Pointing to Republican victories in Louisiana and Georgia after the Nov. 4 vote, Republicans are now batting .1000 in the post-2008 era.
I’m going to remember that line every time I see a mediot use the word “decimate” incorrectly…
Pointing to Republican victories in Louisiana and Georgia after the Nov. 4 vote, Republicans are now batting .1000 in the post-2008 era.
I’m going to remember that line every time I see a mediot use the word “decimate” incorrectly…
From the AP today:
The mayor of Alabama’s largest city, Larry Langford, was arrested Monday on federal bribery and fraud charges connected to a multibillion-dollar sewer bond deal that has driven the surrounding county to the brink of bankruptcy.
Federal prosecutors in Birmingham said Langford, Montgomery investment banker Bill Blount and lobbyist Al LaPierre were charged in the 101-count indictment released Monday. The charges also include money laundering and filing false tax returns.
Langford is accused of receiving $230,000 in bribes from Blount, some of them routed through LaPierre, to influence the bond deals while Langford was president of the Jefferson County Commission. Blount’s firm made $7.1 million in fees from the bond work.
Shucky-darn, that sounds serious, if not terribly surprising. Chicago and New Orleans have nothing on Birmingham when it comes to political corruption. But hey, if it’s politics, shouldn’t at least one of these guys be part of a, you know, political party? Let’s check with CNN, the self-described “network of record:”
Larry Langford, 62, is named in an indictment that alleges criminal activity while he was a county commissioner, said U.S. Attorney Alice Martin.
As president of the Jefferson County Commission and head of its department of finance and general services from November 2002 until about November 2006, Langford put his personal affairs ahead of those of the county, Martin said.
“Our investigation has revealed, and the indictment alleges, that Langford sold his public office to his friends and political supporters,” Martin said.
Also named in the 101-count indictment are William Blount, 55, a Montgomery, Alabama, investment banker, and Albert LaPierre, 58, a Birmingham lobbyist, neither of whom returned calls from CNN.
Well, that’s odd. Still no mention of any party affiliation here. In fact, you have to go all the way down to the twelfth paragraph of the story in Langford’s hometown paper to find out that:
Blount, 55, and LaPierre, 58, have long been considered among the best politically connected players in the state. Blount is a former chairman of the state’s Democratic Party, and LaPierre is the former executive director of the party. Langford is a Democrat.
Well, go-lee! They have parties down there after all!
Anybody think those particular bits of information would have been reported by the AP or CNN if you replaced the word “Democratic” with “Republican?”
David Frum has weighed in on the election aftermath from his current perch at Canada’s National Post. Frum’s prescription is basically for the GOP to jettison Sarah Palin and her backwoods ilk, and glom on to David Brooks’ “bobo” philosophy in hopes of connecting with the electorate via a “less polarizing” message. This, Frum pontificates, is the “only hope for a Republican recovery.”
Frum has quite a history of being the GOP’s self-appointed Chicken Little. Most famously, his tome Dead Right proclaimed the intellectual and electoral barrenness of conservatism in general and the GOP in particular, and offered Frum’s own prescriptions for the renewals of both. The blurb on the original edition’s cover read, “The great conservative revival of the 1980’s is over. Government is bigger, taxes are higher, family values are weaker, and the Democrats are in power. What will the Right do next?”
Hilariously, Frum’s question was answered just over two months after the August 1994 publication of Dead Right, when a back-bencher from Georgia led a Republican takeover of Congress that lasted for nearly a decade and a half. Along the way they stopped Bill Clinton’s wave of tax increases, killed socialized medicine, ended Welfare as a permanent dole, balanced the budget for a couple of years, and later cut taxes under an eight-year Republican administration. They also did plenty of other, less salubrious things, of course, but one can imagine how far Frum’s jaw must have dropped when his soothsayings of doom were proven wrong before Dead Right–well reviewed by no less than Frank Rich–had even been remaindered.
