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COUP WATCH: The New Jargon -- From Red Rock Eater News Service

by Phil Agre Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2000 at 1:46 PM

I'm writing this message, simply put, because the jargon I have been describing is everywhere. I do not want this jargon to succeed, and it can only succeed by taking over people's minds. When I read the newspaper today, I see dead people. I see vampires feeding on my country. I have no power to make them stop. What I can do, however, is to shine a light on them.

error COUP WATCH: The New Jargon -- From Red Rock Eater News Service

By Phil Agre

Tue Dec 12 15:43:35 2000

You can learn a lot on the Internet. Just yesterday, for example, I learned that Gore voters associate with criminals, that Gore himself is gay, and that if Bush becomes president then a group of liberal financiers is planning to crash the stock market. There it was, in one place: The Conservatives' Greatest Hits.

And those were the polite ones. We have a serious problem in this country, regardless of who becomes president -- a cult that conducts its political life in an aggressive and antirational jargon. On many occasions here I have dissected the workings of this jargon, but now I want to focus on the cultivated use of jargon for purposes of emotionally abusing people.

My long message about the hate mail that I've received since I started covering the election controversy brought quite a bit of testimony on the matter from people who are distressed at the name-calling, disregard for reality, and all-around dehumanizing scorn that they suffer from the members of this cult. Many of these folks reported feeling all alone with this abuse, and they spoke poignantly about being trapped in overwhelming conservative parts of the country where the cult and its jargon dominate public discussion to the exclusion of everything else.

Most of these people didn't even think of themselves as liberals -- at least not until they learned, for example, that Al Gore didn't claim to have invented the Internet, wasn't lying when he described his childhood farm chores, didn't grow up in a luxury hotel, didn't falsely claim to have been the model for Love Story, didn't hold a fund-raiser at a Buddhist temple, didn't propose abolishing the automobile, didn't propose to outlaw guns, and so on. They had been genuinely shocked to discover that the cult members had been lying about these things, and they were even more shocked to discover that they and everyone around them had been living in a media bubble whose ranting and raving had shut off the oxygen from even these very simple truths. Some of them described the paralyzing despair that they experienced during the post-election controversy when they found themselves surrounded by angry and irrational people who display no respect for logic.

It is important to be clear about some things. Not all conservatives participate in this cult or speak its jargon, and not all speakers of the jargon engage in personal abuse. I have received many messages from rational people who treat me like a human being even as they express conservative disagreement with my views. I have also received many messages that labor to twist the facts of the election controversy, as if they were taking the opportunity to sharpen their sophistical skills on a real live college professor, without being especially rude about it. And I have received some messages of crude name-calling and insults that required no particular skill or cultivation and could simply be the product of a deranged mind or a bad day. Those are not the people that I am talking about, or that my correspondents were talking about. After all, I've expressed myself strongly on some controversial political issues, and it stands to reason that someone somewhere is going to get mad.

No -- I am talking here about people who are emotionally abusive, and who have obviously invested effort in learning a whole technology of emotional abuse that they are deploying in a systematic way for (what they regard as) political purposes. I am talking about people who express themselves in snide, sarcastic, scornful tones, who express themselves in innuendoes, who invest incredible effort in provoking an intemperate response so that they can portray themselves as victims, and who engage in complicatedly indirect forms of rhetoric that deniably presuppose things that are false.

Let us consider a few examples of the phenomena I am talking about. This message was in response to my essay on the hate mail I've been getting:

    so, let's see. If we disagree with your spin and erroneous conclusions, we are sending "hate mail"? my god, what hypocracy, what insular thinking (and frnakly, I worry about using that last word)
My problem with a passage like this, I repeat, is not exactly that it is nasty, but that it is nasty in a stereotyped and cultivated way. It is part of a technology of nastiness. Let's consider how it works. Start with the first sentence. In the jargon, expressions like "let me see if I've got this straight" are used to preface a distorted paraphrase of an opponent's words. This is a matter of routine; it's part of what a linguist would call the "phasal lexicon" of the new jargon.

