Thursday, August 13, 2009

Parsing the Language

I happened across a link to this latest claim of goose vs. gander bias in the way dissent from the left and the right are treated, and the loaded language in the piece brought out the English teacher in me. So I hope you'll forgive a little line-by-line studious debunking, just as an object exercise in the "tricks of the trade" to watch out for where rhetoric is concerned. (The author of the piece, Dan Gainor, works for the Media and Business Institute, a right-wing think-tank promoting "free enterprise," and is a weekly regular on Fox News. No surprise about either.)

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Title: "When the Right Protests, It Must be Wrong - After 8 years of Nazi images and loony left protests, now the media oppose dissent."
Adjective alert for the phrase "loony left" for being loaded, and an unsupported linkage to 96 months of alleged Nazi imagery. Reference to media implies that dissent was supported when it was against a right-wing administration, and now is vilified because of the views of the administration it opposes. No references to tactics, whether the opposition is organic or manufactured, etc.
"For eight years in America, protest was in and all the cool kids did it."
I seem to remember those "cool kid" protesters being confined to free-speech "corrals" when they turned up anywhere near an event they were protesting with so much as a mildly confrontational T-shirt. That hardly makes protesting "in" or "cool."
"We had flamboyantly dressed Code Pinkers demonstrating at conventions and in sessions of Congress, calling Marine recruiters “traitors” and protesting wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center."
"Flamboyantly-dressed" = code for "probably gay or gay-sympathetic," in this lexicon. "Protesting wounded soldiers" = demonstrable falsehood, compared to protesting the war which injured them or the criminally inept treatment they received upon return. Phony equation of the actor with the larger issues.
"Then there were the crazies from Acorn stalking Wall Street executives at their homes."
Heavens forfend that anyone pursue Wall Street execs for accountability while Bill O'Reilly sends ambush producers to go after less exalted prey. Hypocrisy, much?
"And anti-war lefty Cindy Sheehan got so much news coverage from the major networks and top newspapers that they practically had to create a bureau to handle her antics."
"Lefty" and "antics" = loaded language meant to first diminish and then ridicule her concerns. Media references extend both intentions to their own role and coverage. Overall effect is to minimize her effectiveness and role as an activist and make her seem like an attention-hound.
"Through it all, the left whined that President George Bush was a fascist – with “BusHitler” a common term among the foam-at-mouth Birkenstock set."
"Whined" suggests no presentation of evidence, which was plentiful. "Foam-at-mouth Birkenstock set" = an attempt to evoke unsupported anger coupled with a tired "hippie" stereotype. An oblique "they're-not-like-the-rest-of-us" effort.
"Those hate-spewing anti-war activists really loved our soldiers – especially when they were mocking the war right outside a veteran’s hospital."
False equivalence. As a good friend of this blog often says, "honor the warrior(s), not the war." It is a mark of nuanced thinking to mourn the injuries and losses inflicted on soldiers in any given conflict while also condemning the injustice of the war per se.
"And the endless stream of Nazi comparisons were just free speech, after all."
You cannot condemn a comparison made in one direction in the past and support the same comparison made in the opposite direction now with a sarcastic reference to free speech. An example would be the numerous "SS" references and "Obama-as-Hitler" posters now making their appearances. It's either free speech for everyone or it's free speech for no-one. No substitutions allowed.
"That all happened before January 20, when the left, along with their supporters in the news media, decided protest and dissent were suddenly unpatriotic. Welcome to hypocrisy, the millennial edition. Now everything said or done in those eight years is forgotten. America has a blank slate to build hope and change under Obama, so we are told."
Any new administration has an opportunity to chart a fresh course. To suggest that this means an entire segment of the population and more or less all of the media has remotely forgotten the prior administration is rankly absurd. If anything, the selection of a leader who promised a strong change of course from the prior administration suggests that the voters, at least, remember all too well.
"Don’t dare criticize him, knock his policies or voice your opinion. Do it and you are called “mobs” or racist by the media and treated as scary forces of hate reminiscent of Waco, the Klan or Nazis."
Over-the-top evocation of catastrophic events and polarizing movements with a new President. False equivalence, also, for having cast prior dissent as the work of "crazies" and the "loony left" - not so different from "mobs" - but implying any current dissent is reasonable and nuanced compared to these extreme references.
"Americans are not supposed to protest the incredible overreach of government. Congress can pass a $787 billion stimulus bill and not even read it, but the people they work for, well, can sit down and shut up."
Patriot Act, anyone? Rushed through with barely a reading, and voted upon in a panic thanks to the frenzy to label anyone who opposed its far-reaching executive power grabs as a "traitor" or "appeaser"? The economic stimulus received far more scrutiny and discussion...and, as I recall, most of those opposed to it who did not have tea bags dangling from their baseball caps were grandstanding Republican governors trying to score political points by denying funding to their states or advocating for secession. And look how that turned out.
"The president can seize control of the auto companies and give a huge stake in ownership to his union supporters, but challenge that and you are somehow standing in the way of Obama fixing the economy."
Hmm. Last I heard, "Cash for Clunkers" was stimulating the economy and stalling the hemorrhage of automotive jobs in a big way. And I'd be fascinated to hear about this "stake in ownership to his union supporters," since I seem to recall auto unions being asked to make some sizable concessions as part of the deal...
