March 18, 2012
The Master of WordsBy Cindy Simpson
Words appearing on a computer screen, printed on paper, or spoken through a microphone hold a certain measure of power on their own. But when skillfully controlled by a master, words can unleash the potential for absolute power.
In Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, Wonderland's "Master of Words" reveals that simple truth to Alice:
Although Carroll's Wonderland series is popularly considered children's fiction, that particular quotation, as noted by Dr. Jacco Bomhoff in the ComparativeLawBlog, has actually been cited in several important court decisions discussing the interpretation, construction, and retrospective application of law. Bomhoff concluded:
It goes without saying that a system of government limited by checks and balances between its branches has the potential for tyranny if anyone in authority is permitted to hold absolute power as such a master. Aided by a biased media, the potential is limitless.
Law professor Ilya Somin, author of "Originalism and Political Ignorance," asserts that efforts to "pin down an original meaning" of broad words and phrases used in our Constitution, such as "liberty," "property," and "equal protection of the laws," are made more difficult by "widespread public ignorance" and "low-knowledge voters."
Will Rogers, once known as the "voice of the average citizen," confessed: "All I know is just what I read in the papers, and that's an alibi for my ignorance."
Although it is hard to imagine confusion (anywhere besides Eric Holder's Justice Department, that is) over the meaning of a word like "equal," since two things are either the same or they're not, Mark Twain once wisely remarked: "The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter -- 'tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning."
The analysis of the precise meaning of a seemingly insignificant word like "is" was truly a large matter for a past president. The complete absence of certain words or key phrases may also point to serious consequences in other matters of law. A recent example: a Georgia judicial opinion that ruled in favor of the "natural born" presidential eligibility of Obama which cited as primary support a prior decision that did not specifically address the relevant term "natural born." The court assured us that the omission was "immaterial," a word choice that would likely make Wonderland's egghead proud.
The mainstream talking heads find that some words and adjectives are only objectionable depending on the party affiliation of the one using them or the one being described. Liberals condemn right-wing commentators' characterizations of Obama's mentor and racialist Derrick Bell as "racist," but fail to recall their own depiction of thousands of Tea Partiers as "racist" "teabaggers."
Writing in FrontPage Magazine on Derrick Bell's words (the ones Obama told us we should open our hearts and minds to), Daniel Greenfield reminds us that Obama once said: "Don't tell me words don't matter." Greenfield agrees: "The words of [Obama's] mentors have rooted hate so deep in the black community that it has become a cancer[.]"
Back in 2010, Catholic Online editor Randy Sly also agreed with Obama on the importance of words: "Words matter -- listen carefully to our current administration." In his column, Sly presciently warned of the implications of the replacement of the phrase "freedom of religion" with "freedom of worship" in several of both Obama's and Hillary Clinton's speeches. Sly noted: "A purposeful change in language could mean a much narrower view of the right to religious freedom." And indeed, two years later, Obama's tangle with the Catholic Church over his contraceptive mandate exemplified the progressive notion that religious exercise should be limited to worship within the physical confines of the church, as opposed to "the right to express religious beliefs in the normal discourse of life."
Masters of words carefully construct not just speeches but also headlines and titles, forming them into signposts that direct the reader to the desired viewpoint. Carol Brown noted the slant of a recent Yahoo headline, "Israeli PM's gift to Obama raises eyebrows," which linked to an ABC News article on the subject. According to Brown: "Whose eyebrows were raised and why is never explained. Yahoo flung out their headline among the deluge of headlines we see in the elite media that warp the truth."
The new 17-minute Obama film, titled "The Road We've Traveled," is "being marketed as a documentary." Reporter Keith Koffler also noted: "The problem with this documentary is that it's a lie. It is not a documentary. It is an extended campaign commercial, pretending to be a documentary." Depending, then, on one's perspective, a more apt title might be: How Far We've Fallen.
"Was That Twitter Blast False or Just Honest Hyperbole?" was the title of Adam Liptak's column in The New York Times that described a court case in Ohio under its laws prohibiting false statements in campaign speech. Challenges such as "You lie!" uttered in Ohio or one of the 16 other states with similar prohibitions, while perhaps considered disrespectful in certain settings, carry the weight of law -- but also the risk, according to Justice James M. Johnson, that "...the government, rather than the people, may be the final arbiter of truth in political debate[.]" According to Liptak, Mark Miller, the twitterer in question, "said he had thought about who should decide which side is right in a political campaign. 'That's the voters' job.'"
Voters, well informed of the shortcomings of GOP candidates as revealed by the media's diligent and intense vetting, are shortchanged when the mainstream media fails to similarly investigate Obama. Instead, the mainstream works 24/7 deflecting words of criticism away from all media portals, while the Obama campaign maintained a website to "fight the smears" in 2008, and this time around, a site that asks voters to watch for "attacks."
Conservative pundits note the hypocrisy; liberal pundits defend the difference. And both sides seem to insist that the amount of money spent by either political party will ultimately determine the outcome of the election -- as if voters are simply swayed by the size of campaign coffers and the number of words they buy.
"We hid this during the election," asserted Harvard professor Charles Ogletree, describing the Obama/Derrick Bell tape. The similarly protective attitude of the media was evidenced in the subsequent coverage of the tape's release by Andrew Breitbart's team. More of the same behavior was witnessed in the media's blackout of the Georgia ballot challenges and its spin in the reporting of Arizona Sheriff Arpaio's Cold Case Posse press conference.
Control of the conversation is the top priority of the establishment and the mainstream media. As Michelle Malkin wisely noted, "When you vet the president, you vet the media. And they don't like the narrative table-turning one bit."
Especially when the narrative's tables are turned over to reveal the inconvenient truths lurking beneath them.
The keynote speaker at Harvard's controversial "One State Conference," professor and historian Ilan Pappe, was recently accused of fabricating an important quotation attributed to David Ben-Gurion. Janet Tassel closed her column on the conference with a quotation attributed to Pappe: "We do [historiography] because of ideological reasons, not because we are truth seekers...There is no such thing as truth, only a collection of narratives."
If we fully buy into the popular notion of relativism, then objective truth cannot be identified, and every word, every statement, every narrative has the potential -- in the control of an unchecked master -- to become so slippery that it falls between our fingers even as we attempt to grasp its meaning.
Recall the ultimate demise of Wonderland's Master of Words, Humpty Dumpty: He had a great fall. Even though Humpty had arrogantly operated under the belief that the King and all his horses and all his men would save him.
The silent majority has been roused from its sleep by this ruling administration, with its uncomfortable nudges that infringe on our definitions of freedom and liberty, and its loud footsteps that trample over our Constitution -- actions that have been obscured or spun by a subservient media.
We the People must resolve to regain the mastery over our nation's narrative -- a narrative of truth. We are the landlords, not just of the Fourth Estate, but also of the three branches that form our constitutional republic.
This election year, it is time to turn the tables and show the establishment who is the master after all.
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