Frum’s next book, somewhat apologetically titled What’s Right, included a foreshadowing of Frum’s recent dismissal of Sarah Palin and the flyover country folks with whom she connected with so quickly. In an essay on the not-then-completed 1996 primary campaign, Frum concluded,
Maybe we should be worrying less about the existence of elites and more about their quality, less about their excess of money and more about their deficiencies of public spirit. Maybe we should worry that American society’s primordial hostility to elites, its determination to force those elites to disguise themselves and deny their inevitable influence, nourishes their irresponsibility and stunts their sense of public obligation. Maybe we should accept as inevitable that those who care the most about politics can most effectively sway the political system, and should worry instead that this political elite itself is so easily swayed by charm and a home-state accent.
What’s funny about this and Frum’s later calls to respect the authori-tay of the NYDC political class is how he again manages to ignore the actual facts on the ground while grinding his axe against the rubes down in Mayberry. Eight weeks ago, despite all the buffoonery of the spendthrift latter-day GOP congresses, the unpopularity of the sitting president, and a gale-force media wind at the back of his opponent, John McCain was not only leading in the polls, the wildly-popular Palin nomination had even erased the Democratic margin in the generic congressional ballot.
That all fell apart, of course, but not because the GOP went hard-over in pandering to the Bubbas, but rather thanks to two specific factors, one preventable, one not. First, McCain’s aides put Palin in a box and suicidally refused to let her out for anything other than what any idiot out here in the sticks could have told them were traps: two hostile, edited interviews with old media bigwigs anxious to discredit this dangerous (to the Democratic Party) new player at all costs. Then things got immeasurably worse in mid-September, when the combination of a financial crisis (with deliberate, but of course unreported Democratic malfeasance at its heart) and McCain’s own Senate-bred response killed any hope (no pun intended) of defeating The Messiah.
None of the above, you’ll note, would have been addressed by Frum’s call to repudiate the GOP base and move on to… well, something, perhaps a nice dinner party with some of Brooks’ “bobos,” where no one ever mentions all those grubby folks out there who don’t subscribe to the New Yorker. While there’s no excusing the incompetence of the McCain’s apparatus or the limitations of the candidate himself, it’s hard to imagine how McCain could have done much better than he did, given the economic crisis that stuck a knife in his electoral chances at the worst possible moment. No amount of pandering to the elites or “new class” hipsters would have prevented that.
One might even say that Frum is… dead wrong.
On The Day After, Jonah Goldberg’s column, “Now Govern,” is as good as a place as any to begin:
[N]ow the Democratic Party is for all practical purposes America’s super-majority party. It has complete control of the presidency and Congress. It’s time to put away childish things and govern.
If Democrats govern from the center, good for the country. If they govern from their instincts, good for the Republicans.
I strongly suspect we’re going to see Jonah’s Option Number Two out of a unified Democratic government. After effectively fourteen years out of power, I do not think this bunch can stop themselves from indulging their fundamental instincts, i.e., abandoning our allies in Iraq and/or Afghanistan, yanking up taxes, slashing defense spending, regulating anything that moves and subsidizing anything that doesn’t, trying to rig election and media laws to maintain their current majorities, and seizing and/or nationalizing 401(k) accounts.
The latter, should the Democrats actually be dumb enough to try it (it’s already being pushed by leftie academics and out-there Representative George Miller of, you guessed it, San Francisco), would be an instant Waterloo for Hope and Change, at least in Congress. That kind of lunacy would never pass in a million years, even with this congress, but simply trying it would make the 1994 backlash against Hillarycare look like a mild disagreement over restaurant reservations. Given Barack Obama’s history of having a tin ear to leftie radicalism and going along to get along with the Chicago machine, I think we can expect to see plenty of such nuttiness trotted out in the next 18 months.