"Next, voters are supposed to watch as the Ego-in-Chief tries to destroy the world’s best health care system so he and his buddies can run that too."
"Ego-in-Chief" = blatantly loaded language. "World's best health care system"? Tell that to all the uninsured, the people denied care, the people whose "pre-existing conditions" are not covered, and to the many, many studies that rank U.S. health care way down the global totem pole of health care. Note, also, that no real evidence is presented here - not even Sarah Palin's "death panels" malarkey.
"Raise a stink and you get union thugs pushing you around at town hall meetings, or just outright beating you up. And the news media thinks the protesters are to blame, calling their rallies “nasty” or “unruly.”"
"Union thugs" = make labor the enemy and management the hero. Regular guys are at fault, and the execs have your back. Evoke mob rule when the unions have encouraged member turnout to counter the shout-down underway. Also...sending hollering squads to silence discussion is not the same thing as a "rally." A "rally" by definition is in support of something. The crowds being urged to disrupt these community meetings are the equivalent of sending someone in to play the accordion for the duration of a city council meeting. Sound and fury, signifying nothing. Damn straight it's "unruly" and "nasty." There is no productive impulse in it whatsoever.
"In one of the most humorous asides to the whole battle, union officials complained they were being intimidated. You got that right. The unions, which are providing big-body, no-brain thugs to bully conservatives, are upset that people don’t take kindly to such intimidation."
Yes. Because, of course, "union people" are mindless hulks who are all-muscle and zero-thought, and conservatives are the thoughtful voice in the discussion. Blatant pandering to stereotypes from many decades ago, a la The Flintstones. Look at video of these town halls and who is asking the thoughtful questions and who is shouting, and then reconsider how these characterizations do or do not apply. It seems pretty clear to me where each group falls on the professor-to-caveman spectrum.
"In a Huffington Post story that read like it was satire from The Onion, “officials at the Service Employees International Union continued to be deluged with emails and phone calls with ominous undertones.” Maybe some terrified union types can dig up Jimmy Hoffa and ask him about true intimidation."
Again, more stereotyping, bringing up decades-0ld seedy mob/union tales, and also bizarrely coupling them with characterizing these dangerous union operatives as "girly-men." Which is it? Can't have it both ways.
"Conservatives can’t even organize without their efforts being called “Astroturf,” or phony grassroots, as if MoveOn.org was somehow pure and different. And the protests get ever more hyperbolic treatment by the media every day. MSNBC even links them to what host Rachel Maddow called “the Brooks Brothers riot from Florida 2000” when conservatives protested the Florida recount. That has become the media image of dangerous protest – a bunch of policy wonks chanting loudly. Scary."
Let's see. MoveOn began as an open e-mail discussion group. How much more grassroots can you get? Can, say, the Americans for Prosperity group - founded by an oil magnate - or the FreedomWorks group - founded by the former (R) House Majority leader and corporate lobbyist Dick Armey - claim the purity of the driven snow by comparison? Er...no. Grassroots movements begin organically, not from corporate/industrial interests and agendas. The onus is on today's "astrobirthers" to own and explain their own agendas rather than be the sockpuppets for corporate concerns. Further, I doubt that anyone sane would equate this crowd to "a bunch of policy wonks." And, finally, the "Brooks Brothers riot" terminology pre-dates Rachel Maddow by quite some time. That the writer seems intent on tying the term to her is a testament to the quality and accuracy of Maddow's reportage on the issue.
"Actual left-wing violence and vandalism get no attention at all. Reuters reported Aug. 6 that animal rights activists burned “down the holiday home of Novartis Chief Executive Daniel Vasella.” Previously, the animal rights psychopaths desecrated Vasella’s parents’ grave “and an urn containing the ashes of his mother [was] stolen.” And no, you didn’t see this monstrous attack on the evening news or pretty much anywhere else. It didn’t involve Michael Jackson or demonizing conservatives. So it didn’t fit the news agenda."
Diversion. Equating anyone and everyone in opposition to the right-wing political agenda with PETA, a narrowly-focused action group opposing a single issue.
"Jeff Stier, associate director of the American Council on Science and Health, knocked the media for the news blackout. “Where are the breaking news alerts?” he asked. “When there is even a hypothetical risk about some new technology – it makes headlines. But when anti-technology activists actually do harm, they get a free ride.”"
Where and how does "technology," new or old, suddenly make a cameo appearance in this diatribe? Distraction and irrelevance. And do we really think that animal-rights activists are motivated by an aversion to technology as such, or perhaps by the means employed in its advancement?
"Stier is too kind. The media are our storytellers. They decide what news we hear and what we don’t and things that make the left look like the loons they are just don’t sit well with the media establishment. So radical left-wing protesters can vandalize, terrorize or intimidate all they want. It’s OK, they’re on the same side."
All I can say about this "they decide what news we hear and what we don't post," coming as it does from a regular contributor to Fox News, is to say that I need to pull on my tall boots ASAP, because the irony and hypocrisy both are hip-deep and rising.


4 comments:

Count Istvan said...

you can;t see me standing and applauding but I am. The wingnuts sure have that whining thing down.

Chris said...

ralpyfan,

great post, do you mind if I re-post it on my blog?

RalphyFan said...

I don't like wholesale C&P of my posts on other sites - nor do most bloggers, I think. A more acceptable practice would be to C&P the first couple of paragraphs and then link to the complete post here on Count Istvan's page. That would be OK with me.

Chris said...

I'll do it that way Ralphyfan. I didnt want to just copy and paste someone elses work without asking permission

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