Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Good Versus Evil


(image via

As Revenge of the Sith and the latest Harry Potter installment supplies the collective unconscious of the popular imagination with ferocious imagery of the bilateral conflict of Good Versus Evil, the Democratic Party seems entirely clueless as to how to position themselves on the War on Terror. Conservatives, who psychologically quest after their private definitions of "wisdom," (While Liberals, by contrast, psychologically quest after their private definitions of "sophistication") are at ease with the language of Good and Evil. Academic leftish fondness of Nietzsche makes it difficult for liberals to discuss "Good and Evil" while keeping a straight face. Matt Bai's article on "Framing" in the New York Times Magazine last week captured the mood.

The article is essentially about how Democratic Party flavor of the month George Lakoff is lining his pockets pimping out a very complicated theory in a dumbed down for Washington version. Washington is a city that runs on ideas -- strategic and policy. Unfortunately, the intellectual commitment to those ideas is often thin (For futher refernce, remember the decentralization craze of the early 90s?). A particularly disturbing portion of the article appears to show House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi distilling Lakoff's complicated linguistic theory into some sort of cheap language game, which she tries on the reporter, where magic buzzwords are repeated like a mantra, framing an argument. Frighteningly, this sort of rhetorical maneuver appears to be exactly how Ted Kennedy initially handled the Sandra Day O'Connor retirement.

Matt Bai concludes:

"Consider, too, George Lakoff's own answer to the Republican mantra. He sums up the Republican message as 'strong defense, free markets, lower taxes, smaller government and family values,'and in 'Don't Think of an Elephant!' he proposes some Democratic alternatives: 'Stronger America, broad prosperity, better future, effective government and mutual responsibility.' Look at the differences between the two.

"The Republican version is an argument, a series of philosophical assertions that require voters to make concrete choices about the direction of the country. Should we spend more or less on the military? Should government regulate industry or leave it unfettered? Lakoff's formulation, on the other hand, amounts to a vague collection of the least objectionable ideas in American life. Who out there wants to make the case against prosperity and a better future? Who doesn't want an effective government?

"What all these middling generalities suggest, perhaps, is that Democrats are still unwilling to put their more concrete convictions about the country into words, either because they don't know what those convictions are or because they lack confidence in the notion that voters can be persuaded to embrace them. Either way, this is where the power of language meets its outer limit. The right words can frame an argument, but they will never stand in its place."

You've got to stand for something.

1 comment:

Derick said...

This won't really have effect, I think so.
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