Palin is Right

In case you haven’t caught this flap, Rahm Emmanuel, well known for his, ah, “colorful” oratory, was quoted referring to Republicans  Democrats as “retarded” — and Palin jumped, criticizing him, Rush Limbaugh by proxy, and maybe even Glenn Beck, for translating a group descriptor into a pejorative.

Good! This marks the first time I’ve agreed with Sarah Palin, ever, but it’s a good place to start. I wonder if she’ll join me in expanding her horizons, to cover other insulting middle school slurs?

“That’s so gay” presents the same harms — maybe even more. But I won’t hold my breath. Ah well. One more.

UPDATE: Palin, or Palin’s aides, wimped out of attacking Limbaugh. Apparently, bad language is only offensive to her if it (1) affects someone she [supposedly] cares about, and (2) is spoken by an ideological opponent. Failure of either condition renders the comment acceptable.

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22 comments

  1. “That’s so gay” is much worse than “That’s retarded.”

    Don’t get me wrong; using “retarded” as a pejorative is not cool. Retarded does not equal stupid, but it does mean developmentally challenged. Denotatively, it isn’t good to be retarded, however you slice it, but it’s certainly not something to be disparaged.

    However, the way “gay” is used by so many in society, particularly in youth culture, goes beyond pejoratives. Anything that one doesn’t like is labeled as “gay,” thereby equating “gay” with everything negative.

  2. We agree here. As one of my favorite people ever used to say, your computer isn’t gay. It’s broken.

  3. It was the Democrats he was referring to, not the Republicans.

    “Emanuel had referred to a group of liberal Democrats as ‘retarded’.”

    http://www.latimes.com/news/nation-and-world/la-na-emanuel5-2010feb05,0,5770709.story

  4. Hey dummy, he was referring to the wingnuts on your “progressive” side as retarded.

    Nice lie factory you got going here. Hang out at DU much?

    Liar.

  5. Well, Russ should probably try the decaf, but the substantive objection is correct: Emanuel was referring to liberal advocacy groups running ads critical of Democrats who failed to support health care reform.

    As usual, Matt Taibbi scores a bulls-eye on this one. Sarah Palin does have an almost magical ability to turn any genuine issue into a phony controversy about who is being mean to whom. That Palin can be as successful as she has been with this strategy of relentless trivialization makes me wonder if our society is free-falling toward total boobocracy.

  6. Yeah, thanks to all three for the correction, but Russ, there’s a difference between a lie and a factual error that, while important, doesn’t alter the substance of the argument. Which one was this?

  7. In my case, the correction was merely an aside. No one believes that Sarah Palin was exercised over the substance of Rahm Emanuel’s comment.
    Instead, the interesting part of the story is how perfectly this serves as an example of Palin’s signature political tactic — that is, the elevation of some personal injury to the absolutely most important issue at hand OMG and the substitution of that injury for whatever actual issue was being discussed. In this case, the icing on the cake is that Palin’s outrage is very likely feigned. According to America’s favorite sperm donor, Sarah has been more than a little bit, um, insensitive herself on occasion:

    She’d come home from work looking for her son Trig, he said, and she’d ask, “Where’s my retarded baby?” She would apparently use the term regularly to refer to the child, who has Down syndrome. “She’d say it kind of regularly. I think she was joking, but that doesn’t make it right.”

  8. Look, I’m not a troll. I’ve just been around the block enough times to know that Liberals, almost as a rule, will lie unabashedly to make a point. In that respect, I applaud you for being part of the 1% with enough integrity to make the correction.

    Your site just happened to be listed right above mine on Technorati’s ‘sarah palin’ link and your first sentence was the previous, uncorrected version.

    Suffice to say, if I started responding to all the nonsense in the previous three commenters threads, you’d have easily the longest comment thread in your site’s history.

    I’ll leave with this:

    “there’s a difference between a lie and a factual error that, while important, doesn’t alter the substance of the argument.”

    If you believe that, then are you prepared to admit that W never told a single lie to the American people regarding the invasion of Iraq?

    If not, then you’re a liar too. And a hypocrite.

    Russ

  9. A lie about Iraq that didn’t alter the substance of the argument would be, “We should invade Iraq; it snows there all the time.” A lie about the reason for invading is one that does go to the substance.

    Just so, I was wrong about who Rahm insulted, but it didn’t alter the conclusion that he was wrong, and Palin was right to call him on it.

  10. “A lie about Iraq that didn’t alter the substance of the argument would be, “We should invade Iraq; it snows there all the time.” A lie about the reason for invading is one that does go to the substance.”

    Oh for fuck’s sake. Why did I subscribe to this thread and start drinking.

    W never lied about anything, if that word is to have any meaning. Your snowfall metaphor is idiotic at best. If there was anything about the invasion, it was a factual error. At best.

    The invasion itself, regardless of how it was sold, was the correct move. Period. And I’ll do you one better; we need to invade Iran post haste, or at least be ready to back up Israel unconditionally if they do, because Obama’s stupid diplomacy, as was inevitable, has failed miserably.

    Tell me another one smart guy.

  11. Russ, you’re an asshole.

    On topic, Palin doesn’t give a damn about the use of the word “retarded.” She saw a political point to score and she took it.

  12. Evan, you know I agree. She just happened to chance upon a good point in her blind thrashing for purchase.

    And Russ — failure to acknowledge serious doubts about intelligence counts as willful blindness, which I call as bad as lying when it leads to war. The world is better off without Saddam, no question, but that’s not a reason to go to war. I’d quote Gandalf, but that’s not the point either: America has neither the resources, nor the willpower, if we were asked candidly, to police the entire world, and if we wanted to start somewhere, there were more pressing concerns than Saddam.

