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.

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