Sunday, September 22, 2002

1984: 18 YEARS LATE?

There have been times in the past (particularly during Condit-mania) that I worried that blogger and pundit Josh Marshall was developing Beltway-itis, a horrible scourge that causes its victims to spew the mindless twaddle that masquerades as “conventional wisdom” in DC. Lately, though, Josh has been on a roll.

In recent months, Josh has made the most compelling arguments I’ve seen in favor of the violent overthrow of Saddam Hussein. However, the Shrub “Administration’s” Orwellian language corruption and mind-boggling dishonesty make Mr. Marshall a bit nervous.

On the use of the term “regime change,” Josh states:

“Like many phrases Orwell had at, 'regime change' is one that comes with the evasion and concealment prepackaged within it. We all know more or less what the phrase means: the violent otherthrow of one government and its replacement with another, chosen by the power which overthrew the first one, or, in other words, by us. So why not say so? Using an abstract and antiseptic phrase like 'regime change' for a process which is neither abstract or antiseptic is corrupting.

“You can imagine various instances where we might try the same stunt in our daily lives. The fifty-five year-old man who dumps his graying middle-aged wife for a busty, blonde, twenty-eight year-old ad-exec. This is 'spousal replacement.' And so forth.”

And earlier this week, Josh mirrored the thoughts of many of us who are very well aware that Saddam is a dishonest, dangerous SOB but who are also very well aware of the Shrub “Administration’s” dishonesty:

“But let me discuss with you for a moment what I find the most difficult about this debate. The more ardent supporters of regime change lie a lot. I really don't know how else to put it. I'm not talking about disagreements over interpretation. I mean people saying things they either know to be false or have no reason to believe are true. Perhaps the word 'lie' is a very slight exaggeration. Perhaps it's better to say they have a marked propensity to assert as fact points for which there is virtually or absolutely no evidence. How's that?”

Bravo to Josh for saying the unsayable, for questioning the unquestionable, for being politically incorrect during a time when the so-called “liberal media” tries to enforce right-wing political correctness!


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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