Archive for Sunday, September 7, 2008

Political speak an assault on the language

September 7, 2008


"We need change, all right. Change from a liberal Washington to a conservative Washington. We have a prescription for every American who wants change in Washington - throw out the big-government liberals." - Mitt Romney, Sept. 3, 2008"

And then the gorilla run knee socks paint porno on the Cadillac. But school laughed and didn't we sing hats?


Maybe you wonder what the preceding gobbledygook means. I would ask which gobbledygook you mean: mine or Mitt Romney's? If he's allowed to spew nonsense and people act as if he's spoken intelligently, why can't I? If he gets to behave as if words no longer have objective meaning, why can't I?

I mean, baffle grab on the freak flake. Really.

And again, ahem.

If you're a regular here, you've heard me rant from time to time about intellectual dishonesty. By this, I mean more than just your garden variety lie. No, to be intellectually dishonest means to argue that which you know to be untrue and to substitute ideology for intellect to the degree that you'll do violence to language and logic rather than cross the party line.

Yes, we're all intellectually dishonest on occasion. But no one does it like Republican conservatives. They are to intellectual dishonesty what Michael Jordan was to basketball or the Temptations to harmony: the avatar, the exemplar, the paradigm. They have elevated it beyond hypocrisy and political expedience. They have made it ... art.

Which returns us to the astonishing thing Mitt Romney said while addressing the party faithful in St. Paul, Minn. You want to walk around it the way you would Michelangelo's "David," admiring the elegance of the workmanship. You hesitate to touch it, much less pull it apart. To do so seems almost an act of desecration.

Unfortunately, some of us are too plodding and earthbound, too blind to the seductions of art, too stubbornly wedded to some vestigial notion that intellectual honesty matters, to walk past a steaming pile of bovine excreta without calling it a steaming pile of bovine excreta.

So excuse me, beg pardon, so sorry, but I have to ask: what liberal Washington is he talking about? The federal government has three branches. The legislative, i.e., Congress, was under conservative control from 1995 until 2007. The judicial, i.e., the Supreme Court, consists of nine justices, seven of whom were nominated by conservative presidents. The executive, i.e., the president, is George W. Bush. Enough said.

Washington is already what Romney wants to make it. Our current state of affairs, love it or loathe it, is indisputably a product of conservative governance. I wish that mattered more than it does.

That it doesn't matter much at all you can credit to conservative politicians who have, over the years, trained their followers to respond with Pavlovian faithfulness to certain terms. Say "conservative" and they wag their tails. Say "liberal" and they bare their fangs.

More to the point, say either and all thinking ceases, so much so that a representative of the ideology that has controlled most of Washington most of the last 12 years can say with a straight face that his ideology needs to seize control of Washington to fix what is broken there. And people hear this Orwellian doublespeak ... and cheer. Why not? They have been taught that words mean what you need them to in a given moment.

Sadly, it has proved an easy lesson to impart. Turns out, all it requires is a limitless supply of gall and the inherent belief that people are dumber than a bag of hammers.

And all it costs us is language, the ability to have reasoned and intelligent political discourse, the idea that words do, and should, have weight, dimension and intrinsic meaning. Maybe you disagree. In which case, let me just say this:

Piffle crack eat monkey snow. Really.

- Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald. He chats with readers from noon to 1 p.m. CDT each Wednesday on


dandelion 9 years, 9 months ago

Unless you have redefined what it means to be fiscally conservative, then I guess we haven't had a conservative in the White House for 8 years. Of course if Palin's record is true, we won't have one if she and McCain get elected either, but we will have some really cool sports complexes.

Ralph Reed 9 years, 9 months ago

I think most of the posts above prove Pitts' main point, that political double-speak produces a Pavlovian response, regardless of your political, religious or social leanings / beliefs. All he did was choose the conservatives as an example.

camper 9 years, 9 months ago

Mitt Roney's qoute was unbelievable, I wonder how many people took him seriosly. It is almost like saying "This bathwater is scalding, we need to take out the cold water" a chorus of cheers. But then again take it for what it was only someone preaching at today's version of a tent revival. I can understand supporters feeling a little invigorated and pepped up, but after the dust settles, I hardly think many will take his words seriously. I could be wrong though.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 9 months ago

"Frankly, George Bush is not a conservative. Neither are most of the republicans in congress."And who is? McCain? Palin? Puhleeze. Neither will do anything but more of the same of what we've seen over the last 8 years.Neither will Obama/Biden, but the slight difference is substantial enough that maybe we won't get sucked into disastrous wars like we have in Iraq, and maybe global climate change will get addressed in a serious way before we've gone past the point of no return.

jaywalker 9 years, 9 months ago

As ridiculous as usual, bozo. But at least consistently 'intellectually dishonest', a prime example of Pitt's point (pardon the alliteration).Will Obama be exactly the same as Clinton? How 'bout Carter? LBJ? This trite 'McCain/Bush' link is nauseating. To bozo, and too many others, 'that side of the fence is all the same, it'll be the same, we need change'. That has been the Dem mantra this race, their own brand of Rovian propoganda and it's no less 'intellectually dishonest'. It's sad to see either camp treat Americans like drooling lebotomy subjects, and sadder to see bozos goose stepping in time to the spew. And I do appreciate how bozo says 'global climate change', though if you accept that it is climate change and not man-induced 'warming', then you also must realize that attempts to reverse/halt/arrest the process would be akin to shooting BB's at a tank. Do we have an effect on the climate? Maybe. Are we killing the Earth? Not a chance! This rock's been around for billions of years. The industrial revolution began what, 150 yrs. ago? Less than one sand grain through the hourglass of time. And we're 'changing the weather'?! The epitome of arrogance. And even if it is man-made, how on God's Green Earth is BO or anyone else in this country alone gonna stop it? The U.S. could go all-Green, not gonna stop China, India, Brazil, a burgeoning Africa, nor anyone else from pulling themselves out of 3rd world status. Industrialization is exploding, bringing in oodles of wealth to these people, they ain't gonna wanna give it up, yo!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 9 months ago