Here’s another big red flag to watch out for. The price of oil has dropped by more than 50% since peaking on July 14. What happened on July 14? That was the day none other than George W. Bush lifted the federal ban on offshore drilling (what, you mean you never saw that connection noted in the press? Sur-prise, sur-prise, sur-prise). Bush’s action popped the oil price bubble, and it’s been in free-fall ever since. This, of course, will not do in the eyes of the Democratic Party, regardless of the damage expensive energy does to our economy or the benefits expensive oil bestows on the balance sheets of our enemies. Appeasing the “global warming” cultists is far more important, so look for the next Congress to re-instate the ban on Day One, and then watch as gas prices start leaping up towards $4 a gallon again.
Then sit back as The Savior and his media minions try and convince the rest of us it’s all for our own good. I’ll bring the popcorn for that one.
While I suspect Obama will be a disaster for this country, I confess to being rather relieved at not having to even pretend to defend a McCain Administration for four years. After championing “campaign finance reform,” mostly in a huff over being out-raised by George W. Bush in 2000, McCain richly deserved what happened to him, namely being crushed by a wave of private money while priggishly insisting on having the taxpayers foot the bill for his own campaign.
Obama’s fundraising was certainly not all on the up and up, but his campaign’s success should have the salutary effect of ending “public financing” as anything more than a goo-goo slogan in presidential politics. Whether it will also lead to the more realistic ideal of full disclosure, well, I’m not holding my breath. Anybody who thinks Obama’s no-rules credit card fundraising will be investigated by an Obama Justice Department or Obama appointees to the Federal Elections Commission is also welcome to stay up all night waiting for the Tooth Fairy, for all the good it will do them.
Back when McCain was pushing McCain-Feingold, he used to dismiss conservative opponents who brought up pro-Democratic media bias by asking, if the bias of his media friends against the GOP was so severe, how was Ronald Reagan ever elected? As McCain should have learned by now, the reason was that Reagan could buy airtime to go over the press’s heads, most notably in the 1980 election-eve special that ran on every broadcast network (sound familiar?).
McCain’s defeat now serves as an object lesson to future GOP nominees on not one but two fronts. First, 2008 has demonstrated conclusively that Big Media is not just biased, it is part and parcel of the other side. Five of the six networks with news divisions (counting taxpayer-funded PBS), along with virtually every major newspaper and all the news weeklies served as free opposition researchers and unofficial press offices for the Obama campaign. That’s all the next nominee needs to know about how to treat with all of those organizations: as hostile forces.
Secondly, and in no small part because no non-Democrat can count on the legacy media to accurately report on either a non-Democrat’s campaign or on their Democratic opponents, it’s very clear that future Republican nominees cannot afford McCain’s self-righteous posturing on taxpayer funding. As McCain’s campaign aptly demonstrated, if you do, you’re going to be buried by the combination of your opponent’s money and the media’s cheerleading for that opponent. Felicitously, this problem has a solution that appeals to conservatives and libertarians alike: just take responsibility for yourself and raise your own money. You’d better, because otherwise you might as well not bother running at all.
There was plenty wrong with McCain the candidate beyond not having enough money and having to campaign against the press and a financial meltdown (although it didn’t help any that the press obligingly failed to point out said meltdown was caused by deliberate policy actions of the Democratic Party). McCain has always been obsessed with his own biography and reputation, and like many a decorated politician before him, always seems amazed that it isn’t enough to win a national election.
McCain proved again why so few senators (and almost no long-serving senators) win the presidency. Having been in the legislative branch for so long, where he had the ability to pick and choose which issues to focus on and which to ignore, McCain was completely unable to define any kind of platform for his campaign beyond being a “maverick.” As Mark Steyn noted today, “maverick” is an attitude, not a philosophy. That stance won him points with the press when he was poking his own party and its base in the eye, but once electoral push came to shove, that same press corps left McCain out in the cold to mumble about minutiae and process. You almost felt sorry for the guy, but he only had himself to blame for not accepting the political facts of life. In addition, McCain was simply a bad campaigner who could not shake off half a lifetime of Senate “collegiality” reflexes to take a political fight to the other side, and worse, he lacks the personal discipline to stay on message for more than five or ten minutes.
