Friday, April 18, 2008

Bowlingual: translating Republican code words

(editors note: I hate this post. I hate the language in this post. I hate the fact that I feel the need to write this post. I hate the fact that I believe I live in a country where the things I write in this post are true. And yet, this is how I see it. When the political discourse in the country has become so despicable that merely to describe and reflect it back is to also become tainted by it, what are we to do? Ignore it? Call it what it is? Is there another option? But that's always been the Republican game plan right? To create a politics so repugnant that no one dare name the monster in the living room?)

Perhaps you've heard of the Bowlingual? It's a little electronic device invented by a Japanese toy maker that claims to translate dog barks into human language. "The console classifies each woof, yip or whine into six emotional categories -- happiness, sadness, frustration, anger, assertion and desire -- and displays common phrases, such as "You're ticking me off," that fit the dog's emotional state."

I thought it might be a good idea to apply the Bowlingual to the code words that Republicans use every election season.
The more I watch and listen to the political debate in this country, the more I think my political science professors were really over-thinking things.
The reality is that Republicans speak in code in the public square in order to get media outlets to carry their message to their base. Republicans believe that their base will respond to five "anger points" keywords. Their entire political discourse is directed to tagging their opponent with at least one of these 5 words: fag, nigg*r, bitch, terrorist, or communist. Not only do race and gender matter in American politics, the Republican messaging machine operates from the belief that race and gender are THE ONLY THING that matters in American electoral politics.

When Republicans say:They mean:
"San Francisco"fag
"Volvo driving"fag
"Latte sipping"fag
"bad at bowling"fag
"out of touch"fag
"$400 haircut"fag
"Breck Girl"
"her voice is grating" bitch
"ball buster"bitch
"attended a madrassa"terrorist
"partied with Bill Ayers"terrorist
"no flag lapel pin"terrorist
"hates America"nigg*r
"hates our troops"nigg*r
"hates the flag"nigg*r or terrorist (you choose)
"doesn't reflect our values"nigg*r
uppity negro
"engaging in class warfare"communist
"big government"communist


1980Jimmy Carter fagRonald Reaganmanly man
1984Walter MondalefagRonald Reaganmanly man
1988Michael DukakisfagGeorge Bush, Sr
manly man
1992Bill Clintonmanly manGeorge Bush, Sr.
1996Bill Clinton
manly man Bob Doleold
2000Al GorefagGeorge W. Bushmanly man
2004John Kerry
George W. Bushmanly man
Barack Obama
John McCain

In the last few weeks, the Republican propaganda machine has rolled out the 'Obama is a terrorist' narrative. And it didn't seem to stick. So now, in the last week, the NY Times, ABC News, Wall Street Journal, National Review etc. have been rolling out the 'Obama is a fag' narrative. It's doesn't seem to be sticking either. But Republicans are gonna keep rolling out "fag", "nigg*r", "bitch", "terrorist", "communist" over and over and over between now and November to see if they can get any of them to stick. That's their drumbeat. If they get them to stick, they win. If they don't they lose. Clearly George Stephanopoulos and Charles Gibson got the memo.

Any talk of economic policy, foreign policy, domestic policy is all just dry ice smoke for the magicians. Republicans know that their base votes on the basis of one of those five anger words and all of their narrative about policy is really just designed to tag their opponent with one of those five words.

David Brooks, Bill Kristol, and George Will package these coded memes and distribute them to the wealthy and the powerful. Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, Chris Matthews, and Joe Scarborough market these five words through their cable "news" shows. Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, and Don Imus peddle these five code words to regular folks who get their news through the radio. Michele Malkin and Ann Coulter market these five code words through blogs and interview appearances.

Update #1: Shakesville has a 100 part (literally) "Hillary Sexism Watch" which is excellent. They are also up to post #46 on their "Obama Racism/Muslim/Unpatriotic/Scary Black Dude Watch."

Update #2: DHinMI also discusses the use of code words in a new post over at DailyKos.

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