In fact, "so, let's see" does two kinds of work: it prefaces a distortion of what I said, and it pretends that the distortion is what I said. It twists reason, and projects that twisting onto me. I, of course, never said that everyone who disagrees with me is sending hate mail. Never said it, never meant it, never implied it, never presupposed it, never thought it.

And this is not just any distortion. It's a type that is also very common in the new jargon: someone sends me hate mail that expresses disagreement with my views, and so rather than acknowledge the hateful elements of that mail, my correspondent here pretends that I have associated all disagreement with hate. Underneath, in other words, it's a matter of associationism.

Associationism deletes all of logical connections among ideas, and instead works to create certain strategically chosen associations among concepts, and to break others. The first step, very often, is to project the very fact of engaging in associationism into one's opponent: by writing about messages of disagreement that were hateful, it is said, "they" are the ones who associated disagreement with hate.

Notice, too, the rhetorical question ("If we disagree with your spin and erroneous conclusions, we are sending 'hate mail'?"). This is also common. It's a way of making an obviously false assertion -- in this case, the assertion that I have said that everyone who disagrees with me has ispo facto sent hate mail -- without admitting to it. Then the "my god", etc, which assumes an answer to the rhetorical question, as if the rhetorical question's proffered paraphrase were something that I said. Then, of course, the flood of nasty language.

The same writer continues as follows:

    Yep, you must really enjoy democracy if you feel that Al's team is absolutely with clean hands while W is totally wrong.
Having worked himself into a state of righteous indignation, he starts in with the sarcasm: "yep". Then another characteristic pattern of the new jargon: reframing issues in terms of straw-man extremes. He ascribes to me a view that is framed in terms of absolutes. Notice how the straw man is amplified even further through imbalance: it's Al's *team* versus W (alone). Notice, too, how this view is not quite ascribed to me in a straightforward way; he doesn't say "You believe that Al's team is absolutely clean and W is totally wrong". Rather, he puts this proposition, for which he has presented no evidence, into an "if", thus sheltering it from the rational examination that it would invite if he had squarely asserted it.

This is part of what I mean when I say that the jargon is subrational: it continually places its assertions out of the reach of rational inquiry, either as innuendoes, or rhetorical questions, or presuppositions, or beneath ambiguities that also admit trivial interpretations. I'm not saying that this is a conscious strategy; rather, it is a property of a way of speaking that one cultivates in the same way that one acquires any way of speaking -- by listening to the radio, reading pundits, rehearsing lines with other members of the cult, and so on.

He continues as follows:

    Phil, this diatribe can only be the result of lack of sleep, or some other medical condition. Why are you so logical, informative and interesting on non-political topics, but rant uncontrollably, name calling, ignoring facts, hypocracy and worse when your man is losing the election, despite Bill Daley's best efforts to the contrary?
Lack of sleep is a medical condition? Blah blah blah -- more broad accusations without evidence. Never mind that I have been offering pretty much the same analysis of the decline of public reason in the United States for a long time, regardless of who has been ahead in the polls.

Then note the reference to Bill Daley. It is a recurring theme of the current party line that Bill Daley's father engaged in political corruption in Chicago, and that somehow Bill Daley is doing the same thing. What's noteworthy here is that this slander has been repeated so often in the press that it is now a rhetorical commonplace -- something that can be indexed, alluded to, simply by mentioning Bill Daley's name in an appropriate context.

This too is part of a broad pattern in the workings of the jargon. The jargon is not something static; it is very much a process, and through this process the cult members work hard at extending the underlying principles to every topic, every word, every remaining holdout of rational thought. One method by which they do this is, as analysts of propaganda have always said, repetition. But the word "repetition" does not fully capture it -- it's too static a concept. The point of repetition is not just to say the same thing over and over, but to say the same thing in fewer and fewer words, making it more and more of a commonplace, so that it can be alluded to in ever briefer and more indirect ways, so that the very mention of Bill Daley's name can become a shorthand code for corruption, and deniably so, even though Bill Daley has never even been accused of doing anything wrong beyond choosing the wrong father.