While he almost certainly would have been better for the country than Obama will be, McCain probably would not have been an effective president, and very likely would have signed on to the media definition of “bipartisanship” (i.e., Republicans deferring to Democrats) on most issues, and he would have whined incessantly about being criticized for it. I can’t make myself shed any tears over McCain’s failure. To be blunt, I didn’t want either of these guys to become president, and the real shame is that both of them couldn’t lose.
It’s telling that the legacy media is still rushing to condemn the one big thing McCain did right as a candidate, which was naming Sarah Palin as his running mate. Despite the onslaught of fanatical anti-Palin invective that’s swept the airwaves and internet over the past two months, Palin shored up a conservative base that had little interest in voting for McCain beyond, “Well, he’d be better than the other guy.” Looking at the numbers today, it’s clear that Palin’s presence on the ticket played a major part in denying Obama the landslide-level victory that so many in the media were predicting 24 hours ago.
Which brings us to the Attack Of The Snobs.
Much of the revolt of the allegedly conservative NYDC pundits against Palin can be credited, I’m sorry to say, on little more than snobbery. The leading offenders are David Brooks, who’s spent the better part of the past two decades looking down his nose at the foibles of flyover country for the amusement of the Upper East Side, and George Will, who it ought to be remembered regularly dismissed one Ronald Wilson Reagan as an empty-headed rube as far back as the late ’70’s. Brooks and Will carry a lot of weight in the big media punditocracy, and their sniffy dismissal of Palin quickly became accepted wisdom in the Manhattan/DC media corridor, even while Palin was drawing record audiences both in person and on television.
This tremendous error, I strongly suspect caused by simple fatigue over having to defend an inarticulate Texan president against endless attacks in newsrooms, dinner parties, and various social situations (“Oh, no, I’m not going through that again”), is most likely going to backfire, and badly, on the legacy commentariat. I hesitate to join in declarations of Palin as “the next Reagan” (as Glenn noted, at Palin’s current age, even Reagan wasn’t Reagan yet), but like The Ron, Palin’s popularity and appeal to the country at large trumps any derision from The Better People Who Went To All The Right Schools by a vast margin. Pointing out that Palin in 2008 was not an exceptionally qualified candidate for vice president (even while her qualifications outstripped those of the current president-elect) was a reasonable criticism. Getting on a high horse about her being a hick from the sticks with too many kids and not even a whiff of Ivy League odeur most definitely was not, and the latter is not going to age well among the actual electorate.
Obama supporter Mickey Kaus noted after the veep debate, “Big loser, again, is Hillary. In two years Palin will be so much better she won’t even be in the same league.” I suspect that will also apply to Mitt Romney and probably any other Republican who’s imagining himself mugging for the cameras on a flag-encrusted stage 1460 days from now. The lone exception might be Bobby Jindal, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Jindal winds up playing second fiddle to Palin’s star power, just as Hillary got left behind by Obama. We’ll see, but at this remote date, a Palin-Jindal ticket looks like it’d have a hell of a lot of upside.
The media is atwitter today over Sarah Palin’s pointing out something they and their candidate of choice would just as soon went unnoticed: Barack Obama’s history with Bill Ayers, late of the Weatherman Underground. Given the lack of coverage over Ayers, to say nothing of his connections to Obama, one might well wonder, what’s the big deal? Why would anybody care whether Obama was friends with some ex-hippie who protested the Vietnam War, way back when Obama was just a kid?
The answers is: Bill Ayers was more than a ‘war protester,’ and more than simply a ’60’s radical (let’s face it, Obama couldn’t set foot in a college faculty lounge without running into plenty of those). He was much, much worse than any of that.
