Democrats & Liberals Archives

Some Thoughts on the Language of Politics

It is a cliché that politics is largely about language. Some words always rub me the wrong way when they are used in a political context, because they are usually misleading if not downright meaningless.

Arrogant – If you disagree with someone’s strongly expressed opinions, they always seem arrogrant. Certainly, some people are truly arrogant, but 90% of the time it is in the eye of the beholder.

Elitist – This is pretty similar to arrogance. Everybody believes in one kind of elite or another: moral character, intelligence, having the right last (or first and last) name. Someone is only “elitist” if they are crazy enough to believe in a different elite than you do.

Playing politics – This probably goes with saying: it is always the other side that is playing politics and your side that is standing up for its principles. I think of this like a behaviorist. What would the person’s observable behavior be if they were playing politics? What would it be if they were principled? Most of the time, there’s no difference.

Hating Bush – I will invoke behaviorism again. How would someone act if they hated Bush? How would they act if they strongly disagreed with him about important, morally-charged issues? Pretty much the same way.

To take an example from the other side of the political spectrum, suppose someone shouts "MURDERER!" at an abortion doctor. Is that person full of bile and hate, or does he have a sincere, strong belief that he feels obligated to express in a forceful way? Who's to say?

Hypocrisy – Someone could easily write a book about this. Usually, when X tells Y he is being hypocritical, X is being hypocritical, too. Also, people use it as a cheap excuse to adopt the other person's principles when it is convenient.

Chappaquiddick – This isn’t really about language, but I’ll say it anyway. There is no recognized ethical principle that says just because Ted Kennedy drove off a bridge 37 years ago (or even yesterday), Republicans get a free pass for their misdeeds. Mary Jo Kopechne did not die for their sins.

Posted by Woody Mena at May 9, 2006 7:14 PM
Comments
Comment #146630

How can you compare Chappaquiddick to Republican “misdeeds?” Yes, Tom DeLay may have violated a few campaign laws, but he didn’t kill a woman.

Posted by: Scottie at May 9, 2006 8:10 PM
Comment #146632

Scottie,

Sigh…

I’m not going to go there, because it’s beside the point. Even if Ted Kennedy eats babies for breakfast, saying “Ted Kennedy eats babies for breakfast” doesn’t make the GOP any better.

Posted by: Woody Mena at May 9, 2006 8:24 PM
Comment #146633

Hmmm.
I honestly don’t believe that Kennedy “Killed” anyone.

I worked with Mary Jo at a Black Catholic High school, Saint Judes, in Montgomery,Al, 1961/2. She was kind, honest, truthful and simply wonderful.

To this day I do no believe that she was on a mission of sin. I think she was a victim of an unfortunate accident.

Too bad the Repubs can’s accept that.

Posted by: andielulu at May 9, 2006 8:25 PM
Comment #146637

Woody,

Thank you for the lesson on rehtoric.
“President ________ said today in a news confrence ‘I did not _______’ in responce Sen. _________ called on his party to impeach the arrogant SOB”
Late 90’s or today it is still just another tool to divide and get re-elected. Whether it is a D or R that is offender, or just offended, they will use this kind of tripe to keep us off balance and sending them back to DC. The last thing they want is to have to respond to us the voters.

Posted by: Ted at May 9, 2006 8:40 PM
Comment #146638

Woody,

I’m not sure what your point is here…These words are bantered about on both sides of the political aisle with reckless abandon…

No one gets a free pass…even in politics. Eventually it (whatever it is) will catch up to you, regardless of your political persuasion.

Kennedy (or anyone for that matter) has to live with what he did and will find it rearing its ugly head from time to time, because no one politically forgets anything.

But, trying to put it to someone who does not deserve the shame, or making false charges…That will turn around and bite you.

Posted by: Cliff at May 9, 2006 8:40 PM
Comment #146640

On the previous IND post - after I listed a long list of the various scandles facing the REPs, I was told my “smear was showing.”

First, I’d have to say, try writing it all down and connect all the dots, it’s an insanely large and complex web tossed over DC right now.

