn political remark about everyone being culpable for Loughner’s mental state and the shooting, a remark which set the tone for what was to follow, a kneejerk smearing of anyone speaking his mind about the political state and direction of the country. Dupnik excoriated “the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business,” and claimed that Arizona was becoming a “mecca for prejudice and bigotry.” (That will not sit well with CAIR or any other Islamic spokesman; it is tantamount to associating the Lourdes shrine with orgies, drug-dealing, and witchcraft.)
Dupnik later explained his remarks, saying they were made in “anger.” So, who is guilty of making “vitriolic” statements? His explanation comes too late. His words framed the “debate,” and words have consequences.
E.J. Dionne, Jr., the Post’s pundit-in-chief, in a column, “Gabby Giffords, a tragic prophet,” also did his part to paint the Loughner shooting in the darkest conservative and Tea Party colors. After extensively quoting Gifford on the political “language” that has characterized positions over the last two years, he goes on to point out:
… It is not partisan to observe that there are cycles to violent rhetoric in our politics. In the late 1960s, violent talk (and sometimes violence itself) was more common on the far left. But since President Obama's election, it is incontestable that significant parts of the American far right have adopted a language of revolutionary violence in the name of overthrowing "tyranny."
It is Obama's opponents who carried guns to his speeches and cited Jefferson's line that the tree of liberty "must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." It was Sharron Angle, the Republican candidate against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada, who spoke of “Second Amendment Remedies” And, yes, it was Palin who put those gun sights over the districts of the Democrats she was trying to defeat, including Giffords.
One imagines that Dionne’s notion of perfect political discourse is for a president to endorse and sign socialist legislation and for citizens to just calmly say, “Gee, that’s all wrong, it’s violating my rights and this will bankrupt me, but we’ll just go quietly and not make a fuss about it. Pardon us for interrupting.” When a country is being “transformed” into a penal colony of servitude, are not its citizens permitted to express outrage and angry “rhetoric”? If they did not, they would deserve the incarceration.
Liberals were rightly pressed in the 1960s to condemn violence on the left. Now, conservative leaders must take on their fringe when it uses language that intimates threats of bloodshed. That means more than just highly general statements praising civility.
Translation: Anyone who cites the Constitution, quotes any one of the Founders about the proper role of government, or speaks passionately about the growing loss of freedom – even the freedom to speak one’s mind – must be told to hush, or say it nicely, so as not to frighten anyone.
In short, this is an endorsement of censorship. No, wait. That is too violent an accusation. It might get freedom-of-speechers and First Amendment cultists “fired up” and we cannot predict what they will do, especially if they are also Second Amendment pistol-packers. Let us settle for the softer, more civil appellation of public speech management.
The New York Times dwelt on Loughner’s “disjointed” statements (but, what is so enjoined about politicians when they profess a knowledge of economics and then saddle a country with trillion dollar debts?)
He had posted on his MySpace page at some point a photograph of a United States history textbook, on top of which he had placed a handgun. He prepared a series of Internet videos filled with rambling statements on topics including the gold standard, mind control and SWAT teams. And he had started to act oddly during his classes at Pima Community College, causing unease among other students.
The evidence and reports about Mr. Loughner’s unusual conduct suggest an increasing alienation from society, confusion, anger as well as foreboding that his life could soon come to an end.
Alienation? That one-size-fits-all excuse for becoming a homicidal maniac? Did the shooter alienate himself, or did “society” alienate him? One supposes that if Loughner were raised in an idyllic hugs-all-around-for-everyone society, he would have matured to discover the secret of gravity and patented the formula for a new kind of ambrosia.
Beating the Times is the paper’s own prize ignoramus and alleged economist (caustic language intended), Paul Krugman. In his opinion piece, “Climate of Hate,” he acts as a bellows to raise the heat against freedom of speech. Not satisfied with “caustic language” or “hate speech,” he invents his own term: “eliminationist rhetoric.”
The point is that there’s room in a democracy for people who ridicule and denounce those who disagree with them; there isn’t any place for eliminationist rhetoric, for suggestions that those on the other side of a debate must be removed from that debate by whatever means necessary.
And it’s the saturation of our political discourse — and especially our airwaves — with eliminationist rhetoric that lies behind the rising tide of violence.
Where’s that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let’s not make a false pretense of balance: it’s coming, overwhelmingly, from the right. It’s hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be “armed and dangerous” without being ostracized; but Representative Michele Bachmann, who did just that, is a rising star in the G.O.P.
