A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Friday, August 28, 2009

Eke and Eye

John McIntyre on the cliche beat:
Two articles in this morning’s Baltimore Sun reach for the same cliche with reference to the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy:

BOSTON — In an extraordinary outpouring of public emotion, thousands of people in Massachusetts solemnly lined highways, overpasses and city streets Thursday to pay their last respects to Sen. Edward Kennedy, the last patriarch of America’s most storied political dynasty.

And:

And with the loss of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., and his storied ability to eke out bipartisan compromises, lawmakers are eyeing those consensus proposals. ...

The advice sometimes given to aspiring writers that they should avoid adjectives is like a fad diet — Atkins or South Beach — that rules out a whole class of foods. But it is true that some adjectives are empty calories, and storied is surely one of them. Like prestigious and legendary, two other adjectives that crop up in the work of unimaginative writers, it says merely, “I’m writing an important story about somebody you should have heard of.”

Of course, the first example is constructed almost completely from prefabricated material. Extraordinary outpouring of public emotion turns up whenever a crowd gathers, especially if they are outdoors to pay their last respects. And if this storied figure is also a patriarch, then he must be part of a dynasty.

It pretty much writes itself.

The other article — after revealing that Mr. Kennedy was a Democrat from Massachusetts — refers to his storied ability to eke out compromises. The phrasal verb to eke out, which originally meant to supplement by meager increments or to stretch out a small supply, has come to mean to accomplish with great difficulty, and no one has any business insisting on the older sense. But I thought that compromises were hammered out in the smithy of the Congress.

Sometimes the writer reaches for the wrong cliche. But eyeing, at least, is pure journalese.

Why I Worry So Much

Have we forgotten the schoolchildren who cheered when they heard that John F. Kennedy had been assassinated? Or maybe you never knew about that; after all, it was two generations ago -- people now in their mid-40s were infants in 1963. It's us old farts who remember the climate of hatred back then.

But then the hatred seemed to be localized primarily in the South. Now, there are pockets of it everywhere. And the reason, I think, is that we now have media devoted to ginning it up -- talk radio and Fox News. There are people all over the country credulously hanging on every word spewed by Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Sean Hannity, and the increasingly loony Glenn Beck.

Here's Beck's latest, as reported by Steve Benen:

The good news is, nearly four-dozen advertisers have now pulled their sponsorship of Glenn Beck's deranged Fox News program. The bad news is, Beck's ratings have gone up, in part because he's acting like an even bigger lunatic than usual, and clowns doing funny dances tend to draw a crowd.

Yesterday was especially astounding. He argued on the air, for example, that President Obama intends to create a "civilian national security force," which will be similar to Hitler's SS and Saddam Hussein. Apparently, this has something to do with AmeriCorps, which Beck initially said has a $500 billion budget. (He corrected himself later in the show, though his guest didn't blink when he originally made the claim.)

Towards the end of the show, after scrawling on a variety of boards and pieces of paper, Beck summarized his key observation. On a chalkboard, Beck had written the words, "Obama," "Left Internationalist," "Graft," "ACORN Style Organizations," "Revolution," and "Hidden Agenda." If you circle some of the first letters of these important words, Beck says, it spells "OLIGARH." Beck told his viewers there's only one letter missing. If you're thinking that letter is "c," you're not medicated enough to understand Beck's show.

The missing letter is "y," because the word he hoped to spell is "OLIGARHY." No, that word doesn't exist in the English language, but that's probably because the dictionary was written by some communist community organizer who wants to keep Glenn Beck and his viewers down.

The quote of the day, however, came towards the end: "I'm tired of being a sheep. I'm tired of being a victim. I'm tired of being pushed around. You know what? The gloves come off."

Glenn Beck is a "victim"? Why is it that disturbed right-wing nuts always feel sorry for themselves? Beck is very well paid to say crazy things on television.

What's more, his minions take his insane tirades seriously. Whatever Beck says on Monday gets repeated by unhinged crazies on Wednesday.

Beck is getting worse. I can't help but worry that it's only a matter of time before he hurts someone.

Actually, I think it's more likely that the "unhinged crazies" who follow him, and Limbaugh and Savage and Hannity and their ilk, crassly spewing all manner of ideological filth, will hurt someone. They've already hurt political discourse in this country, turning a major political party into a rabble of know-nothings. Physical violence is the next logical consequence.