    And Israel will never fall while America stands. Fact.

  13. “On topic, Palin doesn’t give a damn about the use of the word “retarded.” She saw a political point to score and she took it.”

    Evan,you’re an idiot. o/t

    hmmm. I have to wonder whether my picking through your trash means I have a bead on you, assuming I find out that you call your child ‘boobie’ or ‘dumbass’. Really? That’s the best you have? A mother of 5 saying ‘where’s my retarded baby’?

    Reach on Reachy McReacherson. Your Reach is the salt of the Earth.

    Look at yourself. Why are offended by anything? Especially from a woman you’ll never know.

    Oh, right, it’s the hypocrisy. My bad.

    Define it, in modern “progressive” terms, then we can debate it.

    Until then, I remain invested in this thread,

    Russ

  14. Hm. I am torn about this. I mean, “gay” or “cunt” is one thing, as using these qualifier to say that your opponent is an idiot amounts to saying that gays and women are idiots. If, however, you call your opponent an idiot to say that he is an idiot, should then all idiots be able to feel slighted? There must be some way left to say something like that, because it can be objectively true. Like, say, in Evan’s case when he asserts that all liberals lie all the time. Somebody who thinks that is objectively an idiot or retarded, so why equivocate?

  15. I’ve wondered about that before, Mintman. I think it’s that, when we say “you’re retarded” in this context, we’re not just saying “you have an IQ below 70”. It’s being used pejoratively – there’s an added “…and you should feel bad” at the end of it, as if the person’s stupidity is a moral failing. But we don’t think that people who are clinically retarded ought to feel that they’re bad people because of it, and we don’t (or ought not to) feel contempt for clinical retards in the way that we do for pejorative “retards”.

    In fact, the pejoratives “idiot” and “retarded” are almost never directed at people who are objectively clinically retarded. And I think we know this. What we really mean when we call someone (pejoratively) retarded is that they have the capacity to act more intelligently but are failing to do so. I think it’s worthwhile to use a word for this that doesn’t come across as saying that being clinically retarded is something to be ashamed of. “Idiot” probably works fine – I don’t think we associate that with a particular group of people anymore.

    I suppose there’s another time we can legitimately insult someone’s intelligence, and that’s when they’ve pursued a position for which intelligence is a significant asset and you’re discussing their qualifications. Given that we actually had good reason to think that Bush was making poor decisions and wasn’t actually capable of making better ones, it made sense to pejoratively call him an idiot. Call this the Dunning-Kruger sense of “idiot”. This is also what’s going to pop up all the time on the internet, with people thinking that they’re qualified to expound authoritatively on a state of affairs when they’re really only embarrassing themselves. But even here, “retard” is only rarely appropriate. It’s simply not true that someone has to be clinically retarded to believe that “all liberals lie all the time”, for example.

    1. Yes, that is probably the reason, and you are probably right that this makes idiot much less problematic than retard. Nevertheless, I doubt that people using “retarded” in this way betray the same kind of discriminatory worldview as does somebody who calls his opponent a cunt. But that is just a feeling, and not being a native speaker of English I may not be the best person to assess this.

      It’s simply not true that someone has to be clinically retarded to believe that “all liberals lie all the time”, for example.

      Not necessarily clinically retarded, of course. But this opens the can of what exactly stupidity is, and we could likely fill a 100 comment thread only discussing definitions.

      For example, most would agree that it is stupid if someone is plainly too dumb to grasp an issue. What, however, about somebody who would have the cognitive abilities to grasp it but makes a half-conscious decision to ignore all evidence contradicting their biased view? Is that still stupidity or already malice? Or why not both? Well, you could argue that somebody calling all liberals liars might simply be a troll, and that it were malice; but if somebody honestly tailors their worldview in that way, I think that they are, in the long run, shooting themselves in the knee as they will make suboptimal decisions (if only as voters). It’s like the difference between somebody too dense to understand the bus schedule and somebody stubbornly not bothering to consult it – in the end, they both miss the right connection, and that is stupidity, only different forms of it.

      1. Nevertheless, I doubt that people using “retarded” in this way betray the same kind of discriminatory worldview as does somebody who calls his opponent a cunt.

        True, but that’s a little beyond the point. The perspective of a listener is important here, and there are a few listener perspectives to consider.

        First, if a listener is himself clinically retarded, then the use of the pejorative is at least confusing if not offensive.

        Second, a listener might not be able to discern that the speaker does not hold a general malice towards clinically retarded people, since it is plausible that they might even though it’s probably not the case. A careful speaker would use a more appropriate insult so as to not be misunderstood.

        Finally, the listener might be the childeren of society in general. As with the perjorative use of “gay,” it sends the wrong message to people who don’t know any better.

    2. The concept just needs to be qualified a bit. For instance:

      ‘The position that “Liberals, almost as a rule, will lie unabashedly to make a point” is politically retarded.’

      There we go.

  16. There is also an asymmetry to the direction in which stupidity and political views are associated.
    We might apply John Stuart Mill’s famous dictum to one of Russ’ comments above and note that, although we couldn’t reason from his conservatism to his stupidity, we can observe from internal evidence that he is not the sharpest knife in the box, and thus most likely conservative.

    And … guess what!

    Another victory for Bayes’ theorem.

  17. Honestly, I think the idea that I should care whether or not someone’s offended by my choice of adjectives (or nouns) is pernicious.

    1. Please don’t use that word. It’s disrespectful to pernicious people. They can’t help being the way they are.

      1. Lanfranc, you made me smile.

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