Since long before Barack Obama was elected president, no Republican, no member of the Tea Party, no conservative, no libertarian, no Objectivist, no prominent “anti-government” activist has ever advocated assassination or even an armed rebellion against the federal government. The best of these individuals has simply reminded the administration and Congress of the proper role of government in as forceful language as possible – note that the term is forceful language, not forceful action. The focus has been on eliminating statist laws, not their authors. The day may come when action is justified, but that can happen only if the government moves to fit Americans with a velvet gag. When one is denied by force the power of words, the only alternative left to men to regain their freedom will be the power of force.
Krugman has already reached a conclusion about what ought to be done.
So will the Arizona massacre make our discourse less toxic? It’s really up to G.O.P. leaders. Will they accept the reality of what’s happening to America, and take a stand against eliminationist rhetoric? Or will they try to dismiss the massacre as the mere act of a deranged individual, and go on as before?
Yes, the massacre was the “mere act of a deranged individual” – the facts of reality are on the side of objective observers – and there is no reason to not “go on as before,” possibly with the repeal of ObamaCare and other legislation favored by Krugman and his statist ilk across the country. While Krugman and his cohorts do not deny that Loughner was “deranged,” they not so subtly imply that anyone who values his freedom and speaks without fear about his value of it is also “deranged” and a menace to society.
The government, the liberal/left in politics, and the intellectual establishment, are collectively guilty of their own “toxic rhetoric” – with the approving rhetoric of censorship.
21 Comments ::
:: Thursday, January 06, 2011 ::
Huckleberry Finn to Eat Soap
Posted by Edward Cline at 7:52 PM
The latest submission to political correctness in speech (that secular version of Islamic “sensitivity”) is that a publisher will come out next month with the text of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn cleansed of all 219 occurrences of the word nigger, at the behest of Twain scholar Alan Gribben at Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama. His motive for bowdlerizing the novel is demonstrably specious: the term is “hurtful.” Standing in for the term will be “slave” or “slaves.”
Also, the feelings and tribal “self-esteem” of American Indians have been protected by Gribben in the same novel, as well. Excised from it is the term injun. It has not been reported what will replace it.
Twain scholar Alan Gribben said he decided to reissue the 19th century classic "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" replacing the slur with the word "slaves" in all 219 places it occurs in the text because the original offended many readers.
Many school systems have banned or simply stopped teaching the books because of the epithet and because of a characterization of Native Americans that is also deleted from the new edition, said Gribben in a telephone interview.
Gribben will jointly reissue [with New South Books] another Twain classic, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer with epithets also deleted.
Now, where have we heard this complaint before, and from whom? Ragheads? Camel jockeys? Goat herders? Oh. Excuse me. Muslims. There are countless ethnic, racial and religious slurs and epithets in circulation intended to denigrate all races and creeds. Put under an epistemological microscope and examined for their alleged power to hurt, however, all such terms are metaphysically neutral and impotent. Spoken, they cannot literally “hurt” anyone. It is only the second-hand emotional strength they seem to contain and convey by their users. Conversely, the object of such a term must necessarily also respond to the term in a purely emotional context, having been communicated the user’s estimation of him. Logically, all such a “victim” can do is resent it, and learn something appalling about the user.
The idea of a more politically correct Finn came to the 69-year-old English professor over years of teaching and outreach, during which he habitually replaced the word with "slave" when reading aloud.
An individual with a genuine sense of self-esteem qua individual, who does not see himself as a cipher of a race or religion, is not bothered by the slurs. Amused, perhaps, and even indifferent. He will not think that he has been judged by a rational person, but by an irrational one. He may for a moment resent the appellation, but not dwell on it.
I cannot recall the number of times I have been called a “honky” and other epithets employed by blacks. Or a “male chauvinist pig” by women with feminist pretensions. These name-callings left me amused and shaking my head in brief pity for the persons who attempted to “offend” me.
It can be assumed that scholar Gribben has more than a passing affection for the works of Mark Twain. (For the record, I have never much cared for Twain.) Yet he is willing to compromise and adulterate Twain’s works in order to see them more widely read and used in literature classes (or in what passes for them today). His decision to redact Twain’s works merely panders to the politically correct pining of teachers who want to use the two novels but are afraid to. It was during a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) program to encourage reading that Gribben made his decision.
"After a number of talks, I was sought out by local teachers, and to a person they said we would love to teach this novel, and Huckleberry Finn, but we feel we can't do it anymore. In the new classroom, it's really not acceptable." Gribben became determined to offer an alternative for grade school classrooms and "general readers" that would allow them to appreciate and enjoy all the book has to offer. "For a single word to form a barrier, it seems such an unnecessary state of affairs," he said.
The “single word” was a barrier only in terms of the emotions it would engender in others, in this instance, fear. Fear of what? The unknown, in the form of possible lawsuits, disciplinary action, dismissal, physical assault, or charges of hate speech or a variety of “phobias.” Unacceptable to whom? The politically correct speech enforcers, in and out of government.