Second, why is listing actual scandles & legal troubles immediately called smear? I’m not making judgements on the entire party, and I wasn’t inferring the scandles onto anyone not involved and I have nothing to gain by presenting these issues. Why call it smear, other than attempt to dismiss, as oppose to argue against or refute?

It’s very similar to being to told “you guys would hate Bush no matter what he did…” ??? Why not try to refute what is being discussed directly?

Posted by: tony at May 9, 2006 8:51 PM
Comment #146643

Woody -

Try to work through this post (on the previous Iran post):

“I cant believe you crybaby pacificists. The reason most of us tough guys voted for Bush was not because he believed in touchy feely diplomacy. Rather because he would hopefully shoot first and never ask permission from you snivelling 5th column whiners.Its to bad the republician law makers dont have the balls to stand up for him They are going to doom the rest of us to a socialistic existence under Hillary because the conservative base is fed up with their flower childern like attitude and will stay home in november. Nobody but a damn fool would try to make treaties with the murdering Islamist scum in Iran.”

(Yea, OK - it’s basic trolling, but very entertaining…)

Posted by: tony at May 9, 2006 8:58 PM
Comment #146644

Woodys comments are the most politically correct rubish Iv’e heard all day. In my experience most of the time those words are used they correctly define the person they are aimed at. If not then they start a good fight. It sounds like the reason for his post is to bring mankind to a more peacefull and tranquil state of submission. I quite frankly use those words frequently and to the other persons face. But im not afraid to stand up for what I believe.

Posted by: commander jc at May 9, 2006 9:01 PM
Comment #146646

Tony,

If they can’t defend the actions then they must discount you. And believe me there are ammunition factories for that up and down the AM dial. With approval ratings proped up by polling the comatose, the defenders of Pres. Bush must now attack those who question him on all fronts rather than address the issues.

Posted by: Ted at May 9, 2006 9:05 PM
Comment #146648

commanderjc -

You’ve throw quite a few verbal punches… and they’ve pretty much completely missed. There’s nothing behind your comments but insults and attacks - try adding in some actual substance if you want to “pick a fight.”

Posted by: tony at May 9, 2006 9:10 PM
Comment #146652

There is no sense in adding substance to an argument with so called intellectuals. most of the crap posted on these sites is idealistic nonsense. Most conflicts can and should be solved by the use of force. Dealing with the Islam rats any other way is insanity.

Posted by: commander jc at May 9, 2006 9:29 PM
Comment #146653

… and you come to a blog to toss this crap? This is solely an exchange of ideas and facts… not a very good place to stomp and grunt around.

Good luck in you quest for a violent end - hope it’s everything you expect it to be.

Posted by: tony at May 9, 2006 9:32 PM
Comment #146654

There is nothing wrong with hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue. The one who acts in a hypocritical way is implicitly acknowledging the superiority of other position.

Chappaquiddick is interesting because it is so true to the Kennedy formula. You have a drunken, lecherous, lying arrogance taking advantage of heredity privilege. How can you beat that?

Elitist - only complete losers aren’t elitist is some way. And the most complete loser is in an elite among losers. I am lots better than some people and some people are lots better than I am … in some ways. It is arrogant to pretend modesty that we don’t believe. I hate that.

Playing politics is a harder thing to define.I tend to believe that Republican positions are usually correct. Many of you are less enthusiastic about them.

I play politics when I can. It is a fun game. Of course many things should not be relegated to politics at all.

Posted by: Jack at May 9, 2006 9:34 PM
Comment #146658

I see a lot of ideas some of them laughable, but as to facts? Sorry bud but but they are conspicuous by their absence. All I see is the typical pacificist mantra spewed out by the lock step democrats.As to a violent end. The best way to insure against one is to take out your enemy before he takes you out. (fact).

Posted by: commander jc at May 9, 2006 9:49 PM
Comment #146659

“You have a drunken, lecherous, lying arrogance taking advantage of heredity privilege. How can you beat that?”

I was going to add thaat you just perfectly described Bush… but hell, that covers the entire population of the White House and Congress.

“I play politics when I can. It is a fun game. Of course many things should not be relegated to politics at all. “

Playing politics is just what it says… and politics is the base of our government, so kind of hard to discuss it without playing politics… but when people use the phrase “playing politics” to simply dismiss and argument.. that’s simply obnoxious.

