Giving Words Meaning (or Taking It Away)

David Cassuto

So here’s a new linguistic turn: putting words in quotes to indicate uncertainty as to accuracy (as opposed to putting words in quotes to indicate irony or sarcasm).  Contrast, for example, It was a ‘good’ idea for California State Senator Roy Ashburn, a closeted gay man with a ferociously anti-gay agenda to drive drunk (and get arrested) after leaving a gay bar with a companion with:  “Bali Bombing Mastermind ‘Killed’ in Shootout.” The former conveys a sarcastic assessment of Senator Ashburn’s behavior.  The latter indicates that the man killed in Bali may or may not be the suspected terrorist sought.  

Such grammatical sleights, which effectively strip meaning from words, put me in mind of a rhetorical device often used to undermine the animal advocacy movement.  Animal advocacy groups, regardless of mission, are routinely depicted by the press (and the meat industry) as “animal rights groups” while those who torture and slaughter billions of animals self-identify as proponents of animal “welfare.”

In the latter case, the co-opting of the term “welfare” is, in my view, an act of linguistic violence.  When brutalizers of animals claim to be champions of animal welfare, somewhere, George Orwell is crying into his beer.

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One Response

  1. “Family Values” California state senator representing Kern County, Republican Roy Ashburn (guess how he votes on gay issues?), goes to a gay bar near the Capital, picks up a scantily clad buddy, gets drunk, drives and receives a DUI. In my opinion the Republican Party has been taken over small portions of the republican party of “birthers, baggers and blowhards” (people who love to push their beliefs on others while trying to take away rights of those they just hate) and that’s who they need to extract from their party if they real want to win. Good Luck, because as they said in WACO, “We Ain’t Coming Out”. They are good at “Follow the Leader”. They listen to their dullard leaders Beck, Hedgecock, Hannity, O’Reilly, Rush and Savage and the rest of the Blowhards. The world is complicated and most republicans (Hamiliton, Lincoln, Roosevelt) believe that we should use government a little to increase social mobility, now its about dancing around the claim that government is the problem. The sainted Reagan passed the biggest tax increase in American history and as a result federal employment increased, but facts are lost when mired in mysticism and superstition. Although most republicans are trying to distant themselves from this fringe they have a long way to go. I guess Ashburn is the first on the list “2010 Republican Summer of Love”. Remember last year list of “2009 Republican Summer of Love”: state assemblyman, Michael D. Duvall (CA), Senator John Ensign (NV), Senator Paul Stanley (TN), Governor Mark Stanford (SC), SC Board of Ed Chair, Kristin Maguire (AKA Bridget Keeney). Do I hear Tammy Wynette, “Stand By Your Man” playing in the background? I remember not so long ago that other Orange County song favorite, “Stand By Your Tan” (for Tan Nguyen). But that’s another Orange County fool.

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