If it's over there, we can describe it.
One of Polistra's main themes is our absolute unwillingness to label things accurately, and our seeming inability to find distinct words for distinct things.
But there's one very large exception to this problem.
When describing American politicians, we can't seem to go beyond Republican and Democrat, despite the complete merging and crossover of those names. And, as is well known, the label is only used when it makes a Republican look bad. Our media will never describe an American politician as a Marxist, a Huey Long Populist, an Agrarian or a Wilsonian; nobody bothers to invent or apply new labels like a 'Lantos Hawk' or a 'Closet Craig', which could be useful if we used labels at all.
Yet we use a full range of accurate and descriptive terms for foreign politicians and parties. Same with political and economic systems, degrees of corruption, and the need for specific solutions to specific problems. All of these remain floaty, gauzy and vague for American situations, all are listed concisely for foreign situations.
In today's Rose Garden press conf, Bush illustrated this contrast perfectly within two answers to one reporter. April Ryan of 'Urban Radio' asked two questions: "When will you finally use the word recession
?" and "What can you tell us about the situation in Zimbabwe?" In response to the first, Bush hemmed and hawed, finally mumbling something like "You can call it anything you want." In response to the second, he gave [by his low standards] a remarkably crisp and accurate description of Robert Mugabe and his opponents, with full attention to the brutality and corruption of Mugabe.
It's always like this with our politicians, experts and media. When the subject concerns this benighted and borderless blob of Terra Incognita that sprawls somewhere between Mexico and Canada, we get a vague wave of the hand, or a Delphic utterance that must be interpreted by finding the omissions and variations from the standard code book. When the subject is anywhere else we get precise nomenclature, meaningful information and commonsense assessments.
Well, why is this bad?
The whole point of having newspapers, radio, and TV is to provide useful feedback to the people and to the leaders. And I mean feedback in the strict engineering sense: a signal that tells us the distance between the current situation and the desired or proper situation. When politicians and media hand us nonsensical and empty crap, the people will latch onto paranoid conspiracies which satisfy the hunger for solid mental nutrition.
You won't tell me what's happening? That's fine, I can learn better from Rev Wright. Or Rev Robertson. Or Imam Zawahiri. Not to say that those three are equivalent, but each will serve up a spicy full-course meal of "knowledge", some
of which is genuinely and observably more accurate than the establishment swill. That's why it's bad.