Moving along:

    This is NOT hate mail. I don't know you from Adam. I don't HATE your silly conclusions -- the beauty of this country is that we are entitled to hav differences of opinion. But your willingness to ignore facts, well, that is scary.
Observe how my author, who is manifestly engaged in writing hate mail, sets about redefining the term "hate mail" so as to disassociate it from himself. In order to write hate mail, by his definition, he must know me as an individual well enough to have a particularized hatred of me. But this is not what "hate mail" means. A letter of anti- Semitic diatribes mailed at random to someone named "Blumenthal" who is picked from the phone book would be hate mail. (And this happens.)

But now this guy has taken the phrase "hate mail" and twisted it. Note how this works: if I wanted to make claims about what the phrase "hate mail" really means, there is no authority to which I could turn -- no dictionary, no official body of scholars. That's part of how he can get away with it, and it's also one of the ways in which this kind of rant induces feelings of helplessness in the people upon whom it is inflicted. It's destructive: in twisting words, this guy is twisting something that is common property, degrading part of the collectively inherited culture. The element of language that he is wrecking lives nowhere else except in the shared culture.

Then, this thing about "ignoring facts". You've read his whole message -- he does not present a single fact that I have supposedly ignored. The phrase "ignoring facts" is part of the rhetoric of public relations. Facts (which in practice need not be factual, but never mind about that for now) are what you use to create an association between two concepts, or else to break an association that you do not like. Thus, for example, he attributes to me an association between Gore's team and clean hands, and between Bush and total wrongness. The "ignored facts" that he has in mind surely take the form of unclean things that Gore or his team have done, or right things that Bush has said.

The cult of jargon is not indifferent to facts; quite the contrary it invests tremendous effort in building and circulating them, exactly so that they will be ready when a mental association needs to be built or broken. To the associationistic way of thinking, one single fact is enough to prove an argument, exactly because all of the positions have been reframed in extreme ways. Thus, for example, if I demonstrate that the Bush campaign has been engaged in a campaign of fabrications against Gore, to the associationistic mind it suffices to refute my argument if one can produce a single example, just one, of Bush saying something that's right or Gore saying something that's wrong. Never mind that one could use the same logic to "prove" exactly the reverse set of associations.

Finally this, in response to my discussion of the Republican riot in the Miami government building:

    By the way, I viewed all the video you cited, as well as other sources. Check out some of the FLA based news sources. Methinks you will agree that your initial description was inaccurate, shall we say?
More snideness, more lack of evidence. To be honest, despite his confident prediction, I haven't the faintest idea what he is talking about. The video I cited, which is only a few seconds long and shows only a small portion of the events in question, shows running, screaming protesters knocking down a cameraman and pounding their fists against windows and furniture. The Florida based news sources that I cited in abundance on my list describe a great deal of other mayhem organized by the same parties.

But I want particularly to remark on the word "inaccurate". This is another term of art in the public-relations vocabulary of the jargon. In the jargon usage, "inaccurate" does not mean "false". Rather, PR distinguishes between "messages" and "facts". "Messages" are strategically vague, and someone else's "message" is ispo facto "inaccurate" if it conflicts with your own. Of course, you can't tell from this guy's e-mail that he meant "inaccurate" in that sense; it is simply that he is consistently using a lexicon and a mode of reasoning that derives from public relations, and "inaccurate" is part of that. The lexicon is like a toolkit, and every word in the toolkit has a function in the rhetorical technology of the jargon.

Let us consider another message that I was fortunate to receive in the course of the current controversy:

    Subject: Those 13 "myths"

    You are REALLY desperate if you think the American public are stupid enough not to see through this deliberately misinformative "spin". You are still feverishly campaigning for Gore and the Democratic Party at the expense of truth and justice. Get over it, the time for campaigning is done! Oh, and Leave the exaggerations to Gore himself please, he's at least funnier with them. You assume too much when you assume we don't know and understand the undoctored, unspun facts.