During the late 60’s and early 70’s, Ayers and his wife Bernadine Dohrn–who herself gets way too little notice in any current reporting–were far worse than simple anti-war protestors. They were very much on the other side, actively working for the defeat of America abroad in war and the murders of Americans at home. Among many other crimes, Dohrn traveled to Cuba in 1969, where she met with Huyhn Va Ba of the Vietnamese Provisional Revolutionary Government. In that meeting, Dohrn and other Weathermen agreed to “wage armed struggle” within the United States. In appreciation for their efforts, Huyhn gave Dorhn, and later Ayers, rings forged from the metal of downed American fighter planes.
One wonders whether John McCain’s A-4, downed in Hanoi in 1967, was the source of either ring. One also wonders whether Ayers and Dohrn were wearing those tokens of fraternal solidarity when they introduced Barack Obama to the political world from their home some 13 years ago.
The excuse is often trotted out that Ayers and Dohrn weren’t so bad, since the Weathermen were so incompetent at terrorism that they only managed to kill a few of their own ranks, in a 1970 explosion. That’s errant nonsense. The bomb that destroyed a New York townhouse, and less sadly, the three Weathermen who were inside it, was intended to be set off at an Fort Dix NCO club dance. If you think Ayers and Dohrn and the other surviving Weathermen who were complicit in that planned bombing ought to be considered guiltless because the bombing was botched, you must also think Richard Reid should be set free because he too was an incompetent terrorist, one dumb enough to try and set off his shoe bomb with a match.
Of course, Reid’s incompetence, and that of Zacarias Moussaoui, are not a mitigating factors, nor should they be. Reid and Moussaoui actually got off easy. Both deserve execution; instead, they get to spend the rest of their lives looking at a blank wall in Supermax.
If any member of the press corps had a single ounce of nerve, they’d ask Barack Obama why the same fate shouldn’t have been visited on his pals from Hyde Park.
I’m not holding my breath. When the press mentions Ayers at all, it’s in romanticized terms. Too many members of our political and media elite still look on leftist terrorists as heroes, more to their abiding shame.
The number years that have passed since Ayers’ and Dohrn’s Weatherman days are likewise irrelevant; there is no statute of limitations on terrorism or treason. Another of Obama’s political patrons, William Daley, Jr. of Chicago, has the audacity (if you’ll pardon the term) to shrug off Ayers and Dohrn, saying recently, “This is 2008, people make mistakes. You judge a person by his whole life.”
No, Mr. Mayor, you don’t. Not when those “mistakes” are major crimes.
To restate: Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn should be staring at blank walls in Supermax for the rest of their lives. They are not cute. They are not admirable. They are not innocents who were swept up in juvenile enthusiasms. They are traitors who consorted with America’s enemies during wartime. They are terrorists who bombed the US Capitol, the New York City Police Headquarters, the Pentagon, and who tried to set off a bomb that would have killed and maimed dozens of American servicemen, their wives and sweethearts.
I have no particular illusions as to whether Obama will ever seriously be asked (much less answer) questions about why he ever associated with these two criminals. His flip and misleading answers to date suggest that he considers the question radioactive (as well he should), but the press, in the tank for Obama’s candidacy and still full of romanticism for Sixties “rebels” is fully intent on giving him a pass. Yesterday an AP writer even made the risible accusation that criticism of the lily-white Ayers and Dohrn is somehow “racist” (and while I’m not and probably never will be a McCain fan, this kind of crap is one of the very best reasons not to vote for Obama; four years of hearing “Racism!” uttered as a defense against the slightest criticism is not my idea of a healthy political environment).
Obama’s opponents in the primaries didn’t dare mention (much less criticize) links to the Weathermen; they were too dependent upon the loony Left for funding and activism. So now it’s left to McCain and Sarah Palin to ask the questions that others wouldn’t.
