Sunday, February 11, 2007

"Bill O'Reilly, you're so -articulate.-"

via Slant/Truth.

capsule sum: Bush calls Obama "articulate," people point out that "articulate" is often used wrt black people with a not-so-subtext that is roughly equivalent to Samuel Johnson's

"Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all."

BOR consults an actual black person, Marc Hill, to express his frustrations and bewilderment--jeez, can't a white guy catch a break around here? now even a -compliment- is Bad? Wackiness ensues.

i particularly like the bit where Bill sez, in a not-at-all-patronizing-tone, because, you know, he's not that way at all:

"I know the man, and, there was no condescension in his delivery. --Listen. I know what you're saying, and I agree. There's a lot of condescension in the white establishment toward the black community, in this country. It's true. It's true. And if he were to say..."

(continues talking as his guest opens and closes his mouth like a fish, tries to get a word in edgewise, fails)

although, Hill coming back with, in the process of explaining how BOR is not held responsible for all white people in the same way Obama or any other prominent black person is held as a "representative" of other black people:

Bill, when I watch you on television, I don't say to myself, oh, all white people are condescending, or all white people are uncivil, or all white people talk over other people--not to say that you do those things, that's just an example...

was also rather choice, i must say.

Well, but so. So BOR then asks Hill whether it would be okay for him to call Hill "glib." Hill goes off into talking about how the context (i.e. comparing him to other guests) is "different."

But of course, besides a whole shitload of other things, (not least of which the utter poignance of getting the "compliment" of "articulate" from, of all people, Dubya), the other difference is--speaking of "articulate," Bill--"glib" has a different connotation from "articulate." "Articulate" as an adjective may technically denote what the complimenter is trying to say, but it has the connotation of,

"AND he can count to twenty, WITHOUT taking off his shoes, even! My."

"Glib," well now, that may have the same denotative meaning as "articulate," did you consult a dictionary; but, it still doesn't -connote- exactly the same thing. Although it's not really a compliment, either, really, is "glib." A "smooth talker," but more specifically: oily, superficial. A car salesman is "glib." "Slick Willy" is "glib." "Like shit through a goose" is "glib."

And, you know, I have seen a number of instances in recent months where a POC has been complimented on hir beautiful words, (ignoring the content of those beautiful words), right before the not at all condescending white person rings down the curtain on the discussion thread. So, I can see why one might be skeptical of that particular compliment, no matter how carefully, um, articulated. And no, I don't find that thought particularly "terrifying," personally, but then BOR is a sensitive little flower, as we all know.

But, let's say someone is just genuinely trying to say is “so and so is really a remarkable speaker/writer, with a true gift for words. Okay! Here are some possibilities, each with its own particular connotation:

“Eloquent.” “Magniloquent.” “Mellifluent.” “Lucid.” “Brilliant.” “Persuasive.” “Facund.” “Silver-tongued.” well that last one makes me think of a lizard statue, but you get the idea. Word power is for EVERYBODY!

Alternately, if you’re O’Rly?, you can just fling out something even more outrageously patronizing/insulting, and then go back to the important business of telling your hapless assistant about how you really wanna scrub her big boobies with a falafel.


Trin said...

"telling your hapless assistant about how you really wanna scrub her big boobies with a falafel."

Wow, that's articulate.

No wonder he doesn't see why this isn't a compliment.

Eli said...

I'm not entirely sure that "articulate" is a compliment coming from Bush, regardless of race. It certainly doesn't appear to be a quality that he values.

(My personal belief is that Bush is not himself racist or homophobic - he just doesn't give a damn about anyone who isn't rich, regardless of color or orientation.)

belledame222 said...

well, i think it's like this: not all bigots are narcissists; but all narcissists are bigots. because, being a bigot requires at least a situational lack of empathy, of seeing someone else as a cardboard stereotype; and narcissists see -everyone- that way; therefore, if they're ever -not- bigoted about any particular group it's because

1) they've learned to parrot the right things in public

2) it affects them personally, somehow.

Bint Alshamsa said...

"Terrified"? ORLY indeed! This guy is just ridiculous. I was very happy to see Hill hold his own and get his point across completely despite Bill's behavior.

Bill, when I watch you on television, I don't say to myself, oh, all white people are condescending, or all white people are uncivil, or all white people talk over other people--not to say that you do those things, that's just an example...

BEST. LINE. EVER. I cracked up at how Hill managed to slip that one in on Bill's own show.

Thanks for another great post Belle. Have I ever told you how much I love your posts? You are always so outspoken without resorting to loquaciousness.

*bint smiling happily at finding an opportunity to show she knows how to use a word with more than three syllables*

Alex said...

Huh. I have to admit that I never would have made that association - to me, articulate has the connotation of 'someone who is concise' or, possibly, 'someone who uses just the right word for the situation'.

So, thank you for making me aware of that connotation.

Phlegmatic said...

Wow, and I thought people could use a word like articulate for its *original* meaning, and not because they want to sneak in some kind of derogatory comment. I really dont understand this, Im not American, I dont understand the politics and I dont care about Bush, so I guess its my not place to say anything.

