‘Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed, will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten. Already, in the Eleventh Edition, we’re not far from that point. But the process will still be continuing long after you and I are dead. Every year fewer and fewer words, and the range of consciousness always a little smaller. Even now, of course, there’s no reason or excuse for committing thoughtcrime. It’s merely a question of self-discipline, reality-control. But in the end there won’t be any need even for that. The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect. Newspeak is Ingsoc and Ingsoc is Newspeak,’ he added with a sort of mystical satisfaction. ‘Has it ever occurred to you, Winston, that by the year 2050, at the very latest, not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we are having now?’
from Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell
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You’re a homophobic bigot if you believe there is such a thing as “traditional marriage.”
So says commissar Jamison Foser of the George Soros-backed slime factory Media Matters for America who fancies himself to be an enforcer of linguistic correctness. The more media figures listen to him, the more they will find themselves needlessly walking on eggshells.
This lexical thug who would no doubt be a fascinating psychological case study has taken it upon himself to decide which phrases you are allowed to use when discussing marriage in the battle over same-sex marriage. In the process he demonstrates his complete lack of understanding of the process of word-creation.
Foser’s argument boils down to this: traditional marriage is by definition anti-gay and hateful. Therefore, if you support traditional marriage you are a homophobic bigot worthy of ridicule and ostracism. This means you, inhabitants of the 30 or states who have chosen to define marriage traditionally.
A personal note before I deconstruct Foser’s utterly irrational argument: as someone with a foot in both the conservative and libertarian camps I am torn on the issue. I like traditional marriage as an institution and recognize that it is socially beneficial but at the same time I recognize that a nation founded upon freedom of contract can hardly deny people the ability to make contracts about their domestic relationships. An argument can be made for both forms of marriage, but that’s not the purpose of this post.
But unlike me, Foser’s not conflicted at all on the issue. He’s determined to promote his vision of marriage and smear anyone who disagrees with him, logic and reason be damned.
Incredibly, in a blog post titled “MSNBC’s Brewer adopts anti-gay rhetoric,” he faults MSNBC’s Contessa Brewer for saying this in a segment about Maine voters striking down a law allowing same-sex marriage: “And today you can add Maine to a long line of states, about 30 so far, where voters have chosen to define marriage traditionally: The union between one man and one woman.” [emphasis added]
Foser is shocked! Shocked!
Somehow this is “conservative framing,” Foser writes. He argues that the phrase
“Define marriage traditionally” is straight out of the anti-gay movement’s talking points. They work the phrase (and variations of it) into everything they say about the subject.
And it isn’t accurate or neutral language.
Traditional marriage isn’t “accurate” or “neutral” language? How’s that?
In the United States marriage has traditionally (i.e. by convention or custom) been between an individual man and an individual woman. This is an undeniable fact.
Some people in “the anti-gay movement” (a movement Foser doesn’t define–I suspect he really means everyone who disagrees with him on this issue) may indeed use the phrase traditional marriage or variations of it in “everything they say about the subject,” but so what?
What are we supposed to call traditional marriage? Perhaps Foser would prefer the redundant opposite-sex marriage or heterosexual marriage.
Then Foser unveils a bizarre unsubstantiated etymological conspiracy theory. He writes
It is telling that the construction “Define marriage traditionally” is a relatively new one. If you go back a decade, you’ll be hard-pressed to find many uses of it (or variations of it) in the media. A Nexis search for “marriage w/5 tradition! w/5 defin!” returns only 317 hits from prior to the past 10 years.
No, the phrase is new — cooked-up by anti-gay activists, because they know “deny gay couples the right to marry” doesn’t poll as well. So why is an MSNBC anchor adopting it?
Cooked-up by anti-gay activists? He offers no proof for his wild conjecture (and his Nexis search results don’t support his argument).
Of course the phrase traditional marriage and variants of it weren’t in the vernacular years ago. Words and phrases normally aren’t created in English until there is a need for them. It is only in recent years that the idea of people of the same sex getting married to each other began to be taken seriously by Americans as a concept. (The terms polygamy, polyandry , and the pejorative bigamy all predate modern America so Americans didn’t need to invent them.)
Instead of Foser’s wacky theory, a far more likely explanation is that in an American context there was no need to differentiate between one man/one woman marriage and other manifestations of marriage until the last few years. Americans commonly understood that marriage referred to a legally recognized relationship between a man and a woman.
Now that the idea of a person of one sex marrying a person of the same sex is a popular topic of conversation, Americans commonly use the term same-sex marriage. It’s not a smear just as traditional marriage isn’t a smear.