Obama’s canned response that he does not agree with Ayers and Dohrn’s actions as Weathermen is not the point; for whatever it’s worth, I believe him (although I’m not sure I’d believe a similar denial if issued by Obama’s mentor, Jeremiah “God Damn America” Wright). The point is rather why any sane American would accept being in the same zip code with these two criminals, much less launch a political career from their living room.
Despite press and candidate protestations to the contrary, Stanley Kurtz of National Review has credibly reported that Obama and Ayers had a significant working relationship since at least 1995 (Kurtz, doing the work American reporters won’t do, had to force a FOIA request to gain access to paperwork on the foundation Ayers apparently groomed Obama to join; the deliberate attempt to hide records from the Annenberg Foundation was naturally not mentioned in a NY Times Ayers/Obama puff piece today). Based on Kurtz’s work, there’s no question that Ayers was far more than “a guy in my neighborhood” to Obama.
So, again, the question to Senator Obama: these people are not just terrorists and traitors, they’re admitted terrorists and traitors, and they’re even still boastful about what they did and why. So why on Earth did you ever so much as say hello to either of them, much less launch your career from their parlor? Are your own politics so radical that you didn’t think there was anything wrong with people who assisted your country’s enemies in wartime, or conspired to kill American solders at a dance?
What does it say about you, and with the Chicago machine that birthed you, and with the media that’s protecting you today, that none of the above seem to be even mildly troubled by the criminal careers of Billy and Bernadine?
Answer: nothing good. And that’s why those questions haven’t been asked. It’s also why those questions matter a great deal.
I have to disagree with Steve here. Catherine McNicol Stock is obviously an academic airhead who’s been educated well beyond her intelligence, but she just may have a valid point on this whole guilt-by-geography business. After all, Barack Obama lives not only in the same region and state, but actually right down the street from not one but two actual terrorists, Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn.
Of course, she might have even more of a point if Obama actually knew or associated with such people.
Jonah Goldberg proves that one man with Google is smarter than the entire Obama campaign:
The day after 9/11, as part of its “get tough” makeover, the Obama campaign is mocking John McCain for not using a computer, without caring why he doesn’t use a computer. From the AP story about the computer illiterate ad:
“Our economy wouldn’t survive without the Internet, and cyber-security continues to represent one our most serious national security threats,” [Obama spokesman Dan] Pfeiffer said. “It’s extraordinary that someone who wants to be our president and our commander in chief doesn’t know how to send an e-mail.”
Well, I guess it depends on what you mean by “extraordinary.” The reason he doesn’t send email is that he can’t use a keyboard because of the relentless beatings he received from the Viet Cong in service to our country. From the Boston Globe (March 4, 2000):
McCain gets emotional at the mention of military families needing food stamps or veterans lacking health care. The outrage comes from inside: McCain’s severe war injuries prevent him from combing his hair, typing on a keyboard, or tying his shoes.
Yeah, we’ll be hearing about this one for a while.
I’m not crazy about demanding apologies for political rhetoric gone awry, but The One is going to be apologizing for this act of random stupidity for a long time to come.
As others have noted already, this also speaks very poorly of the AP and the rest of the MSM solons who couldn’t be bothered to find out what Jonah learned in a few minutes of Googling.
We believe we have identified Patient Zero for Palin Derangement Syndrome.
Seek help, Josh. Before it’s too late.
A while back, a leftie friend asked me, “So if the media is so liberal and so all-powerful, how did Bush or any other Republican ever got elected?”
My answer (and I’m paraphrasing both sides of the conversation from memory) went something like this: Elections are different. Elections, especially presidential elections, are the unique times in our political lives when both sides have chances to go over the heads of the media and talk directly to the electorate.
This is not exactly new or innovative analysis, but it’s still accurate, and I’ll never cease being amazed at how many supposedly-smart people in the press forget or willfully disregard that fact of political life. Wrapped up in their own cocoon of elite consensus, the media never fails to be shocked when it learns that all the rubes out there beyond the screen… don’t agree with them.
