Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Monkey is French?

I know that slanted messages are in the eye of the beholder, but I'm still not sure I'm seeing things clearly after reading this article. Here's my attempt to be objective in analyzing the word choices:

The article is rather tame (interesting word choice of my own, I must admit) until the paragraph beginning with "Mary Shelley..." The phrase "Playing Creator" is unusual because the normal phrase is "playing God", yet the "C" is still capitalized, making it a proper noun. Looking later in the article, however, the use of "Creator" distinguishes it from the "evangelical Christians" who are "exploiting God." Thus, by saying "Creator" she is using religious, as opposed to Christian, terminology. Not that "God" is a uniquely Christian term, but in the context in which she uses the two words, it is.

I realize, once again, that this is a news story and that it will most obviously reference modern events. However, the "tricky" consequences of "Playing Creator" apply only to actions of the W. administration. Such a narrow selection, four events (the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the democratization programs therein, North Korea, Abu Gharib, and the insurgency) from the current administration is biased in its selection. A balanced sample of events (and also a better proof) of the trickiness of "Playing Creator" would involve historical examples, such as democratizing Japan and Germany, international examples, such as Britain's pacification of the Malaya insurgency shortly after WWII, and examples from other administrations, and examples of successful experiments. Of the four, furthermore, the Chimerical creations and their consequences, which is the ostensible subject of the article, North Korea and Abu Gharib do not qualify.

The term "injecting" is also strongly slanted. "Injections" have connotations such as shots, needles, pain, etc. Try the sentence with different words, "President Bush's experiments in Afghanistan and Iraq created his own chimeras, by infusing feudal and tribal societies with the cells of democracy..." Or "President Bush's experiments in Afghanistan and Iraq created his own chimeras, by grafting feudal and tribal societies to the root of democracy..." Or "President Bush's experiments in Afghanistan and Iraq created his own chimeras, by planting in feudal and tribal societies the seed of democracy..." Or alternatively, "President Bush's experiments in Afghanistan and Iraq created his own chimeras, by forcing on feudal and tribal societies the instability of democracy..." Different meanings. (By the way, it is my considered opinion that every society is ready for democracy, it's just that the elites, those with power under the old system, that are not ready.)

Here's a sentence that I misunderstand entirely, "In dealing with Bush, real weapons trump imaginary - or chimerical - ones." Chimerical weapons? Weapons put together from pieces of other weapons? Huh? Rocket mounted machine guns? Huh? I'm guessing it's a stylistic thing, but it confuses me.

Here's a list of slanted terms in the rest of the article:

Mutant (refering to the GOP): bad connotations since the 1950's.
Old Guard: entrenched interests--connoted with political machines, elites, power politics, etc.
Exploiting God: entire paragraph that follows.

"A spine-tingling he-monster with the power to drag us back into the pre-Darwinian dark ages is slouching around Washington. It's a fire-breathing creature with the head of W., the body of Bill Frist, and the serpent tail of Tom DeLay."

For those of you who like Latin, that's called an "Ad Hominem" attack. In parental terms, it's name-calling. In my terms, even on the opinion page, it's an affront to journalism and scholarship.

4 Comments:

Blogger Noumenon said...

"In dealing with Bush, real weapons trump imaginary - or chimerical - ones."

Chimerical also means fanciful, so this is actually a bit of clever wordplay. Too bad it's drowned in the swamp of Dowd's muddled, innuendo-filled rambling. I think you're analyzing her in the correct terms when you choose to analyze the slant of her language, because the words are obviously chosen entirely for their slant and not to convey any logical argument. I hate Dowd. Although the country might be better off if all editorial pages were covered with Lewis Carroll-style spew like hers so people could see the lack of intellectual integrity more easily.

1:10 PM  
Blogger Noumenon said...

I realize, once again, that this is a news story and that it will most obviously reference modern events.

I don't think I'd ever call an editorial a "news story." They're not fact-checked, they're biased, they're opinion, not news. Here's what a "news story" about chimerism looks like:

> "Dr. Ann Reed, chairwoman of rheumatology research at the Mayo Clinic, who uses sensitive DNA tests to look for chimerism, finds that about 50 to 70 percent of healthy people are chimeras. The more scientists look for chimerism, the more they find it. It seemed not to exist in the past, she said, because no one was explicitly looking for small amounts of foreign cells in people's bodies."

The foreign cells are passed on from the mother or from a twin that was conceived with you but later absorbed into your body. --http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/10/health/10bloo.html

9:45 PM  
Blogger Hamlette said...

Waaaaah, your link won't work for me! It asks for a name and password and stuff :-( You didn't happen to save the article somewhere, did you?

On the other hand, I'd probably be more interested if you just summarized it for me. But the reference to Mary Shelley intrigues me...

3:44 PM  
Blogger Noumenon said...

For cheating your way into sites you don't subscribe to, try BugMeNot.com. It'll give you a fake user ID and password. Because even though NYT registration is free, it's still too much trouble until you're sure you're going to go there more than once.

2:18 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home