“I tend to believe that Republican positions are usually correct.”

… the last 5 years haven’t exactly proven this out. I would also hazard a guess that commanderjc is a Republican, would you vouch for his expressed beleifs?

Posted by: tony at May 9, 2006 9:50 PM
Comment #146665

jc,
eye for an eye, and pretty soon everyones blind.
You will not succeed in “exterminating” every terrorist when your making them at a similar rate.
Reduce the reasons for them to hate us and then go after the remainder.
bush’s strategery is only digging the hole deeper and throwing the dirt on the rest of the world.
Good luck with that anger problem.

Posted by: Norby at May 9, 2006 10:06 PM
Comment #146670

>>Playing politics is a harder thing to define.I tend to believe that Republican positions are usually correct.
Posted by: Jack at May 9, 2006 09:34 PM

There goes Jack, ‘playing’ politics again. It is a game in which real people lose to corrupted assholes who are serious about their game…er, maybe game bird hunting…???

Posted by: Marysdude at May 9, 2006 10:19 PM
Comment #146673

Mary,

And what are you playing? (or shooting at?)

Posted by: Cliff at May 9, 2006 10:24 PM
Comment #146674

Eye for eye dont work. Its both of his eyes so he cant see to get at yours. Its been proven throughout history you cant pacify a terrorist.At least not for very long. As to Bush he isn’t digging the hole enough. He needs to fill thousands of holes/graves with terrorists in order to stop their madness. Your right Im angry at the way our country tries to appease the rest of the world who can do nothing but berate us for our stand against Islamic scum. I enjoy being mad now and then actually im proud of it.

Posted by: commanderjc at May 9, 2006 10:26 PM
Comment #146686

NEWS FLASH!!!

“There is nothing wrong with hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue”

Jack has just ammended this statement—look at his latest blog in the Red Meat section of this site. Thank you, and have a pleasant tomorrow.:-)

Posted by: Tim Crow at May 9, 2006 10:37 PM
Comment #146690

I’m just having difficulty with Woody’s baby eating party. I’m leaving the light on tonight.

Posted by: gergle at May 9, 2006 10:42 PM
Comment #146691

>>And what are you playing? (or shooting at?)

Posted by: Cliff at May 9, 2006 10:24 PM

My attorney’s face. And, Jack, of course…

Posted by: Marysdude at May 9, 2006 10:43 PM
Comment #146695

Tony

No matter what anyone says about Bush, nobody really believes that he drinks anymore or is lecherous. I also disagree with the other points, but at least you have to concede these.

Marys

I think Republican positions are correct more often. That is why I am on that side. I like to play at politics, but this particular time is not among them. It is just a statement of preference.

Posted by: Jack at May 9, 2006 10:51 PM
Comment #146697

“Elitist - only complete losers aren’t elitist…..”
…..”Playing politics is a harder thing to define.I tend to believe that Republican positions are usually correct. Many of you are less enthusiastic about them.”
“I play politics when I can. It is a fun game. Of course many things should not be relegated to politics at all.”
“Posted by: Jack at May 9, 2006 09:34 PM”

Jack,

I don’t believe you even mean what you said here. I hope not. The “game” of politics involves the life or death of thousands of human beings whether through war or the choice to provide humanitarian aid either domestically or as foreign aid. If you can truly view politics as a “game” I would strongly suggest some psych testing.

Now, before someone screams that my posting privileges be revoked, think! Do a little “googling” on Dissocial Personality Disorder. A person with a truly antisocial personality disorder is generalized
in the term CORRUPT:

C - cannot follow law
O - obligations ignored
R - remorseless
R - recklessness
U - underhandedness
P - planning deficit
T - temper

I truly doubt that this describes Jack, but OTOH I’m not so sure it doesn’t fit GW Bush to a “T”.

KansasDem

Posted by: KansasDem at May 9, 2006 10:58 PM
Comment #146701

Kansas

I am talking about playing right here. If you read my posts, you may be able to guess that there are some things I really believe in and other things that I think are just fun to do.

