Thursday, September 11, 2008

Conservative Gobbledygook Perverts English and Destroys Reasoned Discourse

In an insightful analysis published September 7th, Miami Herald editorial columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. called Republican claims that they will "throw out big-government liberals" to bring "change in Washington" pure gobbledygook.

Zeroing in on Mitt Romney's September 3rd speech to the Republican convention, Pitts lamented that "a representative of the ideology that has controlled most of Washington most of the past 12 years can say with a straight face that his ideology needs to seize control of Washington to fix what is broken there."

Critiquing Romney's cant, Pitts said "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 to 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."

It is bad enough, Pitts noted, that conservative politicians succeeded so well over the years as they "trained their followers to respond with Pavlovian faithfulness to certain terms. Say 'conservative' and they wag their tails. Say 'liberal' and they bear their fangs."

And it's worse still that pulling off such cynical manipulation "requires a limitless supply of gall and the inherent belief that people are dumber than a bag of hammers."

But what is most damning about the conservative rhetoric is its intellectual dishonesty, which does violence to the English language and corrupts political discourse to the point of absolute paralysis. That means "to argue that which you know is untrue and to substitute ideology for intellect..." It evacuates words of all objective content and instead opts to make words "mean what you need them to in a given moment."

I agree with every word of Pitts' analysis. I have argued here in multiple posts that cavalier, inaccurate, dishonest use of words has brought the creative advance of reality to a screeching halt in many areas of public life: religion, politics, science, the global economy, global warming, international affairs--to name but a few. Until we call the perpetrators on their intellectual hypocrisy and convince enough people to see it for what it is, the downward spiral will continue.

Perhaps it's a start that if I Google "Pitts Romney-speak," I get about 12,400 results. The initial ones reflect other newspapers that ran Pitts' column and other websites that have paid attention to it.

Please take it to heart. It is no exaggeration to say that our ability to have a future is at stake.

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