    I'm sure you understand that to assume makes and ASS out of U and ME, to which I say make an ASS of Uself as much as you please, but leave ME out of it!
As the subject line indicates, this message was apparently sent in response to Rich Cowan's "13 myths" article presenting the facts that conflict with both the Gore and Bush camps' mythologies in the early days of the Florida election conflict. I have no idea who the writer is, or even his gender, but I'll say "he" because almost all of my hate mail on political topics comes from men. I'm not even clear why this guy sent his message to me; I didn't write the "13 myths" piece, which is clearly credited to Rich. I did forward that piece to my list, and a couple of URL's to my Web site appear at the bottom of the piece.

The point is, this guy sent a message filled with harsh and abusive verbiage out of a clear blue sky to a complete stranger who didn't even write the article that he is ranting about. This kind of random abuse is not uncommon, and it is certainly part of the political strategy of the jargon, much of whose purpose is to make sane people feel so traumatized that they will keep their mouths shut.

Now, as to the substance of the message. Let's start with the word "desperate". This word derived from the party line of that particular week (I got the message on November 30th). Followers of Gore (which he imagines me to be, despite the criticism of Gore in the "13 myths" piece) were held during that week to exhibit "desperation" in pretty much everything they did, and this word was applied to me in at least two dozen messages. When the party line moved along to other words, so did the messages.

Yet in that week, the word "desperate" had been repeated so many times, through so many of the literally hundreds of pundits who speak and write the jargon in the national and regional media, that everyone was familiar with it. It was a commonplace, a topos, but a bad sort of topos, one that achieved its effect not through its novelty, freshness, precision, or aptness but precisely through its bluntness, by bludgeoning. Everyone who was attacked with the word "desperate" during that week was made to feel the combined blows of a million abusive cultists, all simultaneously dehumanizing their opponents as if they were a single assailant.

The word "spin" is used in the same way -- not as the flavor of the week in this case, but as a trope, that was floated during the impeachment controversy, and that the practitioners of the jargon have worked to attach to their opponents at every opportunity ever since. (Another example, less obvious, is the word "attack", which some "journalists" associate with Al Gore's name every chance they get, regardless of whether he has said anything that deserves such a strong word.)

The message goes on to attribute a mental state to me; I am held to have engaged in "deliberately misinformative 'spin'", and to regard the American public as stupid enough to believe my conscious lying. This, too, is very common. In order to dehumanize their opponents, it is not enough for cultists to refute their opponents' arguments; rather, the liberals, like Satan himself, must be made out as liars.

This is the deep meaning of the false accusations that Gore is a liar. If you persuade yourself that your opponent is a liar -- that his whole being is in its very essence a lie -- then you no longer feel any responsibility to take what he says seriously or accountability to the reason in his words. And so my assailant does not accuse me of being mistaken, or stupid, or a dupe, or careless. I am not even accused of deceiving myself. No, I am accused of deliberately and consciously lying. About what, you might ask? He never tells me -- having crafted my lies deliberately, he imagines, I already know.

The idea that putative liberals regard the American public as stupid is itself a common conceit of the new jargon. It is something that Rush Limbaugh says constantly.

Next, I am told, I am "still feverishly campaigning for Gore and the Democratic Party at the expense of truth and justice". Observe the use of the abstract words "truth" and "justice". Here we have more associationism. The new jargon breaks all thought into atomic elements like these and then arranges them with vague associations and strong emotions. So I am not simply telling particular lies -- I am engaged in a generalized war on truth and justice.

By now you have probably long forgotten what I actually said that brought us to these primitive sentiments, but that doesn't matter. The end-point of a rant in the new jargon is always the primal scene of the Satanic liberal engaged in an apocalyptic attack on the broadest, vaguest, most emotionally charged symbols in the world, in this case truth and justice. The logic that connects anything that I actually said to this primitive scene is completely beside the point. As a moral matter it is certainly relevant whether the accusation is true; there does exist such a thing as engaging in a way or truth and justice, and in fact I think that my assailant is doing just that. The point is that he has assailed me in such terms on no rational grounds, and to the extent that his argument has any defeasible sense it is not true.