I do believe that even serious things should be fun if possible. You can have a serious purpose and still not be too serious about yourself. I always tell my staff and co-workers that they should be having fun at work most days. Nobody can do a good job unless they like it. Although I know that some do a pretty good imitation of me telling them, “this will be fun for everybody.”

It is also a good way to figure out dynamic situations if you think in the theory of games. You have heard of this, of course. Too often analysis is made w/o reference to the probable responses of their opponents.

Posted by: Jack at May 9, 2006 11:09 PM
Comment #146703
Chappaquiddick is interesting because it is so true to the Kennedy formula. You have a drunken, lecherous, lying arrogance taking advantage of heredity privilege. How can you beat that?

Gee, I must be mistaken. I thought Jack was one of the folks telling us to let the law take care of it? This is so old, it must have been taken care of legally, so I wonder why it still hangs around Republican necks? Maybe they have to dig that far to find something to compare the actions of their party to?

Interesting response from the folks on the red column who keep saying let the law decide.

Posted by: womanmarine at May 9, 2006 11:13 PM
Comment #146706

Woman

You really have some doubt about those things? I don’t think Kennedy even denies the basic facts. Speaking of playing politics, this one is just too much fun. I do not think it has any real world political consequences anymore. Republicans didn’t get to use this against Kennedy anyway. He really cannot lose in Mass and the Dems never nominated him to run against a Republican anywhere else.

BTW - I don’t believe the OJ will ever find the real killers either.

Posted by: Jack at May 9, 2006 11:20 PM
Comment #146712

Jack:

I never said he did. Where did you get that?

Just wondering why it keeps being brought up as an example of the democrats, especially at times when republicans are being investigated?

Of course, since I respect your intelligence, I suspect you didn’t miss the point after all, you’re very good at obfuscation in your posts.

Posted by: womanmarine at May 9, 2006 11:32 PM
Comment #146714

Jack,

I was sure that you didn’t actually look at politics as a game. Politics truly is a matter of life and death. I also fully realize that you might believe Bush has saved American lives by decreasing the terrorist threat here at home and you realize that I think that he’s actually done just the opposite.

You can’t blame me for taking the opportunity to throw you a “sucker punch” though. I am quite serious about Bush being possibly sociopathic though. Perhaps even schizophrenic given his exemplary alogia.

IMO we should all be scared whether we’re Republican, Democrat, or Independent.

KansasDem

Posted by: KansasDem at May 9, 2006 11:35 PM
Comment #146716

Kansas Dem:

I think the term is dry drunk.

It fits.

Posted by: womanmarine at May 9, 2006 11:40 PM
Comment #146737

Andielulu. i am so glad you knew mary jo. and nice post, nobody ever said SHE did anything wrong.! and don’t paint her as evil.!we know who the real killer is! some big fat slob, who made sure he got his ass out of that car.real brave man. sorry drunk man.

Posted by: s.p. at May 10, 2006 12:39 AM
Comment #146762

General comment: It is funny how one little part of a post tends to get the most comments. This time it was tired old Chappaquiddick. Ah well…


Cliff,

If you were looking for a partisan point, there really wasn’t one, except for maybe the last one.

Commander JC,

If using words like “arrogant” and “elitist” to bash people is important to you, by all means go ahead. I’ll be in the corner snoozing.

Jack,

I have very mixed feelings about politics being a game. My innate response is always to use humor toward a serious purpose. That is why I like writing satirical columns sometimes (even if it means that someone always complains it wasn’t funny). So in that sense I agree with you that “playing” politics is not bad.

Coming at the question from another angle, people treat politics too much like sports. The media gets caught up in how the game was won or lost (the “horse race”), and we forget that there are serious consequences to the game.

Posted by: Woody Mena at May 10, 2006 8:14 AM
Comment #146768

Woody,
I told you I was gonna have nightmares:
:)

Posted by: gergle at May 10, 2006 8:41 AM
Comment #146780

Woody -

Can you immediatley tell the difference between a sports program promo, an election day promo or a war promo? WE’ve always been a culture of black & white views on good vs bad: You’re either with us or against us. Subtly is never our strong point, so I can’t imagine a day when actually see anything other than a US vs Them mentality.