And boy, did they get a reminder this week. Mama Palin not only made their lunch, she ate it for them, too.
It’s hard to imagine two candidates more tailor-made for diametrically opposed constituencies than Barack Obama and Sarah Palin. Urban sophisticate Obama is, as Mark Steyn perfectly put it, “the new black best friend they’d been waiting for all these years” for upscale white liberals–a class that includes practically all of the national press corps who spent the last week in a frenzy over Palin. Conversely, Palin the Alaksan hunter looks like Ted Nugent crossed with Margaret Thatcher and your best friend’s mom, with a powerful dose of homespun country-girl sass thrown in to boot. You couldn’t come up with a more diametrically-opposed pair if you tried.
Obama’s eat-your-tofu pretentiousness plays perfectly to a press corps that thinks its job is to educate the rubes, while Palin’s pretentious-as-dirt manner and freezer full of moose steaks couldn’t be more perfectly calibrated to rub an urban New Class reporter any more of the wrong way. Her happy warrior persona also strikes a sharp contrast with Michelle Obama’s angry whining about having to pay back her student loans.
The differences are stark, and the over-the-top reactions from the media are telling. To take one example, Joe Klein and his ilk see a “community organizer” as a valiant leader of the proletariat, but most people outside of government, academia or the press hear “community organizer” and think, “somebody who pesters the government for other people’s money.” For folks who aren’t marinated in elite liberal concensus, the first time they heard that Obama spent several years as a “community organizer,” most thought, “Why didn’t he get a real job?” I’m sure that never occurred to Klein, which is, of course, why he’s having one of his patented sniveling fits over Palin’s speech.
Roger Simon (the pretentious one who spent years at U.S. News, not the good one with the fedora) also went back to his room to pout after being criticized over the Palin feeding frenzy. I’ll start taking Simon seriously on this one just as soon as he can show me all his clips regarding the John Edwards scandal–and I mean the ones during the eight months when that story was an open but unreported secret among a press corps that swooned for Edwards long ago (or, alternately, as Ramesh Ponnuru wrote, “I for one am getting awfully bored by all those New York Times front-pagers on [Palin’s] son’s military service”). Simon also can’t understand why he’s being criticized–doesn’t everybody know that it’s the media’s job to expose evil–and that by definition, all conservatives are evil?
It’s been a very instructional week all around, and not a good one for the national press. Shame they won’t learn anything from it.
Long-time VodkaPundit readers will probably remember my buddy Lein Shory, or more likely Lein’s creation, the Irate Savant. For those who haven’t been around so long, the Savant blog was an experiment in blogging as a creative device–and a highly effective one. Based on the comments and emails Lein received, I’d guess at least half of his readership was convinced that the Savant was a real person.
Since wrapping up the blog in late 2005, Lein has been hard at work transforming the Savant’s story into a novel. I was fortunate enough to get to read an early draft, and I can say without prejudice that it is very likely to be considered the first landmark novel of the blog era–but that’s not the point right now.
As a quick glance back at the original Savant blog will tell you, Lein’s title character has a fondness for writing with a distinctly Buckley-esque vocabulary (don’t read any political content into that observation, as Lein and I occupy entirely different political hemispheres). In his seemingly-endless quest for additional obscure words with which to populate the Savant’s first-person prose, Lein has been using the popular Thesaurus.com site as a resource.
Then came last Monday. First, Thesaurus.com went down for a long stretch, and after it came back up, a remarkable number of words were gutted of synonym entries, and some were missing entries altogether. Nonplussed, Lein started to do a little Googling. Here’s what he found, as posted on April 9 at Jezebel:
An observant reader was pissed off enough at Thesaurus.com to tip us off to this, and we share her rage. If you search for synonyms for the word “weaker” two main entries come up: Female and lady.