We are truly staring in the face of madness here, and in a healthy world nobody would even read such things without having an appropriate mental health specialist on call. Note, too, that it is not just my own evil self who is set against truth and justice, but Gore and the Democrats: the situation is constructed such that advocacy for Gore and the Democrats (which, you will recall, is not what the "13 myths" piece was) is ipso facto the opposite of truth and justice. That is the emotional structure of the rant.

Next comes the phrase "Get over it". This is part of the rhetoric by which one sneers at people for being "victims". Of course, the jargon recognizes all sorts of legitimate victims: people who are victims of liberals. Victims of conservatives, however, are harshly instructed to quit crying and get over it. (I've been accused of "crying" many times in the last month. I feel sorry for these people; I can only imagine what their childhoods were like.) In this case, the theme is not elaborated. "Get over it" has itself been repeated often enough that it is a taken-for-granted element of the rhetorical background. Nobody needs to explain any more how disgusting it is to pose as a "victim"; an aggressor need only invoke a little phrase like this one, and all of the scornful lectures of the past will come flooding back.

Next I am instructed in sarcastic tones to "leave the exaggerations to Gore himself" -- "Gore's exaggerations" having been one of the central messages of the Bush campaign. I have already discussed in detail the disturbed nature of this campaign, in which Gore was falsely accused on many occasions of being a liar. This particular version of the story simply invokes Gore's supposed exaggerations as a commonplace, and heaps on some extra ridicule. But I do think it's worth a moment to focus on the last sentence:

    You assume too much when you assume we don't know and understand the undoctored, unspun facts.
The "13 myths" piece, as you may recall, listed various myths that had been put about by both campaigns, and responded to them each with abundantly documented facts. Now, some people responded to that piece by arguing at great and twisted length that these facts were partial or incomplete or did not establish what Rich was supposely trying to establish by them.

But this guy doesn't go into any of that; that I am a liar is too obvious to need proof, in his view. Instead, he sneers at me that I falsely assume that "we" (who?) don't know "the undoctored, unspun facts". This is a fancy thing to say. The "Gore's exaggerations" campaign was a tidal wave of non-facts, which is to say actual, real lies -- Things That Were Not True. And the facts in the "13 myths" piece were, as I say, both abundantly documented and not even contested.

The situation, in short, is precisely the reverse of what my assailant alleges them to be. Yet he is ranting at me about "the undoctored, unspun facts". This phrase must be significant. What are "doctored" facts? What are "spun" facts? As so often in the jargon, each of these two phrases is ambiguous. They could mean that my "facts" are factually false, that is, that they are not facts. Or it could mean that the world contains two categories of facts: those that are doctored or spun, and those that are not. In other words, the possibility is held open here that the facts adduced in the "13 myths" piece really are facts, but that they are nonetheless, in some sense, not legitimate, not real, not part of the correct factual world. It is hard to know.

And to be honest it is not worth investigating. The reality is that this gentleman is doing what he is falsely accusing me of doing, and doing it at the top of his lungs, and is assisted in doing it by a rhetorical technology that makes it easy to lie and to falsely accuse others of lying, without ever saying anything that risks being subjected to rational investigation.

For the sake of completeness, my correspondent riffs on the "assume" theme using a commonplace of vulgar abuse. This last bit is noteworthy, if only slightly, by his instruction that I "leave [him] out of it!". In what way have I included him in it? I have never sent him anything. Notice, once again, the projection: he is the one who sent unsolicited junk to me.

Let us consider one final message. This one was evidently in response to my discussion of the quotation-out-of-context of Paul Begala by a series of widely-published jargon-slingers. You will recall that a conservative pundit had asserted that the Bush-voting states in the south and middle of the country represented "family values" where the Gore-voting states in the northeast and west represented "entitlement". Begala responded to this ugly regional stereotyping by explaining that the situation was more complicated, that every region had good and bad, and that various bad things had also occured in the southern and middle states.

