Win One For the Gaffer

June 11, 2011

I don’t understand this phenomenon in which supporters of someone (hereinafter referred to as the “gaffer”) who has made an obvious, verifiably incorrect statement (henceforth, the “gaffe”) come to the aid of the gaffer by contending that the statement wasn’t a gaffe at all, but that it was, in fact, correct.

We’ve all seen supporters of Sarah Palin attempt to alter the Paul Revere Wikipedia page to match her telling of the story of Revere’s ride that answered the ultimate “gotcha question”: “What have you seen so far today and what are you going to take away from your visit?” (When you’re dumb, everything is a gotcha question.  When you’re defensive, everything is a gotcha question. When you’re paranoid, everything and everyone is looking for a gotcha.  Gotcha get over it.)

I’m now seeing that this happens more often than I thought.  Similar to Palin’s Paul Revere Revision, supporters of Texas Governor Rick Perry did more than leap to his defense when he claimed in February of this year that Juarez (Mexico) was “the most dangerous city in America”–a statement his office almost immediately clarified and corrected.  Despite the correction, supporters commenced making fools of themselves.

Pharphax says:  By the way, “America” can refer to North, Central and South America, not just the United States, in that case, he would be correct.

Myassisdraggin says: Gov Perry is correct. Juarez is the most dangerous city in America.  America is a continent – not a country. Canada, Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Panama, etc are ALL in America!

JPN3355:  Juarez is in North America,so it is the most dangerous city in America. He did not say it was the most dangerous city in the United States of America.

Cubanstamps:  From the Western tip of Alaska, including Canada, Mexico, all the Caribbean islands (including my native Cuba) and right down to Argentina/Chile’s Tierra del Fuego (and the small islands off the tip of the continent down there), it is all AMERICA.

EPT:  United States of America is not the only country in America. Just in North America alone there are 23 countries along with dozens of territories. So for the Govenor to say “most dangerous city in America” does not mean the USA only. We should not be so conceited and think he is referring to us.

Really folks?  You want to defend this, even after the governor walked away from the error?  I wonder what these proud Texans would say if I told them that Vancouver was the best city in America?

I know that a life lived in front of a live microphone is bound to produce misstatements and factual inaccuracies.  There are just too many words flowing for that not to be the case.  The smart ones laugh it off or explain what they meant, like Gov. Perry did and like Michelle Bachmann did when she mistook Lexington, NH for Lexington, MA back in March.  In the pre-internet era, it was typically only the spokesperson that was stuck with the duty of trying to persuade listerners of the gaffers actual intentions.  Think Lanny Davis trying to help us parse President Clinton’s every syllable.  It’s embarrassing for the media flak, but it’s their job.  But now that we’re in the Age of The Comment Section and everyone has a keyboard and a point of view and the time to express it, we’re stuck with people defending the indefensible.  I don’t understand it.

Are they simply blinded by loyalty, or defensive or is there more to it?  I’m dumbfounded by this.

Robert Louis Stevenson on the modern political era

June 10, 2011

The Robert Lewis Stevenson essay “Crabbed Age and Youth” has gotten more than a few references today among the commentariat. I think I know why.

The sentiments of a man while he is full of ardour and hope are to be received, it is supposed, with some qualification. But when the same person has ignominiously failed and begins to eat up his words, he should be listened to like an oracle.

How can you read that and not think of Rep. Anthony Wiener, he of the screaming match in the well of the House, and ten days of “I can’t say with certitude that it’s not me”?

Most of our pocket wisdom is conceived for the use of mediocre people, to discourage them from ambitious attempts, and generally console them in their mediocrity. And since mediocre people constitute the bulk of humanity, this is no doubt very properly so.

“Pocket wisdom”, an elegant phrase for talking points, dumbed down to the point of becoming a bumper sticker then repeated ad nauseam, deleting any nuance or meaning from the words and leaving them as mere slogan.  The section below makes the point more bluntly.

To have a catchword in your mouth is not the same thing as to hold an opinion; still less is it the same thing as to have made one for yourself. There are too many of these catchwords in the world for people to rap out upon you like an oath and by way of an argument. They have a currency as intellectual counters; and many respectable persons pay their way with nothing else. They seem to stand for vague bodies of theory in the background.

Robert Louis Stevenson knew their types

This essay was written in 1877.  But for the colorful and challenging language, it could have been written last week.  Which leads to one last point:  ‘Twas ever thus.  It is common to think of the modern age as facing more partisanship, bigger legislative challenges, greater financial crises than those faced before.  It may be bad now and the days may be dark and disheartening as we watch our current crop of politicians and elected officials flail away.  But we’ve been through it before and will go through it again.

P.S.  Anybody tells you that the internet and twitter are full of junk should be referred to this post and the originating twitter messages.  The RLS essay is one that I’ve never read and spent the day contemplating.  You can learn things on this gizmo, amid all the clutter.

Shakespeare on Palin

July 21, 2010

Excerpted from Hamlet Act IV, scene v.

her speech is nothing,
Yet the unshap
ed use of it doth move
The hearers to collection; they aim at it,
And botch the words u
p fit to their own thoughts;
Which, as her winks, and n
ods, and gestures yield them,
Indeed would make one think there might be thought,
Though nothing sure, yet much unhappily.

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