Archive for the ‘Language’ Category

The use of “not to mention”

May 17, 2010

Saying “not to mention” immediately followed by mentioning the thing one is “not mentioning” is silly.

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The Old English meaning of “pioner”

May 15, 2010

pioner in Old English is “a foot soldier who marches in advance of the army to dig trenches and clear the way; a digger or miner

pioneer in modern English is “one who ventures into unknown or unclaimed territory to settle” but the analogy with the old meaning is precise – European pioneers in America for example were “clearing the way” for the “army” of European expansionists.

Power to the People vs. Power of the People

February 10, 2008

Much of the left promotes “power to the people”, including Cynthia McKinney who has made that phrase the name of her committee to evaluate a candidacy for president of the US in 2008 on the Green Party ticket.

Power TO the people implies that power is being given to the people from an entity higher up on the food chain.

In contrast, power OF the people is about taking the power, both actual and latent, in the people and using that to form a new political reality.

Right now the left is still stuck with celebrities. Ralph Nader, Dennis Kucinich, Cynthia McKinney. This will be the case until “to” becomes “of”.

The linguistic/political strategy of division and abhorrence

January 18, 2008

When I heard Rush Limbaugh in the early 1990s, I didn’t really hear him. That is to say, I treated him as a buffoon, as a kind of comedian of the ridiculous. Because of this I didn’t critically evaluate his words. I didn’t consider there to be any need to.

Since Limbaugh (and maybe before), demagogues operate in much the same way. They speak outlandish, buffoonish rhetoric which appeals to a small base and turns everyone else off. Mussolini was the first politician in my awareness to capture this type of buffoonery.

There was no alarm from the left on Limbaugh for many years because noone on the left was listening to him. He had successfully created an audience of admirers, an audience free of critical response.

Limbaugh taught the American elite, as did Gingrich who had some of the same elements. Since then the elite (especially the far-right) have become more and more outlandish which aims to produce the same result – creating a kind of cult following and turn everyone else away from being critical. The entire far-right elite (and some others) wants the type of audience that Limbaugh produced.

So when George W. Bush embarrasses Americans, condescends to them, enrages them, the idea is to get Americans to stop criticizing him, to turn to apathy, to turn away. And then he can just speak to his cult following, adoring zombie smiles.

If the left likes intelligence, Bush will be dumb. If they like clarity, Bush will muddle and mangle the language. If they like truth, Bush will lie. If they like respect for women, Bush will grope female heads-of-state. If they like vegetarianism, Bush will talk about eating meat. If they like peace… well, you get the picture.

The ultimate far-right fantasy is a world of zero criticism. They don’t only want power, they want to never be reminded of that power. A kind of world of their perpetual power where there is zero recognition of such. A world where they are surrounded by sycophants and slaves and everyone else is either dead or rendered obsolete.

Look to Rush Limbaugh himself for a metaphor for that fantasy. Them talking without interruption, listeners smiling, fist-shaking, nodding their heads and thinking “Right on!” Everyone else utterly silent.

Objectivity

November 18, 2007

I believe in something called objectivity – you may have heard of it. Propagandists typically do not believe in objectivity. They believe that they should manipulate reality, including of course their own language, in order to serve their political, economic, and social purposes. I utterly oppose this – I oppose propaganda regardless of the ideological purpose it claims to serve because propaganda breaks down rationality and effective human action.

It is a sad state of affairs when people like me are treated as some rare bizarre creature because I don’t buy into the relativism and subjective reality that propagandists suppose to be true.

Looked at in another way, I’m a non-cynic in a world of cynics. I believe in the truth.

It’s a massive problem, because when I debate I want to get at truth, facts, etc. I have ideologies like anyone else but I separate them from objective reality. What subjectivists do is to merge fact with ideology, which is how creatures like O’Reilly and Limbaugh are born.

This in turn confuses the issue further, because most propagandists are on the right, so when they are attacked it’s taken for a political argument. But this is a historical accident – propagandists are just as easily on the left and on Quarter to Three I stated that Al Franken was a propagandist (I used different words with a similar meaning).

Part of the reason I like the Left so much is that they by-and-large are objectivists, with some exceptions like Franken. There are objectivists on the right as well, but they are overwhelmed by the O’Reillys and Limbaughs and just don’t show up on the radar nowadays. The best thing the right can do is denounce subjectivist garbage regardless of it’s ideology, but so few people understand this in general that noone who’s visible on the right has made such a denouncement, apparently because they believe O’Reilly and Limbaugh serve “the cause” so their means can be excused. Well, Franken is not excused and neither are they.

What humans will discover, apparently the hard way given the current state of affairs, is that there are more important things than ideology. Facts and truth are more important. O’Reilly and Limbaugh doom themselves to ignorance because they’ve lost touch with this understanding. If the world becomes like O’Reilly and Limbaugh, truth will no longer be functional in human life, and all human communication becomes impossible except at the end of propagandistic guns. Therein fascism lies.

Some excellent poetry

September 5, 2007

Part 1

Part 2

I have the parts in the correct order. Sunni Patterson is quite a talent.

Communication, truth, and the destruction of “truth”

June 26, 2007

I don’t agree with the people who say “everything’s already been done”, one outcome of which is “everything is already known”. These people follow that up with “the truth no longer matters”, since all truth is already known. All that remains is entertainment, manipulation, and deception. Or, “truth”.

It’s this very concept that has led to a high degree of willful ignorance in modern society. It’s not that people are stupid, it’s that they want to be stupid. If they no longer desired that they would have to give up on “the truth no longer matters” and change their entire worldview. Truth is a lot of hard work. “Truth” is easy because you just creatively extrapolate from your desires, as Rush Limbaugh illustrates clearly. Truth requires scholarship. “Truth” requires art.