One thing I’ve noticed on this thread in particular, but in most others now that I think about it… the hardcore REPs seem to have eirly similar views on violent solutions to the world problems that the terrorists do. Somehow, each views the escalation in violence as also getting closer to theirs goals. One difference (and I know this is going to make people fume) the terrorists seems to beleive that personal involvement is required to reach their violent-driven goals, hardcore REPs tend to hire poor people to do the job for them.

Posted by: tony at May 10, 2006 9:20 AM
Comment #146791

The Republican line is that however bad we are, the Democrats are worse. The trouble with that position, of course, is that it’s a linguistic trap of irresponsibility. Use it enough and it becomes a given rather than a defense. Once it becomes a given, you no longer will feel it necessary to maintain the standards of your behavior. After all, you are the better of any two match-ups.

The same thing has happened on defense. They assumed they knew what they were doing better than everybody else, despite a number of profound screw-ups. Result? They didn’t nip inefficiencies in the bud that now have compromised our ability to carry out our wars. additionally, they’ve gone with a bigger-is-better approach to the budget, which doesn’t necessarily get things done. we have plenty of wonderful toys, some useful, but we’ve purchased many at the expense of our readiness and ability to wage war economically in the long term.

Realities matter more than words, truth more than truthiness.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at May 10, 2006 10:11 AM
Comment #146820


I like it, a linguistic trap of irresponsibility. I’m not a linguist, but what the hell, why should that stop me.

Republican spin on HOOKERGATE, the scandal that keeps on giving, according to fox news.

It doesn’t matter how many republican Congressmen and high ranking officials were in bed with male prostitutes. Everyone knows they were entraped. Those male prostitutes were not Lincoln logs, they were liberal democrats. And besides, our constituents know we hate homo’s.

Oh, what a catchy name for a scandal. Hookergate is just the kind of name for a scandal that the media and the public loves.

Posted by: jlwilliams at May 10, 2006 10:59 AM
Comment #146989

How about Puckergate? I can just see those Repub assholes pucker…

Posted by: Marysdude at May 10, 2006 5:46 PM
Comment #147008

naw - don’t ask to see them pucker - costs a lot more than you have to spend.

Posted by: tony at May 10, 2006 6:36 PM
Comment #147304

Jack,

There is nothing wrong with hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue. The one who acts in a hypocritical way is implicitly acknowledging the superiority of other position.
I can’t quite go so far as to agree that there’s nothing wrong with hypocrisy, but when you look at it that way I can see your point. I had a long, brutal, and totally unproductive discussion with d.a.n. about this very subject. The discussion was rather unmonitored, since it was tacked onto to the end of very long thread that is now in the archives.

In the course of this discussion, d.a.n. believed that his position was so strong he felt he should put together a Web page showing how weak my position was. He asked me to share it with others, so if anyone is interested it can be found on d.a.n.’s Web site at this link: Lies About Me and Name-Calling By Charles Wager

He assured me that he is very proud of this Web page he built, and so I offered to help him publish it. All I ask is that, after reading d.a.n.’s views on the matter, you follow his links to the archived blog. Get an idea of how the discussion actually unfolded, and read some of my comments in their original form and in their actual context.

Posted by: Charles Wager at May 11, 2006 3:33 PM
Comment #147509
How can you compare Chappaquiddick to Republican “misdeeds?” Yes, Tom DeLay may have violated a few campaign laws, but he didn’t kill a woman.

No, Conservatism hasn’t killed “a woman” - it’s killed tens of thousands of women over the years, through denying them the Choice to determine what happens within their own bodies.

Posted by: Betty Burke at May 12, 2006 2:36 AM
Comment #148037

gergle,
Nice graphic?
Why did you not post a link to it only?
; )

Posted by: d.a.n at May 14, 2006 1:18 AM
Comment #148219
Woody Mena wrote: Hypocrisy – Someone could easily write a book about this. Usually, when X tells Y he is being hypocritical, X is being hypocritical

I think Waffling should be some where in the list, too.

Waffling - Being on none or all sides of an issue; having an explanation for being on any side of an issue; closely related to Hypocrisy

Charles Wager, wouldn’t you agree?

Posted by: d.a.n at May 15, 2006 12:15 AM
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