Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

Archive for May 12th, 2007

The fine line between insanity and madness

Posted by digglahhh on 12 May 2007

There’s a fine line between genius and insanity.
I have erased this line.
— Oscar Levant

There is a thin line between ignorance and arrogance, and only
I have managed to erase that line.
— Dr Science

So too, there’s a fine line between bad reality, bad journalism, and flat-out humor. Let’s see if we can erase it. Two of these stories were published by real-news organizations and the third was published in The Onion. Your task is simple: identify the fake news story.

Pa. teen wins text-messaging contest in New York :-)

NEW YORK – Thirteen-year-old Morgan Pozgar, of Claysburg, Pa., was crowned LG National Texting champion on Saturday after she typed the first two lines of the “Mary Poppins” song “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” in 15 seconds.

“I’m going to go shopping and buy lots of clothes,” the teen said after winning her $25,000 prize from the electronics company LG.

Morgan defeated nearly 200 other competitors at the Roseland Ballroom in Manhattan to become East Coast champion and then beat West Coast champion Eli Tirosh, 21, of Los Angeles.

She estimated that she sends more than 8,000 text messages a month to her friends and family.


Congress Launches National Congress-Awareness Week

WASHINGTON, DC—Hoping to counter ignorance of the national legislative body among U.S. citizens, congressional leaders named the first week in August National Congress Awareness Week. “This special week is designed to call attention to America’s very important federal lawmaking body,” Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert said. “At least three citizens in every state, and as many as 55 in California, presently have some form of congressional duty, whether it’s as a senator or as a representative.” The festivities will kick off with a 10-mile Walk for Congress Awareness, when blue ribbons will be handed out in honor of those who served in the first 107 congresses.

Parents Convicted in Baby’s Death

ATLANTA (AP) A Superior Court jury in Atlanta convicted a vegan couple of murder and cruelty to children Wednesday in the death of their six-week old, who was fed a diet largely consisting of soy milk and apple juice.

27-year-old Jade Sanders and 31-year-old and Lamont Thomas will receive automatic life sentences for starving the boy, who weighed just 3.5 pounds when he died.

Defense lawyers said the first-time parents did the best they could while adhering to the lifestyle of vegans, who typically use no animal products. They said Sanders and Thomas did not realize the baby, who was born at home, was in danger until minutes before he died.

But prosecutor Mike Carlson told the jury yesterday during closing arguments that they are “baby killers.”

Hopefully (if we see hope in not being able to differentiate real and fake news), some of you will be fooled. Answer will be posted Sunday evening.

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Posted in digglahhh, journalism, pop culture | 7 Comments »

The wrong way to be right about women’s rights

Posted by metaphorical on 12 May 2007

I would grant women the right to make that choice. — Republican presidential candidate Rudi Giuliani.


Rudi Giuliani made a key speech last night defending views that were popular enough when he was mayor of the epicenter of American sin, six years ago, but put him at odds with the Republican base all candidates must win, or at least neutralize, in order to buy a ticket into the general election, at which point defending sin can once again have its benefits.

“If we don’t find a way of uniting around broad principles that will appeal to a large segment of this country, if we can’t figure that out, we are going to lose this election,” he said.

While the media focuses on how much good, if any, Giuliani did for himself by honestly describing his disagreements with the social activist wing of the conservative movement on abortion, gun control, and gay rights, I’d like to look at the language he used. Because while others are busy praising his candor (and rightly so), I think he still found a way to pander to the Republican base. In doing so, he managed to find a way to be wrong even as he was being right on women’s rights.

The NY Times has at least three articles with Giuliani’s speech variously exerpted, but both of the quotes I want to look at can be found in today’s front-page article. The first is this:

“Where people of good faith, people who are equally decent, equally moral and equally religious, when they come to different conclusions about this, about something so very very personal, I believe you have to respect their viewpoint,” he said. “You give them a level of choice here.”

In the first part of the sentence he seems to be talking about all of us, the people in favor of abortion rights and those opposed. But at “I believe” the sentence pivots to us and them, where “their” viewpoint is suddenly that of those in favor—even though Giuliani is one of “them”!— and therefore “us” is those opposed—even though he’s not one of the “us” in question!

He continues with this odd us/them distinction, where somehow he says “us” when he himself is one of “them,” and enriches it by mining the deep vein of paternalism that runs through right-wing activist politics.

“Because I think ultimately even if you disagree, you have to respect the fact that their conscience is as strong as yours is about this, and they’re the ones that are most affected by it,” he said. “So therefore I would grant women the right to make that choice.”

Now the “they” is even more isolated—not all abortion rights defenders, but women who defend abortion rights— “the ones that are most affected by it.” And now that he’s only talking about women, Giuliani can apply the paternalistic coup de grâce:

“In a country like ours, where people of good faith, people who are equally decent and equally moral and equally religious, where they come to different conclusions about this, about something so very, very personal, I think you have to respect their viewpoint,” he said. “I would grant women the right to make that choice.”

“It’s okay,” Giuliani wants to tell the Republican base. “Yes, you have the right to withhold abortion; I’m not saying otherwise. But like children coming of age, these women have to be allowed to make their own mistakes. And I as your father-figure president would grant them that right to make that mistake.”

“We agree,” Giuliani is telling the base, “philosophically, even if we don’t politically. We agree that abortion is wrong, but just as importantly, we agree that we have the right to determine the legality of things like abortion, gun ownership, and gay partnerships.”

Posted in language, Orwell, politics | 26 Comments »