I know what you may be thinking by now: I thought this was a language and grammar blog, but it’s more like a language, grammar, and politics blog! That’s not true. In fact, there is no truth to the rumor that we at languageandgrammar.com are going to make an independent run at the presidency in the fall. It is true, however, that since politics is a finely crafted art of communication, there is much to be learned about language and communication by analyzing what politicians say, along with what the media reports about what the politicians say.
Garrison Keillor, the witty novelist and now political commentator, made an astute observation about how the media often portrays relatively minor discussions or altercations between two politicians as something much greater in a recent column (Lashing out at candidates for not really lashing out). Candidates no longer can question each other about policies or votes; they lash out at each other. He gives several examples in the article.
Why is that when Romney questions McCain’s record on voting for taxes, it’s considered some kind of an attack? Why is that if Clinton questions Obama’s record on war support, it’s considered an attack? Don’t we need to know the difference between candidates in order to be able to make a fair choice about which candidate we want to support?
Either simple questions have become attacks in our society (which might be the case to some degree since we can’t have problems–You Have Problems, not Issues and Update on Problems and Issues–any longer!), or the media wants to distract us from the message of the politicians, or they simply want to create the illusion of conflict where none exists because it will sell?
The reason for the change is for others to decide; I just want to point out that the media often defines conflict differently than do the rest of us.
Note: I know that Clinton and Obama had a more volatile exchange in a debate last night. That was actually the first time that an exchange between these candidates deserved to be labeled lashing out. Up until last night, however, the media mislabeled every civil discussion.
Paul’s book–Literally, the Best Language Book Ever