Tuesday, January 03, 2006

This Is the Dawning of the Age of Empty Rhetoric

The Postmodern Era is gone. The Information Age has petered out. What are we left with?

Crap.

Pure unadulterated steaming piles of fetid stinking substance-free rhetorical turds.

The broader message from our first KARcast - if one could be culled from it - was that style is nothing without substance. We had the hardware, the software, a microphone and hella cool Iron Maiden bumper music. But we had nothing to say. I didn't realize it until I picked up the Strib yesterday, but our initial intentionally bad (believe it or not, that was intentional) foray into "podcasting" was prophetic.

I suppose it's been a long time coming. The last few years have seen "Bush lied!" become an acceptable substitute for articulating an actual coherent thought, all the way up to, most recently, local dimwit columnist Nonmonkey using scare quotes around the word "illegal" in the phrase "illegal immigration," as if that somehow has the effect of repealing hundreds of pages of statutes in the United States Codes with one swipe of his drool-encrusted word processor.

More and more, we are seeing tepid little rhetorical flourishes - or worse, cliches - being used to fill a void where an argument or a useful piece of information used to be found. Maybe it's intellectual laziness. Maybe it's just an easy outlet for visceral rage in fora that were traditionally the milieu for responsible, rational (if often very very wrong-headed) discourse. But several items I saw in the Strib recently spanked this idea of the "death of meaningful rhetoric" out of my subconscious and into the fore.

Here are just two more examples of this new empty rhetoric that I saw yesterday. Do not consider these to be even remotely exhaustive.

First, you can never go wrong with a Strib institutional voice editorial. In this one - the 3,598th installment in their series of "Dangerous Things the President Is Doing" - Jim Boyd et al. lament Bush's executive order rearranging the line of succession for the Secretary of Defense. Any portion of this "editorial" would do to make my point, but this graf is the best:

But Bush went further: He bumped the Army, Navy and Air Force secretaries far down the succession list to make room for three Rumsfeld acolytes who also worked for Vice President Dick Cheney when he was defense secretary. This has the effect of replacing three officials whose focus is on the military with three Cheney-Rumsfeld lieutenants whose focus is on White House ideology.

Huh?

First of all, note the loaded words: "acolytes" and "lieutenants," to create the mental picture of an organized crime scenario.

If you translate this paragraph, what you get is this:

Bush rearranged the line of succession to the Sec. Def's position to move certain people he -the President - appointed up the chain, resulting in others whom he -the President- appointed moving down the chain.

The resulting net effect is that some people whom the President appointed because they presumably shared his philosophy are now closer in line to succeed the current Defense Secretary than they used to be, and others whom the president appointed because they presumably shared his philosophy are now further down the list.

Or you could make it even more readable by just writing:

In keeping with his constitutionally mandated authority to administer personnel of the executive branch, the President shuffled the line of succession to the Secretary of Defense. This is an affront to Jim Boyd's sensibilities since all of those people on that list presumably agree with the Administration's policies to one extent or another.

Number two (there was going to be more, but again the Strib didn't see fit to post some things on it's online edition, plus I have only a finite amount of time) proves that this new trend is not restricted to political talk. Yes, for the first time ever, I give you...

Dear Abby:

QUESTION:
I am an armed forces veteran who spent a tour of duty in Iraq in 2004. *** When I returned from Iraq on mid-tour leave, I gave[my son] the uniform jacket I wore in combat with all the rank, flags, name tags, etc., on it as a gift. I know from my own youth that I would have been proud to have had something from my uncles or father that they wore during the war. Jon started wearing it as soon as I gave it to him, and I was proud of him to do so.

have not seen him much since my return to the United States from the war. However, I did see him a little over a month ago and noticed that he's still wearing the jacket. My wife says he wears it often. He has written an anarchy symbol in permanent marker on the American flag on the right sleeve under my combat patch. I am angry and disappointed, but I didn't make waves. I am not sure how to handle this, and I'm afraid that a returning soldier may take one look and vent his problems from combat tour of duty on my son.

What was Dear Abby's response?

Hint: You hear this whenever some jerk is trying to defend his own idiotic offensive behavior. And it's never relevant or meaningful in these contexts.

Give up?

FREEDOM OF SPEECH!

Great advice! Now the poor guy knows that he can't have his ingrate son thrown in jail for being a jerk.

Oh, and then there's the obligatory "talk to him".

Vacuous. As substantive as a KAR podcast.

In the pre-Nonsubstantive Era, the advice would have been:

Kick the little twit in the crotch (assuming he has anything there), tell him that he is an insulting and ungrateful shitbag, and while he's writhing on the floor in pain, take your jacket back.

Kick him in the gut before you leave, for good measure.

That's substance.

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