Saturday, June 9, 2018

"Everybody," "Nobody," and Other Absolutes in The Age of Ads and Trump (repeat post)

CAUTION: Repeat rant from recovering English Teacher trying to get people to cut back the BS of everyday semi-communication.

What's on my mind is the click-invitation Link title (different from the article title) in the e-mail to me from THE NATION for current stories: "All Eyes Are Now on Robert Mueller [...]" / [by] GEORGE ZORNICK

Uh, no; "All Eyes" are not. Not even all human eyes among American adults. This is part of the "EVERYBODY/NOBODY" problem where we habitually forget to mention the population of which EVERYBODY is or is not doing something (etc.) and how the hell we might be able to know.


This is not a good thing, and how not-good has become especially clear the last couple of years.

* Politically-involved people tend to think *everybody* is politically involved. That's patently untrue: check out the large number of Americans who don't even bother to vote.

* Politically-involved people of Leftish persuasion can come to think that *everybody* is ready to impeach Donald Trump or struggle to retain the Affordable Care Act, or whatever. Unfortunately, "whatever" can include such delusions as some activists in the late 1960s thinking the USA in a pre-revolutionary state. We were not, as the 1972 Presidential election convincingly demonstrated.

*Everybody* they knew was ready to "take it to the streets": (1) probably not, even among those they knew; (2) they didn't know enough people, or a statistically useful sample.

* Donald J. Trump is on an extreme of the continuum, but there is a continuum of everyday, hyperbolic bullshit that American speakers of English (and probably others) clearly tolerate way too much. Your kids tell you "But *everybody* in my class is getting tattooed," and you know to tell them, "Name two." Try similar challenges when adults (with less excuse than kids) hit you with AdSpeak, CoachSpeak, CampaignSpeak, AcademicSpeak — all those "disruptive interventions" by just a journal article — CorpSpeak, and similar fonts of hyperbole and other usually misused figures of speech. The road to Trump was paved with sloppy use of language (superlatives anyone?) and bullshit clich├ęs like, "Since the beginning of time" — Really? Is that since the Big Bang or the rise of human consciousness (for highly local, subjective time), or even the last odd 6K years for a popular Mythic Time? "We want 110%?" — Uh, huh: You're saying you want a blank check on my time, right? "The worst/best _______ ever." (1) Again, probably not. (2) Something doesn't have to be THE WORST EVER!!! to be very, very bad. The pizza you're selling doesn't have to be the best in this arm of the galaxy to be a good buy: In a big city, as MAD Magazine pointed out long ago, best on the block is probably good enough.

People who (figuratively) bend over backwards not to offend their auditors on identity grounds should take at least a bit of care not to offend their auditors' intelligence.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Donald J. Trump and Military Science 101

In Military Science 101 at the U of Illinois in 1961, we were "discussing" — getting Socratically quizzed on — military preparedness. Our instructor, the Professor of Military Science and Tactics and head of the Army ROTC unit, asked what sort of preparedness the US should pursue.
First guy he called on (and we were all guys) said the US should be able to defend ourselves "against any conceivable attack." The PMS&T asked/challenged — "Invasion from Mars?" And the student answered back, "I said 'conceivable' ... Sir." "H. G. Wells conceived of it, and it's been a popular literary theme ever since. Should we prepare for invasion from Mars?"
The instructor kept pressing the point, which I enjoyed (although I came to understand better why the Athenians poisoned Socrates) until he finally got a class consensus that we should fund the military to where we could defend the US against attack from any country or any group of countries including every other country. 
The PMS&T then paused and said something like, "Well, aside from any ethical qualms you might have fighting for a country that couldn't find a single ally on the planet — thank you, gentlemen: in your little frenzy of patriotic zeal you've just bankrupted the Republic. (beat) It was a trick question; you had to have read the assignment, or thought. It's a political question and a diplomatic one: What more precisely does the President and the Department of Defense want to *do* with the military, and what allies can we get — and what will they go along with."
Colonel Ramrod (my very private name for him) thought 18-year-olds should be able to figure out on our own that the US needs allies, or read, already, our goddamn assignments in the US Army history of the US Army and see that that was the assumption by US military folk pretty much since the US got in the Great Powers business.
I think Cadet Trump missed that class.