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  • Thursday, October 21, 2004


    How to Talk Like a Conservative (If You Must) (updated)

    UPDATED: This is an interview with my current favorite political person and cognitive linguist, George Lakoff. Here's a bit from the intro to the interview How to Talk Like a Conservative (If You Must):

    According to Lakoff, the red state-blue state split is deeper than most Americans realize. He described its dimensions in his earlier book Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think, which combined postmodern discourse theory with what might be called the “Who’s Your Daddy?” theory of American politics. The essence of Lakoff’s analysis is this: liberals and conservatives inhabit two opposing moral universes defined by competing visions of the ideal family. Conservatives subscribe to a “strict father” model that emphasizes discipline, self-interest, and competition. This is what makes George W. Bush tick. (That’s Bush the politician, not Bush the dad. Lakoff is careful to point out that these are political models, not descriptions of how people actually run their families). On the other side, liberals believe in a “nurturant parent” model with an emphasis on empathy, community, and fairness.
    The title of the interview is obviously a play on the title Ann Coulter's new book, How to Talk Like a Liberal (If You Must). I haven't read any of Coulter's books but from the excerpts I've read she certainly seems to specialize in, um, overstatement is the polite way of phrasing it. I don't really like saying bad things about women but she seems a little...buggy. You know what I mean? I'm not a medical professional but she may also have a slight overproduction of bile. Here are some quotes from the link to her book above because she speaks quite explicitly for herself:

    Her 9/11 comments: “I am often asked if I still think we should invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity. The answer is: Now more than ever!”

    The state of the Democratic Party: “Teddy Kennedy crawls out of Boston Harbor with a quart of Scotch in one pocket and a pair of pantyhose in the other, and Democrats hail him as their party’s spiritual leader.”

    The “Treason Lobby”: “Want to make liberals angry? Defend the United States.”

    I think you get the picture. She seems to have a scathing and vicious verbal wit (qualities dear to my heart) but it also seems relatively shallow in focus and designed to evoke kneejerk responses rather than debate. This pithy exchange comes from Media Matters for America:

    LINDA VESTER (host): You say you'd rather not talk to liberals at all?
    COULTER: I think a baseball bat is the most effective way these days. [FOX News Channel, DaySide with Linda Vester, 10/6]

    As Monty Python might put it: Not a phil-o-so-pher. Nietzsche was a phil-o-so-pher. I haven't read or watched much of this strain of right-wing pseudo-populism but my impression is this is a common approach. It's a form of oratory monologue, a kind of stand-up comedy. I'm reminded of Jeff "You might be a redneck if..." Foxworthy. "You might be a liberal if you hate America. You might be a liberal if you use a Bible to scratch between your legs! Hyuck-hyuck!"

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