January 12, 2010
Do our words matter? Every time I’m going to publish an article, I wonder who’ll read it, whether they’ll skim through and just go for the links at the end, check out the pictures, or if they just like to see if I misspelled something. Sometimes I like to think you read these pieces and take in every word with the relish of a meal after a fast.
Writers have egos.
I’m also painfully conscious that my words could be dangerous if taken in the wrong light. I use inflammatory language and titles. Are you kidding me?
I go over a lot of possibilities for each post. Some are great. Some suck. I take more time for the content, too. As much as I want to just rant and rave Lewis Black-style, I know I have to back up everything I say with facts, with analogies, with some real-world examples and applications. I think I do a pretty good job. Yes, I let my emotions get away from me sometimes, but it’s usually a calculated demolition. It’s always as close to directed chaos as I can make it.
Others don’t make that sort of distinction.
Bill Maher made a very good point when he said that, yes, Bush was called Hitler when he was in office, much like Obama is called that now. Yeah. I remember. I did the same thing. I helped plaster bulletin boards with anti-GOP propaganda. And it was real propaganda. Pictures of Bush riding a bomb. Death tolls in Afghanistan. Equating blood and oil.
It was some pretty gruesome stuff. Sometimes I want to say and post things like that here. I want to call out the Far Right for the murdering, greedy bastards they are. I want to call Beck a rapist for taking gullible people and sweet-talking them into giving him their money. I want to call for war against rabid conservatism.
But it wouldn’t be right.
Who am I? I’m no one right now. I have readers, I have fans, but it would be a small blip. If I had a few million people following me, I could do some serious damage. And that’s the part our leaders have forgotten.
I can use the kind of language I’m using for two reasons. First of all, I know what I’m saying and what it means. I press buttons, but I know what buttons I’m pressing. As Doctor Joe Heithaus of DePauw University once told me, “The key to great writing is to learn the rules, then bend the rules, then break the rules.”
I break the rules of tact because I understand and want the kind of reaction such language creates. Others don’t do that.
Secondly, with such little exposure and power, I’m not someone who wields a lot of influence. I can say these things and they are taken as my opinion, inflammatory as they may be, because I wield no power. At worst, people think I rant.
However, put the same violent, passionate words in the mouths of high-level pundits and politicians, and imagery calling out for blood, calls of taking aim or reloading are not just a metaphor. They are a rallying call.
Metaphor, imagery, and various literary devices have their place in public discourse, but knowing how to use them is the first step in avoiding saying the wrong thing. This isn’t an accusation or an attempt to put blame on anyone for Saturday’s tragedy. But it did prompt me to think about this again.
Language is a tool. So is a hammer. But you can also kill with both.
And now let’s look at some funny things before I get really depressed.
- Real men smell like explosives, gunpowder, and a day without soap. That’s the only explanation I can think of for why anyone designed a fragrance based on 24.
- They’re remaking the Three Stooges… The Three Stooges… The Three Standards-of-Physical-Comedy Stooges and they’re getting that idiot Knoxville to play Moe?! I’m THIS close to having a brain tumor…
- Kayla Martell, a Miss America contender, is still participating despite having to shave her head for medical reasons. I think she actually looks better without hair…
- Every time I think my little 2 megapixel camera’s pretty good, I see some professional results… like this 17 gigapixel photo. Yeah, that was “giga.”
- Keanu Reeves may be the Second Coming of Christ. The man can perform miracles, as THIS photo proves.
- It takes a certain kind of class to get fired like this employee…
- To my male readers: do you pee? Do you think you pee like a man? I bet you can’t pee like this!
- And finally, if you still need a little closure from the Arizona massacre, here’s Olbermann with a surprisingly sobering message on the media’s reaction to the killings and the environment we’ve created by using violent language without realizing that violent language calls out for violence.