Spare me the sight / of this thankless breed, these politicians / who cringe for favors from a screaming mob / and do not care what harm they do their friends / providing they can please a crowd!
Euripides, Hecuba (c. 425 BCE)
This post introduces my Blahblahblah Award, bestowed upon the politician using the most devious and manipulative language since…well, since the previous award. The grinding Presidential race will continue for many months, so there should be plenty of material.
Drum roll, please…
The first Occasional Blahblahblah award goes to Robert O’Rourke (honorable mention: Cory Booker).
Digression on political branding:
It’s OK when celebrities brand themselves – that’s what celebrity is all about. But when politicians do it, it dumbs down.political discourse. Politicians branding themselves is an exercise in vague and simplistic thinking, just as we think we’re buying a package of benefits by selecting a branded product. .
“Beto” is such an attempt to self-brand. How could somebody with a cute nickname like “Beto” be anything but a great President?
I will refer to him as “Robert.”
Don’t underestimate the power of a brand name. Trump delegitimized his opponents with grade-school name-calling, a primitive form of bestowed branding.
I vividly recall Andy Rooney’s acerbic commentary on OJ. Throughout the monologue, a stern Andy repeatedly called him “Orenthal,” deliberately denying him his brand name.
The media should avoid bestowing brand names by initializing. Does AOC rank up there with JFK, LBJ, or FDR? What other Presidents, let alone first-year Congresspersons, are referred to by initials? Every time I hear or read “AOC,” I roll my eyes at the gullibility of the media, affording her all this brand reinforcement and free publicity.
Back to the Awards.
In a recent post, I distinguished between code-switching (purposeful, social variation within one’s own language repertoire) and pandering (pretending to speak like one’s audience or otherwise unctuously trying to ingratiate oneself through the use of language).
I neglected to mention that the former could be used in service of the latter, until I was reminded by images of Robert lapsing into Spanish. There are numerous videos. Apparently it’s a habit. And it wasn’t even good Spanish!
Robert: There is no better way to exclude people. Why are you trying to divide the country?
Also: the language of public discourse is and must remain English. If this is what we can expect from you on the campaign trail, this relentless advancement of a bilingual society, then you are not for America – you are for getting votes the cheapest way possible: by speaking their language.
So yes, code-switching – in this case, between languages — can be used for pandering. It takes a special level of shamelessness to do it.
The Hispanicization of the United States is a done deal.
So let’s not accelerate it.
After complaining about the ubiquity of “to continue in Spanish, press, 2,” I became sensitized to the number of signs in English and Spanish, even in New England. It’s a done deal: huge numbers of citizens, legal and illegal, speak little or no English.
It may now be possible to engage in a wide range of public and commercial activities entirely in Spanish..
Advancing the cause
Robert is advancing the cause of creeping bilingualism, thus dividing the country. Immediately, in a flagrant rush to grovel, other candidates Twittered their own need to learn Spanish “yesterday.”
Partly out of pure political calculations, partly under the guise of cultural sensitivity, partly our of sheer need to communicate, we are now a de facto bilingual society. It’s going to be like Belgium – two language factions eyeing each other suspiciously – but a hundred times worse.
It’s ironic: Americans go abroad and expect everyone to speak English. Why don’t they require it in their own country?
You have earned it. Now stop pandering in Spanish.