Friday, October 31, 2008


Xeni Jardin posted on Boing Boing a great piece by Anil Dash, who blogs "about how culture is made" and is interested specifically about the use of language in culture. Dash looks at Gov. Palin's dangerous assertions about Sen. Obama's 'terrorist ties'.
Sarah Palin has been unsurprising in her criticisms of Barack Obama's credentials and policies, fulfilling the traditional role of the vice presidential candidate being the most aggressive and pointed rhetorical attacker in a campaign. But a closer look at her deliberate use of vernacular and language reveals that she has gone far beyond any other candidate in vice presidential history in the dangerous and irresponsible implications of her attacks. She has phrased her attacks on Obama in a way that avoids accountability to the press while specifically addressing the subset of her audience who are most likely to advocate extreme actions against Obama.

I don't usually write about politics here; I leave the ugliness to those who seem to revel in it. But I think a lot about language, usually in a more lighthearted context like talking about yo mama jokes or lolcats. What's striking to me this election season, though, is that Sarah Palin has chosen to abuse her command of language so obviously without suffering any serious criticism for it thus far.

The crux of the issue is simple:
(1) Sarah Palin has unequivocally associated Barack Obama with the idea of terrorism and specifically with "terrorists".

(2) Republican President George Bush has defined in our National Security Strategy, and the Republican Party's platform affirms, that we may identify and strike at terrorists before they have committed any defined acts of aggression against American citizens.

(3) George Bush has made clear, by stating before a joint session of Congress that "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."

(4) Palin has used deliberate choice of language to avoid these connections being highlighted by the media, while increasing the likelihood that the target audience for her message will be incited by her statements.

Through these arguments, it becomes clear that Sarah Palin's assertions are designed not to prove that Obama is unqualified for the office of the Presidency of the United States. Rather, she appears to be attempting to convince a substantial portion of her supporters that Obama supports terrorism against the United States and thus should be, at the very least, incarcerated as an enemy combatant (which we are doing to American citizens already) or at worst, assassinated for supporting terror. She has done this knowing full well that she can retain plausible deniability thanks to the ambiguity of her statements as they'll be interpreted by the media, by her detractors, and by her more reasonable supporters.
It really is shameful that the media doesn't do more to question her abuse of the language. Of course, we've all seen what happens when the media even hints at questioning her: 'sexism', 'elitism', 'unfair'. Isn't it just a bit moronic that the media can't even question a Vice Presidential candidate's statements or hold them accountable - no matter what sex, race, or creed - without having it turned back into a dog and pony show about how the media attacked her because they're sexist? How can her base defend her as a leader when she apparently can't be held up to the same scrutiny as her opponents or even her running mate? It's as hypocritical as the McCain Campaign now complaining that she's gone rogue! WTF?! But didn't they want 'a maverick'?

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