rhetoric

Guest Post – Is patriotism dead?

A Guest post from Reclaiming the Left. His last post is here.

Is patriotism dead?

One of the things I like about attending local Labour events is the patriotic rhetoric. There are still grassroots campaigners who really do believe in New Zealand. They are like a breath of fresh air, because you hardly ever hear similar rhetoric in the mainstream media.

As an avowed leftist, one of the things I despise about neo-liberals and their like is their rejection of patriotism. Neo-liberals have given us the global free market. They have given us outsourcing. They, in what I regard as the greatest war crime of the past 20 years, gave us the massive mercenary forces that supported the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. Every time I think the right has some good ideas (and they do), they ruin it with their successive reification of money and rejection of the nation. The right unleashed Rod Deane on the New Zealand Defence Force, and his business “acumen” stripped it of funding and devastated its morale. No neoliberal can ever understand an army.  Read more »

The “squeezed middle”

Russell Brown has his own Word of the Year contest. The UK has Oxford Dictionary choosing theirs.

Phil Goff nicked the idea from Ed Miliband in the UK, it was naff there and it was naff here. But in the UK Oxford Dictionary has named “squeezed middle” as their word of the year.

Andrew Sullivan highlights what Geoffrey K. Pullum says against “squeezed middle,” routinely used by the UK Labour Party, and of course by NZ labour and Phil Goff:

[M]y real objection is not to the feebleness and blatantly political origin of this phrase (which ordinary people are simply not using), but to the fact that it is fully compositional: squeezed just means “squeezed”, and middle just means “middle”, and if you put the two together you have the literal meaning. It is ridiculous to think of putting this in a dictionary — as opposed to a collection of political phraseology and clichĂ©.

I wonder how long before we see a speech from David Shearer bleating about the “squeezed middle”?

The Science of Sarcasm

My old man used to always comment to me that “sarcasm was the lowest form of wit”. Actually it turns out that being able to recognise sarcasm is:

…an essential skill if one is going to function in a modern society dripping with irony. “Our culture in particular is permeated with sarcasm,” says Katherine Rankin, a neuropsychologist at the University of California at San Francisco. “People who don’t understand sarcasm are immediately noticed. They’re not getting it. They’re not socially adept.”

Sarcasm recognition in politics is especially necessary. Tui Brewaries will be pleased with the research too:

Sarcasm so saturates 21st-century America that according to one study of a database of telephone conversations, 23 percent of the time that the phrase “yeah, right” was used, it was uttered sarcastically. Entire phrases have almost lost their literal meanings because they are so frequently said with a sneer. “Big deal,” for example. When’s the last time someone said that to you and meant it sincerely? “My heart bleeds for you” almost always equals “Tell it to someone who cares,” and “Aren’t you special” means you aren’t.

Where Dad used to say “sarcasm is the lowest form of wit: it seems he was wrong on that too:

Sarcasm seems to exercise the brain more than sincere statements do. Scientists who have monitored the electrical activity of the brains of test subjects exposed to sarcastic statements have found that brains have to work harder to understand sarcasm.

That extra work may make our brains sharper, according to another study. College students in Israel listened to complaints to a cellphone company’s customer service line. The students were better able to solve problems creatively when the complaints were sarcastic as opposed to just plain angry. Sarcasm “appears to stimulate complex thinking and to attenuate the otherwise negative effects of anger,” according to the study authors.

The mental gymnastics needed to perceive sarcasm includes developing a “theory of mind” to see beyond the literal meaning of the words and understand that the speaker may be thinking of something entirely different. A theory of mind allows you to realize that when your brother says “nice job” when you spill the milk, he means just the opposite, the jerk.

Yep, must use the sarcasm filter more often.

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The violence of the left wing in New Zealand

Much was made, erroneously, of the motivations of Jared Laughner. The Standard leapt straight in and branded him a Tea Party supporter without a shred of evidence, and then went on to malign and implicate Sarah Palin as well. Bomber at Tumeke also falsely brought Sarah Palin into the blame game for the crazed actions of an idiot.

Both of these left wing hate speech sites somehow connected political rhetoric with violence by someone not even connected with either Sarah Palin or the Tea Party. In fact all evidence points to Jared Laughner being a anarco-communist. That however doesn’t stop them telling the story they want to tell no matter how false or misleading it is.

The left-wing holds itself up as being enlightened, and above such violence. Their rhetoric never uses such nasty words as ‘target’, or ‘hitlist’, oh no, they hold much more considered debates with their followers. Like this poster currently adorning fences on the North Shore in Auckland

Judith Collins Shoot Yourself poster from People Not Profit Collective

Poster on North Shore, Auckland

I have no idea who “People Not Profit Collective” is but I’ll bet a million dollars that they aren’t Tea Party members or Sarah Palin supporters. If posters can make people flip out and attempt to kill politicians then this one is right up there.

I doubt though we will see any left wing blog decrying this poster though. Because, you know, they have a much higher and more peaceful level of debate than the right wing who are all gun crazy, baby eating demagogues.