Saturday, December 30, 2017

Words Have Meanings Part 2: Irrelevancies

     During his eight (groan) years in the White House, Barack Hussein Obama became notorious for his “run out the clock” approach to questions he didn’t want to answer plainly. His few interviews with opposition journalists are particularly revealing in that regard. Bret Baier, for example, strained mightily to get Obama off his chosen tangent and to respond to the question asked, often by baldly interrupting his soliloquies. Obama’s response was always of the “if you’d just let me finish” variety. But of course he never would answer the original question as it was asked.

     The tactic didn’t originate with Obama, though he’s currently its foremost practitioner. A casual sampling of Congressional committee interviews of subpoenaed witnesses would confirm that it’s the most widely practiced rhetorical technique in politics: if the query is unfriendly, “respond” by talking about something else as if it were perfectly relevant. Candidates on the stump do it, too.

     A determined interviewer could reveal the insincerity and dissimulation of the typical politician fairly easily. Bret Baier did with Obama. But the typical interviewer whose specialty is politics has a higher priority than exposing and illuminating the facts. His career depends upon the “get:” i.e., his ability to entice high-profile interviewees into his den. Should the political class generally become aware that Joe Interviewer is adept at cutting through rhetorical obfuscations, Joe would soon be unable to secure interviews with members of the political class. His career would crash and burn. Can’t have that.

     The matter becomes particularly plain when one notes how seldom an interviewer – private or public sector – asks a question to which the only appropriate answer is either “yes” or “no.”

     Among the reasons it’s better to “watch what they do” than to listen to what they say is the mind-numbing effect of what they say: interviewers and interviewees alike. Yet the circumlocuitous, never-converging exchanges of political interviewers and prominent politicians go on. Strangely, people keep watching them, though perhaps fewer than before.

     If Donald Trump is to make any enduring changes in the American political environment, one might come through his plainspokenness. He does answer questions directly, which is part of what irritates the rest of the political class – and its journalistic remora – about him. His selection of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who is also remarkably direct for a presidential spokesperson, is in keeping with his personal style.

     Journalists dislike getting straight answers almost as much as politicians dislike giving them. They cannot be “reinterpreted.” It’s well-nigh impossible to twist a simple, direct answer into something a journalist can use to infer a contrary intention. The frustration is part of what moves opposition commentators – i.e., the majority of opinion-mongers at this time – to denounce Trump with outright slanders about “callousness,” “white nationalism,” and the like. As they can’t draw the inferences they’d prefer from Trump’s statements, they simply “cut to the chase.”

     Irrelevancies offered and tolerated in interviews are bad enough. There’s worse: the deliberate, deceitful insertion of things never said into others’ mouths.

     Consider one of the most successful recent gambits from the burgeoning “white identity” movement:

     These images and associated paraphernalia are driving the anti-white racialists and their adherents completely BLEEP!ing nuts. Their simplicity suffices to get a strong point across. Their gleeful passive-aggression and their gentle dig into the sides of those who seek to cultivate unearned guilt among white people are maximally infuriating to those who’ve specialized in hurling accusations of racism among whites.

     There is no direct counter to them. Therefore, the black racialists and other hucksters dependent upon evoking unearned guilt among whites must tell lies: they must insist that “It’s okay to be white” is itself a racist statement. Never mind that if “white” were replaced with “black” or “Asian,” whites would be expected to let the assertion pass unchallenged. To do otherwise, of course, would be “racist.”

     Several persons have launched similar attacks against politicians and aspirants who proclaim an “America First” policy. Apparently for the government of the United States to put the interests of the United States above those of other nations is somehow “racist.” But isn’t that exactly what the governments of all the other nations of the world are expected to do? What would their citizens think of them were they to put America’s interests ahead of those of their own nation?

     The subject is large, and beyond exhaustive treatment in a brief essay by a weary blogger. However, I believe I’ve covered the heart of it. If words are to have exact and reliable meanings, they must be accorded those meanings regardless of what anyone thinks of the utterer. The introduction of irrelevancies – time was, this was called changing the subject and was held in contempt by decent persons – into such disputes is an obfuscatory technique to which Americans must become sensitive. It’s been used to turn their heads, and sometimes to turn them off completely, by far too many persons for far too long.


Col. B. Bunny said...

Debbie Waspherman-Shoots is a mistress of the Obama technique of not answering the question. It's no accident she rose to be chairwoman of the DNC. Democrats must be heavily invested in avoiding scrutiny of their agenda.

Francis W. Porretto said...

But of course, Colonel! The Democrats' agenda, if exposed plainly and succinctly, would doom their entire project.

Phillip said...

Their agenda puts me kneeling facing a ditch....