You can’t handle “your truth”!

Oprah Winfrey’s Golden Globes speech sure struck a chord, didn’t it? The erstwhile talk show host and current media mogul said enough to spur online discussion of a made-for-TV 2020 Presidential matchup.

There’s certainly plenty to say about what the whole concept says about current affairs, politics, and culture.

Ben Shapiro of The Daily Wire and the Wall Street Journal’s Byron Tau, among others, picked up on a phrase Winfrey used, “your truth.” The context (from the full transcript):

What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I’m especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories.

This is one of those tricky phrases that means different things to different people, which makes discussion difficult. Critics of Winfrey’s phrasing note that the truth is the truth. People may have different perspectives or opinions, but objective facts are objective facts.

That’s certainly accurate, from a certain point of view. One person may look at a three-dimensional cube and, seeing only one side, claim it’s a square. Their perspective – or lack of it in this example – does not change the objective fact that this is a cube.

That’s not really what Winfrey’s talking about, though.

As the mentions in her speech, Winfrey’s life experience meant living through turbulent times when being black carried overwhelming social baggage. As a woman in show business in the 1980s, she likely had to deal with the same harassment issues that are only now being brought to light. Today, you may look at Oprah Winfrey and see the “truth” of a powerful, car-giving-away, bread-loving media empress who could build or ruin a career at whim. Her vantage point is different; when thinking about her “truth” Winfrey also remembers the local news anchor struggling her way up the ladder.

“Truth” is a strong and probably miscast word for perspective, but intentionally so. Its strength validates experiences. In the immediate context, it validates women who suffer harassments in all walks of life, and see those experiences echoed in the current mess in the motion picture industry. It isn’t just your story, Winfrey seems to say; for you, it is the absolute truth.

There’s a parallel to draw from President Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric, which so famously used language that most politicians did not, and Winfrey uplifting her audience through subtlely coded language. In each case, it fosters a connection with the audience that just about every speaker tries for, but which few can establish.

The next election sure ought to be fun, huh?

Leon Wolf is right: Benghazi has been over for months.

This week, RedState’s Leon Wolf opined that Benghazi investigations had run their course. He’s right – regardless of how important the scandal is or isn’t, it simply hasn’t stuck to Hillary Clinton.

What’s more, this should have been obvious a month and a half ago, when we were all getting ready for the Super Bowl. Remember the dust-up over whether the Patriots improperly deflated footballs?

All scandals need a name, and most called this one “Deflategate.” But some called it “Ballghazi.” Anecdotally, I heard that version most from New Englanders, who complained that the whole thing was a non-story.  The Washington Post noticed:

This could, of course, be a semantic weakness of “-ghazi” as an scandal label — it suggests a would-be scandal, not an actual one… In that sense, said [Dartmouth Professor Brendan] Nyhan, “-ghazi” functions in the same way as “-gate” — ironically, as a way to mock high-profile controversies as manufactured pseudo-scandals.

It was obvious early on that the -ghazi suffix had the same potential as the -gate suffix, but it hasn’t come to pass. Patriots’ likely cheating exposed that there isn’t a consensus that Benghazi is a legitimate scandal – or at least, what exactly the scandal is. There are apparently other albatrosses to hang around Hillary Clinton’s neck (or so I read), but this isn’t one of them.

Obama’s compromising word choice

Those who, in the wake of the 2010 elections, foresaw a Clintonesque Obama administration that tried to “triangulate” policy positions, the President’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal serves notice that… well, they may have been right.

First off, it’s in the Wall Street Journal, where the opinion page is widely recognized for leaning rightward.   Second, it describes an effort to strip federal bureaucracies of some layers of red tape:

Sometimes, those rules have gotten out of balance, placing unreasonable burdens on business—burdens that have stifled innovation and have had a chilling effect on growth and jobs… This order requires that federal agencies ensure that regulations protect our safety, health and environment while promoting economic growth. And it orders a government-wide review of the rules already on the books to remove outdated regulations that stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive. It’s a review that will help bring order to regulations that have become a patchwork of overlapping rules, the result of tinkering by administrations and legislators of both parties and the influence of special interests in Washington over decades.

It’s one thing to be pro-business, but the allusion to crony capitalism could be right out of a conversation with a hard core tea partier or Ron Paul.  It gives the impression of an understanding of open markets that many Republicans don’t quite get.  Much like Bill Clinton’s pronouncement that the “era of big government is over,” it absorbs conservative messaging – in fact, it echoes an executive order President Reagan made to trim regulatory costs 30 years ago.

The real policy that comes from this proclamation won’t necessarily be as business friendly or economically stimulating as the President is boasting.  But this is a message to the crucial middle ground of the American electorate – who don’t equate their center-right political views with a party identification and are pre-disposed to like Obama.  Appealing to these voters (especially when the other side still lacks a viable contrast) is the stuff reelections are made of.