The point of Begala's comments was plainly to explode stereotypes, and he was polite about it, praising the conservative pundit in question despite his calumny. A series of pundits then took Begala's words out of context to suggest that *he* had stereotyped the *Bush-supporting* states, as opposed to offering a balanced view in response to stereotyping of the Gore-supporting states. This tactic was the purest projection, and especially so given that Begala's mis- quoted words were widely put about as reasons why conservatives must act like the vicious animals that the Democrats had supposedly shown themselves to be. In response to this explanation, someone who I know nothing about (and who is not on my mailing list) responded as follows:

    Are you serious? You suggest that characterizing one region of the county as believing in entitlements and another region being murders and racists as having equal weight. Get real. The only thing viscious about an entitlement, is that it takes away from producers without their consent and gives to non-producers.

    Also, I think it hilarious that a Lib is crying about Republicans falsely acusing Democrats of wrong doing to cover their equal sin. Bill Clinton invented the tatic, (with apologies to Stalin).
By now you are familiar with this tone of scornful irrationality, which pervades American political culture like a 60-cycle hum. People can address their fellow citizens in this way with impunity, with no fear of criticism, but only so long as they are conservatives. Liberals do engage in their own trash-talk, of course, but it is conservatives who can carry on in this harshly abusive tone of voice without anyone calling them on it.

Now, it would be one thing if we had simply learned to screen out a bad attitude. "Oh, you know, they're like that. Just ignore them." But it's worse than that. In ignoring the awful tone of voice, we also ignore the howling unreason that boils below it, and that gets insidiously into our minds through repeated pelting with it. So it's important that we slow the rhetoric down so that the irrationality becomes visible for what it is.

He says this:

    You suggest that characterizing one region of the county as believing in entitlements and another region being murders and racists as having equal weight. Get real. The only thing viscious about an entitlement, is that it takes away from producers without their consent and gives to non-producers.
Never mind the guy's bad grammar, or the bad spelling in the other messages. That's not the important thing; besides, my own messages to this list often have bits of bad grammar as a result of hurried editing. What's important is the poor logic of the accusation.

Let's start with the second part. To paraphrase the tone of the accusation that the pundits had issued against Begala, I had used the word "vicious" to describe the original stereotyping of liberal states in terms of "entitlement". But this guy addresses a different question, whether an attitude of entitlement, or more precisely its implementation in government policy, is itself vicious -- switching the issue, in other words, from the viciousness of the stereotypers to the putative viciousness of the people who were being stereotyped. That particular bit of bad logic, however, is probably just sloppy. Despite the slickness of the change of topic, I'm not sure that this particular bit of sophistry is characteristic of the new jargon in general. At least I'm not aware of it being a pattern.

The sophistry of the first part, however, is a different story. I am accused of having equated morally unequal stereotypes, that of Begala and that of the pundit to whom Begala was responding. The accusation only makes sense if did in fact Begala characterize an entire region of the country as being murderers and racists. But (1) Begala did not do that, and (2) my whole point was that Begala did not do that, so that logically I could not be suggesting anything that presupposes it.

The illogic here was so severe that I couldn't help inquiring: but Begala did not say that, I said. That was something that was imposed on him through quotation out of context. He responded as follows:

    Paul Begala (excuse the spelling) wasn't trying to make a clever and cerebral comment. I truly believe that this is the way the man thinks. Furthermore, painting people in certain states or regions as racists and bigots is exactly what he wants to do, because he knows it is devisive. That's the way his ilk work. Divide people, by lying and scaring them. Then use them.
The argument is no longer that Begala stereotyped people, but rather that he harbored a hidden intention of stereotyping them, that being the sort of person he is. The method here is obviously similar to the previous writer's accusation that I was consciously lying, except that it goes a step further: this guy *knows* what Begala had in mind, even though it was the opposite of what he both said and did. Begala had explicitly denounced regional stereotypes; that was his whole point.

But this guy just knows the opposite. He went on to claim that he had not encountered Begala's words through the filtering of the pundits, but had seen their original complete context on MSNBC, and that he had come up with his interpretation independently. I don't doubt this. Part of an apprenticeship in the jargon is learning how to interpret everything you hear and read in terms of projections about the evil intent of the people involved.