What is arguably worse than Gribben’s cleansed Twain works has been the nature of the objections to his crusade to adulterate Twain. Reuters, for example, had this to report:
"We are not fans of changing Mark Twain's words," said Cindy Lovell, executive director of The Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum in Hannibal, Missouri. "They have stood the test of time. The book is an anti-racist book and to change the language changes the power of the book. He wrote to make us squirm and to poke us with a sharp stick. That was the purpose," Lovell said.
Poking “us” with a stick may have been one of Twain’s purposes, but that side-steps the crucial issue of literary integrity. Publishers Weekly carried an amen to the notion that literature should serve a purely “social” purpose, regardless of its alleged offensiveness.
Twain scholar Thomas Wortham, at UCLA, compared Gribben to Thomas Bowdler (who published expurgated versions of Shakespeare for family reading), telling PW that "a book like Professor Gribben has imagined doesn't challenge children [and their teachers] to ask, ‘Why would a child like Huck use such reprehensible language?' "
Answer – if the” challenged” pupil and teacher have been properly indoctrinated by the federal education czars and the National Education Association: Because Huck had not been properly sensitized to the feelings and needs of others. That is, he had not been subjected to social engineering and pedagogical brow-beating.
Reprehensible language? Perhaps that is an accurate description of the language. But one will not know it is unless one can encounter such language in the original, untampered-with text as the author intended it to be read. And is studying reprehensible language the sole purpose of tackling Twain’s or H.L. Mencken’s or anyone else’s literary work? Try redacting the works of James Joyce or D.H. Lawrence; there would be little left of them that would appeal to anyone’s prurient interest.
Reading original, unadulterated works that contain questionable language allows one to gauge the character of an author and the worth of his work. And if an author includes such language in his work as a critically satirical device, then one can encounter the power of such language and be able to reach numerous conclusions other than the “hurtful” or “offensive” nature of such language.
Gribben is not a pioneer regarding the term nigger. Joseph Conrad’s short novel, The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’, published in 1897, was subjected to the same thorough redacting in 2009 by Ruben Alvarado, who even re-titled the work The N-Word of the Narcissus (sic), published by WoodBridge Publishing. The purpose was to “remove this offence to modern sensibilities.” Call it anti-shock therapy.
The “sensibilities” are old-hat. Dodd, Mead and Company demanded that the title be changed, as well, so that Conrad’s novel first appeared here under the ludicrously evasive title of The Children of the Sea: A Tale of the Forecastle. Dodd, Mead feared that no one would want to read a book with the “n-word” in its title.
The prissy objections of Gribben stand in stark contrast to the obscene lyrics of contemporary pop “music,” performed by alleged artists in a deliberately malevolent and provocative style by blacks and whites. If one applied the 18th and 19th century editing policy to the sheet music of such rubbish, one would see little more than strings of asterisks interposed now and then by an innocuous but ungrammatical article, noun, or verb. Most students today are no strangers to the terms nigger, wetback, wop, kike, or slant-eye. They can hear them in contemporary “music” and in films and on TV and are inured to them. These terms have lost their power to shock and offend.
To illustrate the ubiquity of verbal victimhood claimed by Muslims, contrast the case of the Spanish Muslim student who was “traumatized” when his geography teacher mentioned ham in class (the suit his parents brought against the teacher was thrown out) with how British law enforcement and newspapers employ the euphemism Asians to stand in for Muslims (from fear of legal and physical retaliation). Readers know that Muslims are the referents, and not Indonesians, Japanese, or even Australians of undeniable Scotch-Irish-English origin.
More often than not, a euphemism can carry a double-charge of “hurt.” It is a mentally-induced fig leaf that fools no one. Everyone knows what it is intended to hide, disguise, or evade, and sires an even stronger, unreasoning contempt (deserved or not) for the beneficiary of the euphemism. The danger lies in men adopting euphemisms as substitutes for the real as a matter of course and habit.
In the past, when works of art remained sacrosanct and off-limits to arbitrary tampering as a matter of policy, redacted, abridged, or adulterated works from the literary canon remained anomalies that were soon forgotten. In today’s culture, however, when intellectual property rights are not consistently upheld by the courts, and when no dominant esthetics exists but the cult of “artistic” destruction, Gribben’s widely publicized adulteration of Twain’s novels could inaugurate a wholesale campaign to render politically correct and “safe for consumption” other less “offensive” works. There are many marauding censors and literary vandals in the culture eager to wash out the mouths and minds of literary characters with the soap of sensitivity to protect the spiritually anemic and the collectivized vessels of second-hand identities.
6 Comments ::