Thursday, October 23, 2003

WHEN I USE A WORD IT MEANS JUST WHAT I CHOOSE IT TO MEAN. Remember the laffs right-wingers had over Clinton's "definition of the word 'is'" statement? (No need to remember, actually -- some of them are still laffing!)

That's understandable. Clinton was parsing a tiny word ridiculously fine, whereas his enemies, recent examples now show, seem to see no meaning in words at all. Or, if there is meaning, it shifts from circumstance to circumstance as needed.

First there was the fuss over the " sixteen little words" regarding yellowcake in the last SOTU. Shown that the claim therein was demonstrably untrue, conservatives tut-tutted their critics' shocking literalism. After all, they told us, yellowcake (and WMD, and whatever) were just rationales, which are not quite the same thing as reasons.

Then they told us that the President should be held blameless for any pre-war misapprehensions about the Iraqi threat, despite all the scary fairy stories about Saddam he had told us, because he never once used the word "imminent."

Now Minister of Information Reynolds is doing his bit for the New Word Order. Brad DeLong has pointed out that the Perfesser seems to change his interpretation of the word "stalker" based on the identity of its speaker. Nonsense, responds the Perfesser, DeLong is being too literal -- the Perfesser was engaging in one of his frequent flights of rhetorical fancy, whereas Paul Krugman is just crazy.

When they can't spin the facts, they spin the language. It seems to be working. Their frequent affronts to reason and common sense seem to be softening what few shreds of brain tissue remain in the skulls of the electorate. They've got guys like this saying with a straight (well, excepting the perpetual sneer) face that, not only was the WMD thing no big deal, the war was basically an exercise in machismo and, like, so what, dude?

How can you argue with that? You can't. Literally.

See how it works?

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