Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Bad words...

My wife and I were watching TV when guess what? That's right a political commercial came on.  In this one it was announced that Obama and his LIBERAL allies would do such and such while Romney and the "COMMON SENSE CONSERVATIVES" will do such and such.  In another ad, which is specific to Colorado, its narrator announces that "Romney and his FRIENDS in CONGRESS and a "supporter of BIG OIL." I should warn you that I've been muting political ads but a few have gotten through.

The point here is that the ads besides giving me the giggles about their blatant attempts to paint using words are for the most part quite masterful at using loaded words and what media has begun to call dog whistles.  They include ideas which play to more base beliefs.  For example one of the folks on Facebook posted/shared something like,  "If you give a man a welfare check, a cell phone, cash for his clunker, food stamps,  housing, Medicaid, unemployment checks, a 40-ounce malt liquor, needles, drugs, contraceptives, and designer Air Jordan shoes, he will vote Democrat for a lifetime.” This is a statement dating back to the "welfare queens" of Reagan or the more recent "food stamp army."  Loaded language can be a powerful tool.

 Being liberal is not a bad thing.  A person who is generous is liberal with his money.  Liberal is someone who is free in his beliefs and giving.  Conservative in not a bad thing either.  Someone who carefully weighs what he says is conservative in his use of language.  If one protects live, he is conserving it.  He holds his ideas clear and close.  Congress is or was a noble calling before it seemed to lose its compass to serve the People instead of the Party.  We need oil, but honestly, I've got nothing to say, Big Oil is Big Oil after all.

Words get twisted or connoted.  For example, when I first started teaching and directing plays, there were a number of playwrights who used the word gay for happy or fun times.  But as time progressed and the Gay movement took on, the words connotation changed. So to keep high school students and a few adults from giggling, we could not leave lines like "having a gay time" in the script without changing them to "having a fun time."  At the beginning of the 1900's, some one told me that among the 10 dirtiest words was the word "suck." It is now a common and somewhat mild curse word.  Still not a word that I would use, but you see how things get loaded and changed.

Unfortunately, it can create an ugly image too.

This brings me to the above statements about welfare.
At the least, it builds on  the idea that folks on welfare are "takers" and the industry is a "maker." It was actually a part of the extreme right campaign. At its extreme, the above statement is racially motivated.  It plays on the idea that welfare recipients are people of color especially African American.  It plays on the idea that most are drug addicts, lazy, shiftless and would rather live in tenements than work.

But what is more, it is wrong.

I know, I know.  The statement does not use specific race, but that is exactly the point of loading up ideas with ambiguity.  I mean, Air Jordans? Really?  It feeds an image and that image is racially charged.  You can deny it and yell it is a liberal conspiracy, but that still doesn't make it less true.

I am not going to wade through all the statistics which have been manipulated by both sides and besides my math skills are not that strong in stats, but I do know that many welfare recipients are white not just people of color and the number of white recipients goes up substantially if food stamps are included.  I know that many live in very conservative states and in rural areas not just in the inner city.  I know that most do not end up on welfare because they want to be there and that there are plenty of drug addicts who have money.  I know that the safety net has caught more than a few.  Medicaid, a part of that system, protected members of my own family as did unemployment payments. I know that owning Air Jordans or doing drugs is is not supplied by welfare.  I know that this statement is the true dog whistle and it saddens me a bit that someone would fall for such loaded words. There are by the way no stats I could find that show how welfare recipients will vote.

Loaded words are an essential part of persuasive discourse.  We all use them.  I just did: safety net. They can also be used to build a myth that is neither right nor good in a free country.  I can only hope that those who pass this kind of material on will realize they are being used to perpetuate a myth that is a very poor agenda by a very few individuals that would divide us instead of lift us up.