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  • Too Much Political Dog Language

    Posted by David Foster on November 5th, 2008 (All posts by )

    In 2004, I wrote about dog language and political language:

    When you talk to a dog, you don’t have to worry a lot about using syllogisms, complete sentences, good analogies, or crisply-argued chains of logic. What he’s looking for is keywords…particular words and short phrases…like “nice doggie” or “here” or, especially, “dinner.”

    It strikes me that, increasingly, the way in which politicians address the American people is very similar. It’s enough to say the words that are supposed to elicit the conditioned responses…”jobs” or “health care” or “education.” There is increasingly litle effort to specify exactly what cause-and-effect relationship will cause these good things to come to pass, and why one approach might be better than alternative approaches. This behavior is most noticeable among Democrats, but is by no means totally absent among Republicans.

    Both Obama and McCain used political dog language in this campaign. Because of his superior oratorical skills, Obama could pull it off better. I think McCain would have been better served by cutting down on the dog language a bit and making more actual arguments on behalf of his policies. With regard to energy, for example, he spoke about the need for nuclear and wind and solar and all kinds of other sources, maybe including gerbil-powered treadmill generators. Which comes across as a grab-bag of ideas and probably also makes people think, “Well, with all those options, nuclear can’t be all that important.”

    It would certainly have been possible for McCain to come up with a three or four sentence explanation of why wind and solar are not a complete answer…like, “When you want to wash your dishes at 9 PM, the sun may not be shining. When you want to run your heat pump on a snowy, icy day, the wind may not be blowing.” He would still have had an uphill battle, because wind and solar have been invested with a quasi-religious significance (as long as they stay theoretical), but would have done better than with the grab-bag approach. The same in other policy areas.

     

    4 Responses to “Too Much Political Dog Language”

    1. Anonymous Says:

      “Both Obama and McCain used political dog language in this campaign. Because of his superior oratorical skills, Obama could pull it off better”.

      Actually he never needed to pull off anything better. His every word was doted into soaring rhetoric by a fawning set of jackassess known as “media”.

      Secondly; “It would certainly have been possible for McCain to come up with a three or four sentence explanation of why wind and solar are not a complete answer…like, “When you want to wash your dishes at 9 PM, the sun may not be shining. When you want to run your heat pump on a snowy, icy day, the wind may not be blowing.”……..Try to imagine the new-york-timesmagazine-news-weak-wapo-nbc response to that little condescending fireside advice to the obviously ignorant ist and 2nd story park-bencher,and/or liberal college mind that elected him and gobbled every rejoinder as posted, spun, hidden or ignored.
      My conclusion is that the art of reading between the lines has joined the lost art of reading the lines at all in our young.
      I have an ex wife that was so skilled. She actually told me once that she did not think me short when we met, merely farther away. I knew this to be a lie but the charm of it was irresistible. The resulting eight year relationship was devoid of the promised, ( really, do I recall any promises she made that did not echo from inside my expectations?)
      So Mr O describes himself. Whatever you would like to see, ( and hear).
      Perhaps then a smaller paycheck and few jobs for the rabid grad will debunk the path chosen.

    2. Jaime Roberto Says:

      The “dog talk” line reminds me of some network commenter, who said something along the lines of “With McCain we never knew what his message was, while Obama’s was very clear and consistent: Change”. All Obama had to do in this election was repeat the word “Change” because he know nobody would ask him what that actually means. Much the same with “Jobs”, “Education” and “Health Care”.

    3. david foster Says:

      One way to detect financial scams, and legal but unwise investment programs, is the emphasis on ENDS over MEANS. Let’s say the brochure or the TV ad harps on things like “pay off your bills,” “retire at 40,” “travel the world, with visual images to match–but doesn’t devote anywhere near as much attention to HOW these benefits will come to pass…you should probably use extreme caution.

      I think the same is true in politics.

      Kind of like the underpants gnomes:

      Phase 1: Collect Underpants
      Phase 2: ???
      Phase 3: Profit!”

      Phase 1: Elect me
      Phase 2: ???
      Phase 3: Universal prosperity and happiness!

    4. David M Says:

      The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the – Web Reconnaissance for 11/07/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day…so check back often.