Foser then tries both to cloud the issue and to slime people who use the phrase “traditional marriage” by bringing in racist “anti-miscegenation” laws that barred marriage and sex between opposite-sex partners of different races for much of America’s history:
It’s not like it’s accurate. It wasn’t too long ago, after all, when laws in America defined marriage as the union of one white man and one white woman, or of one black man and one black woman. That was the “traditional” definition of marriage in America, until people saw the light. Now they want you to believe marriage has always been defined the same way, so they can claim tradition is on their side. It isn’t true — but MSNBC anchor Contessa Brewer parrots their rhetoric.
What exactly does Martin Luther King have to do with the push for gay marriage?
First, tradition doesn’t necessarily imply good. In fact, in some contexts (e.g. medicine, information technology, foot-binding, creating castratos) tradition implies bad. Tradition, for whatever it may be worth, is on “their” side. Second, the issue of same-sex marriage has nothing to do with inter-racial marriage. The national debate is about whether people of the same sex should be allowed to marry each other, not about the race or ethnocultural roots of the would-be marriage partners. Third, in America marriage has always been defined the same way with respect to the sex of the marriage partners. Fourth, Brewer isn’t parroting anyone’s so-called rhetoric. She’s simply expressing an idea using a widely accepted phrase. That doesn’t make her a practitioner of the “anti-gay rhetoric” referenced in the headline for Foser’s blog item.
Foser the dictionary-wielding hyper-political hit man is using a rhetorical technique to associate traditional marriage with racist laws long ago repealed. This is patently absurd. This red herring is calculated to make the well-intentioned, weak-willed, and feebleminded throw their hands in the air and surrender rather than risk being labeled a racist troglodyte by Foser.
This ugly approach is par for the course for Media Matters for America. The group is all about intimidating journalists and forcing them to toe the politically correct party line
Headed by former journalist and confessed serial liar David Brock, the extremely well-funded Washington, D.C.-based group tied to George Soros is in business to attack conservatives. That’s all Media Matters does. It is openly partisan, a fact acknowledged even by the New York Times.
It’s worth noting that Foser also has no idea what the term “statistical insignificance” means.
I don’t claim to be an expert in statistics but I seem to know more about the subject than Foser does.
Foser mocked me personally (headline: “Smarter right-wing hacks, please”) for criticizing his lame defense of the radical advocacy group ACORN.
I took issue with his assertion that the undercover ACORN prostitution sting videos were meaningless because in his words they showed that “a statistically insignificant number” of ACORN’s low-level employees had behaved “badly.”
Either Foser doesn’t understand the concept of statistical insignificance or he threw out yet another rhetorical red herring on purpose.
I explained that in statistics a result is considered statistically significant if it is unlikely to have occurred by chance.
Was it a matter of chance that the 10 ACORN employees shown in the videos behaved badly? (It may actually be 11 if you include the person –not shown in any video — who filed the false police report about a “verbal disturbance” in Philadelphia on July 24 .)
Foser is asking people to believe that the bad behavior of the 10 ACORN employees shown in the video is a fluke. Foser is arguing that there were only a few bad apples in ACORN and they just happened to stumble in front of James O’Keefe’s hidden camera.
Then there’s Foser’s argument that we can’t know whether the sample of 10 employees is significant because O’Keefe and his fellow reporter Hannah Giles may be withholding other videos that don’t show ACORN employees behaving badly.
Even if O’Keefe shot other videos showing 10 different ACORN employees behaving well, the on-camera examples of ACORN employees behaving badly would still be statistically significant because the data are unlikely to have occurred by chance.
Media Matters can’t come up with anything substantive to say about its client, ACORN, so it’s engaging in nitpicking and misdirection.
The most valid observation Foser could come up with was his comment that I should have expressed “a thousand,” as in the baseball aphorism “batting a thousand” as “1.000” instead of as “1000.”
My bad, but that’s the best Foser, formerly research director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), could do.
That’s the Media Matters way: obscure the real issues with little sideshows.
Foser also feigned outrage at my characterization of his venomous writings on liberal talk show host Chris Matthews of MSNBC whom he considers a traitor to the left because he said a few nice things about George W. Bush — one of which was that Bush seemed like a nice guy. At Media Matters you’re not even allowed to like a political adversary on a personal level. Vilification is required.
Foser accuses me of putting words in his mouth. I didn’t — but if I had it would probably be an improvement over the drivel he normally writes.
(For more on Media Matters, read my Townhall magazine profile of the group.)