Monday, September 25, 2006

Monday with McKenna: Much Ado About Nothing

New mystery quote: This week, one of the true greats speaks to us from the banner, across the ages and right unto our own time and place. As we will see later this week, he might as well have been writing from Washington somewhere over the past five years. As always, you are welcome to enter your guesses into the Comments.

The incompetence of tyranny, example no. 1,793: so you deliver an anti-American speech at the UN; and by a strange coincidence, the no. 2 man in your government is then detained and nearly sent to Gitmo. Whoops, we didn't mean anything by it. Sure we didn't.

The incompetence of tyranny, example no. 1,794: your intel agency is only about three years and a hundred miles behind those left-wing idiots in the blogosphere. Thanks for telling us everything we've been telling you all this time. Is it finally official now, that the Iraq war has exponentially compounded the threat of terrorism, and will continue to do so as long as we keep it up? Now, what might this tell us about possible next steps? Think carefully before you answer, now: maybe a few hundred more meetings and another thousand page report will get you there. Meanwhile, soliders and civilians keep dying, while terrorist insurgents multiply like bunnies.

I can't wait to see how the neocon press spins (or more likely ignores) this one. In fact, they're likely to follow their usual reaction pattern, which Mr. Terry McKenna has been studying. Here he comes now with his own report.

Today my subject is political writing and the thinking behind it. Most political statements are bundles of mush that at their best are poorly written and at their worst, deceitful. This doesn’t have to be so. One of the best writers of English prose was George Orwell. He was foremost a literary critic but he also was a committed political thinker. He is, of course, famous for two political novels: ANIMAL FARM and 1984.

George Orwell admired writing that said something in an original way with imaginative imagery. His essay on writing should be studied by all of us who labor in the Blogosphere.

I thought I would critique a few sample political phrases to see how well they are written. This may seem counter to our purpose here; most might think that we are more interested in the thought than in its sloppy expression. But I disagree. We have reached the point where much of what is said is purposely constructed to hide the meager thinking behind it. Thus, words, phrases and paragraphs are strung together to form the appearance of an argument where none exists.

As you read each passage ask yourself these two questions: 1) what is the writer trying to say? and 2) does he accomplish it?

I went to the GOP’s website for my samples. Although both parties avoid genuine ideas in favor of misleading verbiage, I selected the Republican Party because they have made so much of their being the party of ideas. Even mainstream news writers will routinely describe Republican ideas as forward thinking and optimistic – and focused on an agenda (is Agenda the buzz word for this decade?). That the current Republican agenda is to screw the rest of us seems not to matter.

The three paragraphs selected were carefully designed to be used as starting points for letters to the editor. If you’ve never been involved in partisan activities, you may not know it, but political parties and interest groups are constantly circulating talking points (or even whole letters) to their followers and urging them to send the proposed letter to their local newspaper. My assumption in regard to the three paragraphs is that they were very carefully drafted – and so deserving of careful scrutiny.

The first paragraph is about the war in Iraq - “Victory Plan in Iraq”

President Bush has a clear plan for victory in Iraq that begins with training Iraqi forces so they can defend their country and fight the terrorists. We are making tremendous progress towards this objective. Earlier this year, Iraqi forces led the fight in clearing out terrorists during the crucial battle of Tal Afar, with U.S. troops in a supporting role, and every day, Iraqis are taking more control of the situation on the ground. Withdrawing from Iraq, as some Democrats in Washington propose, would send a dangerous signal to our enemies that we cut and run when the going gets tough. President Bush is offering a clear strategy to win, not a political quick fix.

Based on the title, you would have thought that the writer would offer an insight into how the US might turn the war around – but this didn’t happen. Instead, we got a string of sentences that included keywords and phrases but came to no conclusion except that the Democrats will cut and run. The purpose of this sort of prose is to erect a cloud of distraction. By the end of the 115 words, you almost forget that there is no plan. Or perhaps the president’s plan is to keep repeating a failed strategy until—until what?

The second one deals with the economy. It’s title: “Build a better tomorrow for our children and grandchildren”

America's growing economy requires a flexible, highly skilled workforce, and the President is committed to providing American workers with the training that they need to succeed. President Bush has put forth an ambitious agenda to ensure that America's economy remains the most prosperous in the world and believes we must ensure every adult can access the training necessary to close the skills gap in America.

But how? What skills gap has the president identified? For example, should we train more machinists? or computer programmers? And what are we doing for workers who lose their jobs – especially in the mid-west as our remaining manufacturers close or move off shore? Again there is no answer. Of course, the federal government has only a small part to play in education, but why pretend to accomplishments that don’t exist?

Here is the last one on Homeland Security: “Protect the Homeland”

President Bush is committed to keeping the nation strong and secure through strengthening our military, deploying a missile defense, strengthening the NATO alliance and supporting military families and veterans. The President is committed to promoting an independent and democratic Iraq to ensure further stability in the Middle East and the world on the whole.

Again, what question is being answered? If a strong military is enough to protect us from terrorists (and we know that it is not), then we are in big trouble now, since our military is far overextended. And what do we make of the reference to missile defense – does this help, and does it work? No: missile defense does not stop terrorism, and No, the system as it exists doesn’t really work either. Again, we have a collection of unrelated concepts that are strung together into one paragraph with the hope that the reader would forget that they don’t come near to answering how the Republicans intend to counter the terrorist threat.

It is election season. The Republicans are intent upon delivering the impression that they have something to say. As we can see, they do not. My only wish is that the Democrats did!

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