Slurpublicans

This week, Tammy Bruce riffed on a line that President Obama has been using to characterize Congressional Republicans as sitting back, “sipping a Slurpee,” while Democrats did the hard work to advance the change we could believe in.

CBS News’s Mark Knoller reported on the recurring imagery earlier this month:

Though he doesn’t mention any Slurpee-sipping Republicans by name, his rhetoric suggests an image of Senate and House Minority Leaders Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, dressed casually (perhaps in shorts and sneakers) with a couple of Big Gulp cups in their hands, sipping on 7-Eleven’s sweet and glacial libation… Mr. Obama clearly thinks Republicans are elitist, but the line wouldn’t be as funny if he said they were sipping Chardonnay or a Mint Julep.

For all his faults as a politician, Obama and his team are no slouches when crafting imagery.  So as dead-on as Knoller is about the evolution of the talking point, that explanation of it as an accusation of elitism is a little too simplistic.  The line wouldn’t just be less funny if Obama subbed in Chardonnay, it would be less effective at delivering the message he wants to get across.  There’s actually a much more impressive slur at work here.

Think about 7-Eleven, and think beyond the racial stereotypes that a certain Vice President may harbor.  Besides the Slurpees in question, 7-Eleven delicacies include assorted snacks of dubious nutritional value, week-old taquitos, and something that looks like the result of a drunken one-night-stand between a hot dog and a hamburger.  (“Hot dog?  Yeah, it’s Hamburger.  We need to talk…)  It isn’t exactly a bastion of elitism.

And the driving-the-car-into-the-ditch metaphor so often used to illustrate the Republican stewardship of the economy doesn’t paint the Republicans as elitist.  In fact, it paints them as incompetent – a much better message for President so easily painted as aloof who is talking to a base who gave him their votes in part as a protest of the perceived simplicity of his predecessor.

That insult layered into the President’s pop culture reference like so much cheese on a plastic tray full of stale nachos?  He isn’t calling Republicans elitist.

He’s calling them white trash.

 

It’s in the dictionary now, and can’t be “unworded”

The verb “unfriend” is in the Oxford American Dictionary Word of the Year.  (It is also now officially a word.)

Of all the verbiage to come out of social networking and new online environments, it’s interesting that unfriend – the negative act of rescinding a connection – takes this honor.  The inclusion and exclusion of words in dictionaries is more a measure of culture than technology – technology creates new terms every day, but to be included in popular language those terms must have a crossover appeal that removes them from the realm of technical jargon and into the realm of word you might read in a newspaper article.

When most of us “unfriend” someone, it’s not because of an offline relationship that has gone south, but because the online relationship was more than we could handle.  Anyone with a Facebook account has had the friend who constantly sends requests or shares too much information.  Most people on Twitter have followed a friend who peppered their feeds with such witticisms as, “Making a sandwich and can’t decide – grape or strawberry jelly?!?”  Speaking of Twitter, after a spike earlier this year their new user numbers seem to be leveling off,and big companies that were excited to enter the medium have become absentee Tweeters.

In other words, we are settling into these new online environments by shifting from the mindset of signing up every new and shiny community or connecting with every long-lost high school class.  Perhaps we are getting better, both in terms of who we connect with and where we connect, at prioritizing what is best and most useful for us individually – and unfriending the rest.

Collins to exuviate 24 little-used words

The Collins English Dictionary is 86-ing 24 words from its version of English. Not to be oppugnant, but this decision vilipends our language.

Collins feels the caducity of these words is apodeictic. But this caliginosity can only serve to embrangle future generations — not to vaticinate, but I expect that when they come across these words but have no resource to find what they mean.

As keepers of our language, the Collins English Dictionary must behave with mansuetude when they make such decisions.

Let’s all just try to get through today as quickly as possible…

Happy Birthday to the Smiley! If you’ve ever instant messaged or emailed, chances are you have used an emoticon (like “ 🙂 ”). The suggestion was first made by Scott Fahlman in 1982, who is now a professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Fahlman suggested the tags because dry sarcasm was not translating on electronic bulletin board posts.

I’ve always tried to avoid them (as well as shortcuts like LOL, OMG, and WTF), but I realized how pervasive they were and are in the late 1990s when a friend wrote me a letter with a hand-written smiley (“:)”) at the end of a sentence. Seems to me she could have just drawn a smiley face, but I suppose we’re past that as a society.

Speaking of internet sensations which I refuse to embrace, September 19 is also International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Allow me to reiterate that it’s international – so you can feel free to call your friends in Canada and bellow “Arr, Matey!” – if, in fact, that’s how you’d talk to your Canadian friends.

I admit I simply don’t get the online cult status that pirates and their apparent rivals, ninjas, enjoy while cowboys, Vikings, witches, or druids are all but ignored.