Friday, February 25, 2011

Quotes, Scare-quotes, Whatever

This today from Ann Althouse who cites a passage from left-wing Salon and then offers comment:
Writes Justin Elliott in Salon:

A person at a Tuesday town hall with Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., got up and asked, "Who is going to shoot President Obama?"

The exact wording of the question is not clear because, the Athens Banner-Herald reports, there was a lot of noise at the event. 
If you don't know the "exact wording," why do you have some words in quotes? This non-quote has gone viral in the leftosphere, the leftosphere where no one seems to mind all the violent and over-the-top language and imagery at the week-long Wisconsin protests. If you don't have that quote, why are you spewing it out there? Maybe what hasn't changed post-Tucson is you?
Good point. But there's more to this than meets the eye, journalistic, legal, or otherwise.

While she's got a good point here, Ann makes a common observational error that most conservatives are prone to make. Let me explain.

A great many conservatives are conservative precisely because, either accidentally or on purpose, they've somehow managed to obtain a classic liberal arts education. This tends to make them:

  • Skeptics at the very least
  • Reasonably well versed in the rubrics of law and journalism (Althouse is, in fact, a law prof.)
  • Reasonably well versed in the skills of writing and grammar
Any journalist, or lawyer for that matter, knows that if you enclose a person's words in quotes, the convention is that those are the precise, exact words that person said. This is called a direct quote for obvious reasons. It's straight out of the proverbial horse's mouth. It's what a person said, no more and no less. If you didn't quite hear (or record) what a person said, you have to paraphrase and say so in some way, shape, or form.

I'm going to go out on a limb here. But in my recent experience, pretty much anyone who's 40 or under these days has received an "education" only in the sense that he or she has acquired one or more appropriate pieces of paper certifying the given level of "achievement." In other words, such individuals, through no particular fault of their own, are no longer aware of the finer points of language and communication arts.

It is entirely possible that the writer Althouse cites does not have a clue that his use of quotation marks above is, by his very admission, not an exact quote. But he encloses it in quotation marks because it approximates an alleged direct quote and because the individual in question did apparently say something. And because, most importantly, he doesn't have a clue as to correct usage.

I know, I know. Some lefties do, in fact, know the rules, but choose to flout them, the better to obscure the boundaries between truth and fiction and the better to remain in ideological service to the ruling class. But in point of fact, the bulk of errors of this type committed by the left are errors caused by pure ignorance. Since smearing conservatives, libertarians, and tea partiers has been ordered by Party apparatchiks, than the minor details of the smearing are not really relevant to the ideology. The whole idea is to get the smear out there and push it early and often. Further, most of those who are receptive to the smear don't really care about the grammatical, legal, or journalistic details. They just tweet or blog the smear and it goes viral. The hell with the details.

The real story in many of the anecdotes flying about in the wake of the ongoing attempted leftist putsch in the Midwest is one of ignorance. We're dealing with complex issues here which the left is cleverly propagandizing and oversimplifying while also attempting to change the subject. Their attack plan is almost puerile, but it's been effective. The MSM ignoramuses misreport what's going on. The conservative side of the isle is viciously slandered and misrepresented. And the union recipients of the message, by and large, no longer have the educational tools and training to cut through the crap--or you wouldn't see so many demonstrators turning out for these events. They'd already have figured out this Marxist-Leninist violence and obstructionism is actually not serving their own interests in the long run. But, having systematically been denied the tools that used to come standard with a liberal arts education, they just can't see what's really going on.

Fortunately, an emerging majority of Americans are now beginning to see the light, if only instinctively at this point. But we need to recognize that the complexity of the issues involved here make it tough to gain new converts from the middle and the left. Perhaps it's time for conservatives and libertarians to let go of their customary tendency to be reasonable, civilized, and polite--a tendency that allows the violent left to roll all over them and make them look bad every single time. Wiser conservaties are stealing a page out of Alinsky and using the left's same tactics back against them.

Althouse's approach is reasonable here. But we're probably at the point where, if we don't start fighting fire with fire, so to speak, conservatives will politely lose again--at precisely the moment when the hard left--which has been gradually destroying the USA for over 50 years--is ripe for a final, definitive defeat.

BTW: On those quotation marks. You'll note that I myself use them to surround individual words like "education" and "achievement." I'm using them here because I'm using these words in an ironic sense, the same way I write "global warming," which I regard as a farce propagated by the redistributionist left. Quotes in this case are called "scare-quotes." Now, I have no idea why they're called that. Nor do I think this particular usage is described in most old-fashioned grammar books. But this particular usage has nothing to do with the direct quote issue we're dealing with above. Just thought you'd like to know. I do try to stay consistent.

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