Although it's probably too obvious to even deserve mention, I'll mention anyway the projection involved in stereotyping "his ilk" in this ugly fashion, precisely by accusing them of stereotyping -- but not just any stereotyping, but by accusing others of stereotyping. Are you following me? Paul Begala denounces stereotyping, but what he is actually doing (my assailant tells me) is stereotyping people as people who engage in stereotyping. The author is engaged in projection, which involves falsely accusing your opponent of doing what you're doing, except in this case the projection is two-deep: he's stereotyping Begala's ilk as a people who stereotype people as engaging in stereotyping.

That probably went by a little too fast, so I'll slow it down: Begala did indeed accuse the pundit in question (Mike Barnicle) of having stereotyped whole regions of the country, but the accusation was a true one. Barnicle did in fact issue such a stereotype. Except now Begala is falsely accused of stereotyping people as stereotyping. By this double-reverse wrist action, my correspondent has been able to duck the whole question of whether Begala's accusation was true, and instead to attribute to him a generalized practice of accusing people of being racists and bigots. He says that Begala's method works "by lying and scaring [people]" -- even though what Begala said was true! Pretty fancy, I have to say.

Now, of course this guy didn't invent any of what he's doing. He probably doesn't even understand it very well. The point is, there's no way that he could have produced this incredibly sophisticated paragraph without having worked really hard to cultivate a jargon that would trash the reason of any sane person.

His final comment is a lower-grade version of the basic technique:

    Also, I think it hilarious that a Lib is crying about Republicans it falsely acusing Democrats of wrong doing to cover their equal sin. Bill Clinton invented the tatic, (with apologies to Stalin).
Speakers of the jargon very often describe themselves as laughing at their opponents, or more twistedly they accuse their opponents of lacking the capacity to laugh at themselves. Here what he's laughing about is another double-reverse version of the projection tactic: I, a supposed liberal, am "crying" (that word again) about Republican projection, Bill Clinton having really been the one who invented it. (Um, except that maybe Stalin did, or maybe he didn't, or something -- the point simply being to associate Clinton with Stalin somehow.)

Accusing Bill Clinton of having started it is of course a staple of the jargon; it's a variety of projection that requires no real proof, such is the infinite evil of the Great Liar, that infinite sink for all possible projection. (For example, Clinton is often accused of having invented the "permanent campaign", even though the guy who wrote the book of that title did so in 1980.)

The fact is, of course, that neither Clinton nor the cult invented the general technique of projection, which is found anywhere and everywhere in human history that people engage in aggression despite a culture that claims to disapprove of it. So I'm not just talking about doubletalk, or unfairness, or false accusations, or bias, or lack of objectivity, or propaganda as general matters. What the modern cult of the American far right did invent was this specific jargon, this specific way of emotionally assaulting people with the aim of crushing their reason and one's own. And it is this jargon that I am trying to flush out into the open.

Now, it may seem like absurd overkill to expend all of this time and intellectual precision analyzing the rantings of people that most of us probably have no respect for anyway. Aren't I swatting flies with cannons here? I'm really not. I'm not writing this message simply because someone said something mean to me and made me feel bad. I'm writing this message, simply put, because the jargon I have been describing is everywhere.

If I'm hallucinating, if other people have not been suffering from the assaults of this deranged cult, then my effort is wasted -- nobody will have any idea what I am talking about. But if others have had the same experience, and I believe that millions upon millions of normal Americans have this sort of experience on a regular basis, then my goal is to provide names for things that have heretofore been largely nameless.

I do not want this jargon to succeed, and it can only succeed by taking over people's minds. Everyone's mind has its breaking point, and there is no shame in succumbing to the waves of vitriolic nonsense. And there is hope for those who have succumbed, if any humanity remains in them. But hope grows dim with time, and as the madness takes over more and more of our public discourse. When I read the newspaper today, I see dead people. I see vampires feeding on my country. I have no power to make them stop. What I can do, however, is to shine a light on them, and that's what I'm trying to do here.


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You're Not Hallucinating Guglielmo Marconi Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2000 at 5:33 PM
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