Sunday, February 09, 2014

Want to ban some words? Here are two

Here's an idea: Next person that wants to use "flip-flop" in the mediated presentation of American political discourse has to buy an ad for it.

The Herald's presentation here represents a collision of two basic news ideologies; the mandate to be impartial and dispassionate runs into "shun euphemism and tell it like it is." In this case, the wrong one wins, and the candidate who's doing the pandering comes off better for it:

Republican Gov. Rick Scott pounced on Crist’s latest Cuba remarks.

“Our nation is great because we were built on a foundation of freedom and democracy,” Scott said in a statement released Saturday afternoon. “That is not true in Cuba and we should not pretend it is. The importance of maintaining the embargo is that it stands for the Cuban people's right to be free.”

Allow a normative suggestion from your editor here. Sometimes political elites change their stances on public issues for craven, self-serving reasons. Sometimes they have better reasons: The evidence changes, the cultural context in which evidence is interpreted changes, a family member falls in love with someone of the wrong hue, whatever. Rather than bellowing "FLIP-FLOP," that's the sort of decision we should actually let audiences make up their own minds about.

Don't we have some sort of duty to the public here, though -- some mandate to point out when a flip-flopper is flip-flopping, on grounds that he (or she, a condition the article distinctly fails to take into account) might do so again? Well, sort of. But it might be more productive to ask: Why? Is there something else he's going to stop being stupid about in the immediate future?


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