Apparently the Jezebel post, as well as a similar rant at Feministing got the attention of Thesaurus.com’s corporate owner, Lexico. From a post on Lexico’s blog dated April 9, written by one Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD (whom I’m sorry to say is the editor and compiler of Roget’s New Millennium Thesaurus):
The synonym “weaker sex” appears in many thesauruses for terms like woman, lady, and female. It is considered an informal, possibly derogatory, synonym for those words. Due to the way our search technology works, a search for weaker appeared to suggest that it was a synonym for female and lady. This was incorrect and has been fixed.
We take your concerns about language and society seriously (this is, after all, our business) and after reading feedback on the entries for female and lady, we carefully reviewed our editorial decisions. In light of how our customers use Thesaurus.com on a daily basis, we chose to remove “weaker sex” as a informal/slang synonym from our site. The entries now describe current American English usage more accurately and we feel we’re providing more helpful suggestions for those seeking guidance on word choice from us.
A quick look at Thesaurus.com indicates that Dr. Kipfer did a lot more than just fix an ‘incorrect’ link in Lexico’s database. There’s a screen shot of the previous “weaker” entry at the Jezebel link above, and you’ll have to go there to see it for yourself, because if you go to Thesaurus.com today and enter in the word “weaker,” you get… nothing.
No entries at all. No synonyms, no antonyms, no Tiny Tims. There’s nothing at all listed under the word, except a query as to whether you’ve misspelled it (and you haven’t).
As Eddie Murphy once said in an entirely different context, “Well, that’s peculiar.” Let’s look around for a few other words, eh? How about… malefactor. Only three synonyms are listed today, and no other useful information, but if one goes looking in Google’s cache for the same word, one finds a multitude of options that have now vanished into the ether(net).
How about a few more? Try comparing today’s Thesaurus.com entry for, say, omnipotent (there’s nothing there, the word isn’t even recognized) to the Google cache version, where there’s a whole page full of stuff. You can see similar rather astonishing edits for reprobate (cached version here), inamorata (cached version here) and inimitable (cached version here).
So, what’s going on here?
I’m hesitant to jump right out and call this an outright Ministry Of Truth descent into Newspeak. Relational databases are very tricky beasts, and I’m perfectly willing to believe that Dr. Kipfer and/or her minions simply made mistakes in correcting word links within Thesaurus.com’s internal systems while they were ‘cleaning up’ this business of the “weaker sex.” I certainly hope that’s the case, as I really don’t want to live in a world where the editor of today’s Roget’s Thesaurus is in the business of sanitizing the language in the name of pacifying pressure groups.
With that understood, even if the intentional part of Thesaurus.com’s “cleanup” were limited to the “weaker” and “female” connection, this is still troubling stuff. I’d personally have no problem if references to “the weaker sex” were tagged as archaic (which is certainly true) or even “offensive,” which is also obviously the case to most modern eyes. I do have a problem with people who are supposed to be caretakers of our linguistic heritage taking it upon themselves to write words and definitions out of the English language.
Looking at the missing words above, it looks to my eyes like most references to male or female characteristics of those words have been hacked out (along with many other references that presumably were lost in the database shuffle along the way). I should note here that Thesaurus.com has not bothered to make such changes that would affect other political points of view (check out the current entry for “unprogressive,” if you doubt me), but hey, I don’t want them to go editing those entries, either! I just want my language back.
UPDATE: Curiouser and curiouser. As commenter Scott discovered, the source of the pre-April 14 cached links is Roget’s New Millennium Thesaurus (of which the aforementioned Dr. Kipfer says she is the editor), while the current links (at least those that link to anything at all) are referenced to “Roget’s II: The New Thesaurus.”
(I am compelled to wonder if Wesley Crusher is a contributor to the latter, but never mind that.)
So, what’s the deal here? Lacking any actual announcement from Lexico, is this all due to a switch in databases? And if so, why? The “Roget’s II” appears to be singularly lacking compared to the previous version… could Lexico just be trying to move users to the pay-per-view version?
Inquiring minds want to know, but either way, I thank Scott for his detective work.