Saturday, October 02, 2004

The origins of talking points

Recently, I've been listening a lot to Air America Radio. It's pretty addictive, especially listening to Randi Rhodes, who is on via live computer stream from 12-4PM PT, or tape-delayed on the new AAR affiliate in town, The Quake (AM 960). I enjoy listening to Randi, even though she's one of those aggressive smokers who thinks anti-smoking laws are akin to facism, she doesn't like the Grateful Dead, and thinks the Band isn't a good Southern rock band. The last point is not to defend the Band's Southern rock cred, but to point out they're almost all from Canada!

Anyhoo, one of the things Randi does is recommend things to her audience, and she's been talking a lot about the 1976 Movie Network. In this world of Fox News, the concept of the news department being controlled by the corporate powers is no longer fantasy, but has come to pass big time. Just listen to Ned Beatty's rant from the movie, and you will hear a classic.

One of the movies that I am continually reminded of lately is Z, from 1969. It's based on Greek politics, but Greece is never mentioned in the movie, and that doesn't really matter. The thing I bring to the table here is how the ruling junta would go around giving talks about the opposition, using key slogans and code words that you would hear repeated later in the movie. Now I don't know the etymology of "Talking Points," and I'm sure in one form or another the concept has been around since speech began, but it seems the recent push to keep hammering away on talking points has reached a special level of critical mass.

In the recent Bush-Kerry debate, John Kerry discussed the scenario when a preemptive strike would be justified, his actual words were: "But if and when you do it, Jim, you've got to do it in a way that passes the test. That passes the global test where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you're doing what you're doing. And you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons."

Immediately George Bush began the process of misinterpretation, and said "Let me-I'm not exactly sure what you mean: passes the global test. You take pre-emptive action if you pass a global test?" At first blush, the confused Bush perhaps was remembering all those pesky exams he had to take in school, as if Kerry was suggesting that the president needed to take some sort of test before he could take action. In a speech in Columbus, OH today, George Bush twisted Kerry's words even further: "When he laid out the Kerry doctrine, he said that America has to pass a global test before we can use American troops to defend ourselves,...When our country is in danger, it is not the president's job to take an international poll, the president's job is to defend America."

The simplest of sentence analysis shows Kerry is speaking about taking an action that is justifiable after the fact. George Bush is pounding away at the image of America having to wait to act, until this mysterious 'test' has been passed. It's a pretty straightforward corruption of what Kerry says, but in this day and age, if you say it often enough, if you can get your operatives at Fox News to say it often enough, it must be true!

So, that's enough for now. If you like political thrillers, rent the movie Z, if you find yourself at the proverbial water cooler listening to someone parrot the talking points about the Global Test, you should disabuse said parrot of these ideas!

No comments: