Friday, September 28, 2007

Rambling Man Why Don't You Settle Down

A Samefacts reader has one question and Three hypotheses

I have a question that’s been bothering me about the Ahmadinejad visit press coverage, and actually all coverage of middle-eastern political figures/terrorists, etc. I couldn’t figure out who to ask, so I thought I’d throw it out to you and the reality-based community to solve.

Ahmadinejad’s speech at Columbia was universally described “rambling”. Bin Laden’s last tape was described as “rambling”. Al Sadr’s speeches are invariably described as “rambling” Go back a couple of years and Google Saddam Hussein’s speeches, and THEY’re all described as “rambling”. Why is this?

Two bullets tagging 3 testable hypotheses follow. The one which has some, uhm empirical support is

* They all really do ramble. Is there something about being a dictator that discourages you from being concise? No one dares edit your speeches? If so, one would also expect a high incidence of rambling by faculty of Western universities. Oh, wait ...

I'm inclined to expand on that point for an hour or so, but I will resist and get to prof. Kleiman (who wrote a filibuster once and would know about hypothesis 3)

I have a fourth hypothesis [and a fifth], based on the fact that while the public seemed to like Bill Clinton's speeches, the press often described them as over-long (I don't know whether the word "rambling" was used): political reporters suffer from attention deficit disorder and dislike complex exposition. [* new paragraph needed] I also suspect that "rambling" is intended as a euphemism for "incoherent," just as "controversial" is journalo-euphemese for "crooked" or "scandal-prone."

The last suspicion is almost certainly correct. Such euphemisms are not just silly, they are dangerous as they make it possible for reporters to effectively libel public figures by calling them "controversial" because they are controversial and say a speech is "rambling" because it was rambling. Thus, for example, the totally obvious observation that Speaker Pelosi is, like all politicians of any stature, controversial, was a way to insinuate that she is "controversial" that is rapidly destroying her political career.

On the attention deficit disorder, I sympathize with the MSM journalists and appeal to Kevin Drum for his usual bit of MSM bashing bashing.

THE DEBATE....There are times when I really admire the fortitude of mainstream reporters, and last night was one of them. For the first time in a while I watched one of the Democratic debates, and by the end I felt like I was in a total fog. What would I have done if I had to write a thousand-word summary to make the next day's paper? I couldn't even figure out enough to say for a blog post.

They seem like hyperactive children, but they are in the tough position of having to summarize a lot of words with a few words. Thus every new topic raised is a new challenge. Once, I had the humiliating experience of listening to a speech by a prime minister and then being asked by a journalist what he said. She wanted a quick summary. I had just listened not separating the wheat from the chaf. This was around 199 something low and the point was the European community had better not cut aid to former Portuguese colonies to give it to Eastern (and Central) Europe in transition from communism. Also that the concept of social solidarity is very nice but better not get in the way of hard nosed policy making. On the spot, however, I was on the spot.

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