Sunday, September 22, 2002


I’m b-a-a-a-a-a-c-k. Been busy the last few weeks, but I hope to get back into a regular posting schedule.

Perhaps because of being influenced by Orwell during my younger years, corruption of the English language in the service of a political ideology has long been an irritant to me. Today I’d like to talk about the political world’s corruption of just one word: “whining.”

How often have you heard someone present a cogent argument, buttressed by a multitude of facts and figures, only to have that person’s opponent respond by sneering, “Aw, stop your whining!”?

Well, let me clue you in on the Dirty Little Secret: An accusation of “whining” is just a cheap rhetorical trick designed to intimidate a political adversary and stop an argument without actually presenting a counter-argument or facts and figures or any of that other messy stuff.

I first started noticing the use of the word “whining” as a rhetorical baseball bat sometime during that most loathsome and dishonest of decades, The Eighties. Right-wing propagandists, particularly talk show hosts and talking heads, regularly used the word to describe any argument or criticism they disagreed with. Liberals weren’t presenting valid criticism--they were “whining.” Blacks weren’t presenting valid criticism--they were “whining.” Women weren’t presenting valid criticism--they were “whining.” Etc., etc.

See, it’s a heckuva lot easier to accuse someone of “whining” than to actually have to think up valid counter-arguments or dig up facts and stuff.

Now let me clue you in on Dirty Little Secret Number Two: You don’t have to be a right-wingnut to use the W-word to bash your opponent. You, too--yes, Mr. or Ms. Liberal, that includes you--can accuse your opponents of “whining”!

About eight years ago, I had an epiphany regarding the W-word. I’d just gone online recently and one of my first stops was AOL’s Newsroom, a political chatroom. Back in the old days of 1994, the online world was much more overrun with right wingnuts than it is today, so I was usually far outnumbered. The Newsroom had a maximum capacity of 23 people, and the usual complement was 22 far-right extremists and me, little old center-left me. The air in that room was filled with complaints. Complaints about President Clinton. Complaints about Hillary Clinton. Complaints about Ted Kennedy. Complaints about the blacks. Complaints about the gays. Complaints about the liberals. And so on and so on.

So one night some wingnut complained about “whining” liberals, and somewhat bravely (if I do say myself, since I was outnumbered 22-1), I responded, “Well, the only whining in this room seems to be coming from the right side. Y’all keep whining about the President and the First Lady and the liberals.”

The explosion of foaming at the mouth in response to my response was so heavy that within seconds, right-wing, obviously rabies-infected saliva was gushing from the bottom of my monitor like a mountain stream after a summer thunderstorm.

And I just sat back and laughed.

Within a few weeks I had it down to a regular routine. Whenever right wingers tossed the “whining” bat at libs, I’d just toss it right back at them. I’d even imitate their reactionary “whining”: “Whine…whine…whine…Klinton…whine…whine…whine…Hillary…whine…whine…whine…Janet Reno…whine…whine…whine…liberals…whine…whine…whine…affirmative action….whine…whine…whine…political correctness…whine…whine…whine…”

Well, you get the idea.

Now, I do have standards. The “whining” accusation is such a cheap debate tactic that I try not to use it as a first strike, only as irony or as a response to a rightie’s accusation of “whining.” (I confess to having used it at least once on this blog in the past.) Honest debate tactics, such as the use of logic and facts, are always preferable, but if your opponent uses cheap tactics, you shouldn’t hesitate to throw the cheap tactic right back and boomerang it upside their head.

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