People think that the only objection to truth is when people don’t believe it to be true. That’s completely wrong. The common objection to truth in modern society is that truth is inferior to “truth”. Hence the equivalent of 1+1=2 is inferior to Rush Limbaugh’s “truth” for listeners of Rush Limbaugh, because his words make them happy while “1+1=2” does nothing for them. Others prefer Al Franken. “To each his own”.

Truth doesn’t care who says it. However, truth needs someone to say it. Furthermore, it needs many people to believe it. A society of 1+1=3 has many terrible repercussions that are eliminated when that society follows 1+1=2, but if 1+1=3 makes people happy (according to them) then the person saying 1+1=2 may be very lonely and desperate. Desperate because he knows how much better society would be if 1+1=2 was believed and followed.

Take a male sexist, for example. It makes him very happy to hear “women are pathetic” but he doesn’t actually believe that women are pathetic. (Male sexists hate and fear women) But his happiness may cause him to say “women are pathetic”. In other words, he is pursuing “truth” instead of truth.

Another name for “truth” is propaganda. This is often thought to be the domain of mass media or governments, but in fact every human who uses “truth” is using propaganda. When that woman-hater says “women are pathetic” he is propagandizing. If some human who hears him believes he is saying truth instead of “truth” that person may be inclined to believe the truth that women are pathetic. If some human hears him who also hates women that person may be inclined to further the “truth” that women are pathetic. This is exactly how any propaganda works.

Propaganda itself needs to be legislated against. Again, one of the effects of propaganda: whenever a human believes that “truth” is truth he is vulnerable for that “truth” becoming his actual truth.

One example of this: how many of you believe that pit bulls are a horrible species of dog that cause large numbers of injuries to humans? The vast majority of humans who actually believe that are a classic case of “truth” becoming truth. This has horrible repercussions, such as people believing that “pit bulls should be killed off”.

I’m becoming very tired of the mantra of “freedom of speech” trumping everything. These people are directly permitting propaganda in society… they can be blamed for propaganda.

Propaganda is not speech, no more than a stabbing is social relations. Propaganda harms society’s reality, as well as the reality of individuals.

Any American should be able to call another American on something they say. It then needs to be shown to be true or it needs to stop being presented as truth. It would be fine for Rush Limbaugh to add a disclaimer that says that what he says isn’t true, it’s just propaganda designed to make his listeners happy.

The Bush Administration would long since have been sent to jail if propaganda was outlawed in America. But, see, the Bushies are just exerting their “freedom of speech”. We can’t take that away!

Speech should only be free so long as it is not abused.

Reviving the Rational – increasing the goodness of words

May 21, 2007

Something I’ve been hearing a lot lately is various versions of “a picture is worth a thousand words”. While many of the people I’m hearing this from are television journalists (go figure), other people are accepting of it as well.

This is extremely dangerous and limiting. The 1984-85 famine in Ethiopia for example… it was said to only get the West’s attention after images of the human devastation were shown to them. This begs the question of why the equivalent words of “over 1000 people dying per day” didn’t have an equivalent effect.

This illustrates that danger: it’s a lot easier to describe the truth than to film it. Cameras are becoming smaller and cheaper, but high quality ones still require substantial costs. Filming has one big weakness: it’s localized. You can only film what the camera can reach – also film is a fairly new medium and thus viewers are not trained to recognize deception like they are when reading… as Hollywood filmmakers and the Bush Administration knows all too well it’s fairly easy to deceive even an impressive audience.

Although I never hear it said, I suppose the favoritism for viewing film is that it’s seen as giving the viewer more control… “seeing is believing”. Nevermind that the camera’s narrow range means that by being selective the filmer controls exactly what the viewer sees.

I’d rather that culture take a different approach. Forget notions of the superiority of film – treat film as just another medium. Instead establish policies, laws, and procedures to increase the strength of the written and spoken word. If your argument is “how can we possibly believe someone when he says “1000 Ethiopians are dying per day”? then instead of the solution being “show me the death on film” use one that says “let’s make sure that statement is correct”.

This basically means that instead of speech being “free”, certain classifications of speech are no longer free.

Restrictions on speech are based on audience size… the larger the audience for the words the more important it is that those words be truthful. My objection to Rush Limbaugh for example is not that he lies or distorts, but that he lies or distorts to millions of people, twisting them. Hitler would have been relatively harmless if he had spent his life in front of a mirror.

There are many things to consider prior to executing this plan. One is the notion of in what situations truth is not the concern of the words – for example in artistic matters falsehood might be used not to deceive or manipulate but to illuminate or provide some benefit. We need to be careful not to repress the good while we constrain the bad.

The notion of all-encompassing accountability: ANYONE in the world should be able to call someone to account. Culture has reached such a global scale that the words we speak can have an impact on the other side of the globe. With agency comes responsibility and laws governing that responsibility. But just as with frivolous lawsuits, we need to take measures to ensure that people aren’t wasting the esteemed Mr. Limbaugh’s time with silly accusations against him. Perhaps something as simple as countersuits.

This project then deems to do two things: to make words accurate and meaningful, and to hold to account with penalty of fines and/or jail time EVERY human, whether they be the president of the United States or Joe Schmoe for lies, manipulation, or deception. The president of the United States will be held to a much higher standard as he should be.

Due to the rather large potential for disaster even upon a well thought out implemention of this policy, I suggest employing it first on a small scale to see how things go. It can then be refined, revised, and expanded as time passes.