So Pitts forgot about Jeffords quitting the Republican Party in 2001-- other than that, your post is more inaccurate than Pitts' column.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 9 months ago

And now all those once southern Democrats are in the Republican Party, thanks to Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

Corey Williams 9 years, 9 months ago

Actually, Brent is right, kinda sorta. The classic republican stance (if you look at them after the 50s/60s when all the old southern democrats left over civil rights issues; and before the early 80s when Reagan started making promises about prayer in school) is all about low government regulation and low taxes. There wasn't the litmus test for abortion, gays, intelligent design, etc, etc. Because of Reagan and Falwell, anyone on the right suddenly had to at least say that they believed in certain things in order to be elected. It doesn't matter if McCain is a fiscal conservative or not. He can spout all the right things to be a moral conservative. Just like most of those on the right. But I disagree with Romney. What do you get with limited or no government intervention? How about the electricity crisis in California? More lead in children's toys? More poisons in our food? Don't you realize that government regulations and oversight help keep your water clean, your car safe, and the food you eat from killing you? Less government intervention worked in the fifties because corporations back then didn't have to answer to a bunch of stockholders about their profit margins. They realized that the products they made, services they provided, etc., were being used by people they knew in their own neighborhoods. That kind of thinking doesn't work today. Today it's all about the profits to be made.

Confrontation 9 years, 9 months ago

Romney should really just get back to his Mormon World Domination through the University of Phoenix Plan.

Brent Garner 9 years, 9 months ago

Mr. Pitts:Even when Republicans controlled the congress, conservatives were not "in control", to quote you. The "conservatives" you pillory constitute about 30% of the elected republicans. For all intents and purposes, the rest tend to be "moderates" and classic "old style" republicans from another era. True conservatives believe that there is a proper place for government and a proper function thereof. True conservatives grow concerned when government pushes into increasingly more and more corners of each American's life regulating, dictating, and proscribing how we live, what we do, and what we say or even think. Frankly, George Bush is not a conservative. Neither are most of the republicans in congress. They tax too much, they spend too much, they regulate too much. Unfortunately, the demoncrats are far worse. The democrats believe that government can solve all problems. That idea should come with a warning notice: A government that can solve all your problems can also control everything you do, thus making you its slave.I agree with Romney. We need to purge the government at the national, state, and local level of those who believe that governmental intervention solves all.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 9 months ago

Just business as usual for you, Kevin-- you cherry pick a couple of names, ignore anything but the smallest tidbits of historical fact (which you distort,) and then ignore what is by far the single largest truth-- the racist wing of the southern Democratic Party was subsumed by the Republican Party, courtesy of Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 9 months ago

But here's one for you-- Strom Thurmond, who changed parties in 1964--"He conducted the longest filibuster ever by a U.S. Senator in opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1957. He later moderated his position on race, but continued to defend his early segregationist campaigns on the basis of states' rights in the context of Southern society at the time,[2] never fully renouncing his earlier viewpoints."

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 9 months ago

WTF are you rambling about? The 1960's was 40 years ago-- the very real shift of racist southern Democrats to the Republican Party is a simple matter of fact of the intervening years-- the electoral victories of Republicans in the region, after being an electoral non-entity for decades and decades is ample proof of that fact. And this is a shift that almost surely has Everett Dirksen rolling in his grave (as would the posts of most of the so-called conservative Republicans on this forum.)

Frederic Gutknecht IV 9 years, 9 months ago

Leonard is being intellectually dishonest, and condescending to a large part of his audience, in attempting to appear ignorant of the fact that "Piffle crack eat monkey snow." is as meaningful as the vast majority of text and verbiage spewed by all entities with an agenda on this planet.He knows that it means something and he believes that it's true.No big deal, of course!~) It is true and we should all be able to understand those words.Uh corse, THAT ain't a gonna happin in the idiocrassy.

JohnBrown 9 years, 9 months ago

Brent Garner said: "True conservatives grow concerned when government pushes into increasingly more and more corners of each American's life regulating, dictating, and proscribing how we live, what we do, and what we say or even think."Like, for example, a raped woman who got pregnant from the crime not being allowed by the government to get an abortion?or the Executive Branch being able to listen in on our phone conversations and read our e-mails?or raising our national debt from $4 trillion to $9 trillion in only 7 years?or letting "free enterprise" run the home lending business unregulated until it's abuses take the entire country down?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 9 months ago

"For someone opposed to this act, it would not make sense to join the GOP, which had a greater commitment to advancing civil rights than the Democrats."As long as you ignore the fact that the Democratic Party in the 1960's began the transition to the party of civil rights, while the Republican Party began its transition from the party of old money to being the party of nouveau riche Wall Street speculators, warmongers, racists and other pinheads.

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