However I do feel that its just some twisting of words going on, or putting an intent behind them that was never there in the first place. Its someone asking Bush what he thinks of someone else, and suddenly a simple word offends people because the guy it was directed to "represents something bigger than himself". Hmph, so I guess that means automatically the word "articulate" is offensive because hes secretly suggesting others who he "represents" arent articulate.

I dont know, I think that just was not his intention, and its people doing what that do best today. Throwing a tantrum. I myself am not afraid of offending others with what I say, because like I said, if it wasnt my intention, then I will honestly say that. If people cant accept that, its their problem, not mine.

belledame222 said...

well, okay!

bint: fank you.

and yes, that was awesome, wasn't it? best of all, i really honestly think it totally went by him. because, well of -course- those descriptions couldn't be referring to Him! and, Hill was -smiling!- preen preen.

"you' prolly think this song is(n't) about you..."

Anonymous said...

I myself am not afraid of offending others with what I say, because like I said, if it wasnt my intention, then I will honestly say that. If people cant accept that, its their problem, not mine.

cuz as we all know, intent is all that matters!

Im not American, I dont understand the politics

probably a good stopping point then, if what follows is going to be a denial of the validity of what someone who does understand the politics says.


Roy said...


I love how you start off saying that you know very little about the situation or the politics of the situation, but then go on to make all kinds of assertions about what you think the intent was, and how you think that it's just people blowing things out of proportion and twisting things.

There are certain turns of phrase and words that have pretty negative connotations, and that betray certain attitudes in general. If someone told me I was a credit to my family, I wouldn't think much of it (well, outside of "wow, that's an archaic phrase"), but that particular phrase reeks of racist subtext in other situations. It's the sort of coded statement that people might say to a POC in a back-handed fashion. "You're a real credit to your people, son." In other words: "You're not like the rest of those dirty/ignorant/lazy *insert racist slur of choice here*s."

Maybe he didn't mean anything by it, but I've definitely heard "articulate" used as a back-handed compliment on more than one occasion. "Oh, he's so articulate (for one of them)."

Phlegmatic said...

Yes okay both roy and anon are right, maybe when I said it wasnt my place to say anything, I should have stuck to it and shut up there, but its pretty irrelevant now since Ive started chatting away.

I heard the whole "Your articulate for a black guy" thing, but I really cannot understand how this applies (as the presenter pointed out) to this situation. He didnt say "What do you think of him as a black guy?" If that was the case, clearly I would agree (however unlikely it is someone would be stupid enough to ask that question) Yet he asks him what others would think (was it the troops?) about him being president. No mention of his race I believe? So I assumed Bush was complimenting him on his presidential skills, not saying hes all these great things *especially* for a black guy.

I apologise if I have hit a nerve with you all, but I just cannot understand the logic behind assuming he automatically is being racist simply by using "articulate". I mean, I didnt see anything it the way he said it to give away any hint of a racist double meaning, with anything he said about this Obama for that matter.

And roy, youre absolutely right, neither of us can truly know what he meant exactly by it. Maybe Im wrong and he did mean it that way. Thats what I was talking about with intentions behind the words, because Im not a mind reader, so I can only guess he was using articulate for what it is supposed to mean. Because this racist subtext (as you pointed out yourself) can be used with more than just "articulate". So really it would have been easier for me to understand if the story was about how Bush complimented Obama in a way that suggested he was being racist or patronizing. Or did he and I just completely missed it?

belledame222 said...

well, i think by the time it got to S/T, the point was at least as much about O'Reilly digging it further as it was the original comment.

there was also an earlier incident wherein Biden called Obama "articulate."

i could buy that Bush wasn't being any more patronizing than he usually is, but that's really not cutting him any slack.

BOR going on about how he's now "terrified" to open his mouth, whilst simultatneously talking right over the Official Black Dude he's invited on to share his opinion (and then doesn't listen to), that really takes it to a whole new level of assiness.

belledame222 said...

...i mean, as usual with this sort of thing, it's the defensiveness that ends up being much worse than the original incident. or, well, one, BOR is speaking up to defend poor put-upon Dubya, Fellow White Dude Who Just Means Well; there is context enough for both of those individuals to be just a tad cynical there.

but in general: how hard is it to say, okay, that truly wasn't my intention, but i see your point?

as opposed to immediately going into (as did BOR) god, all YOU PEOPLE are SO TOUCHY!! now i'm scared to even open my mouth! well! i KNOW that's not what he meant. you shouldn't be offended! now, back to ME and my hurty feelings...

for way too many people: apparently too hard.

belledame222 said...

anyway, point being: maybe he didn't intend it that way, Bush; but, if he were truly at all interested in y'know learning something new and communicating better in future (wacky idea for the Head of the Most Powerful Country in the World, i know), he could y'know listen and learn: yes, this is often used as a code word; perhaps be mindful of it.

personally, y'know, i mean, given everything -else- Dubya has on his karmic plate, i'm not at all sure this one incident makes that much difference, of itself.

it's just one more thing.

and: it could've been used as an awareness-raising moment, but: no. The Hurty Feelings of the Powers That Be must be protected at all costs; it's everyone -else- that's way too sensitive.

and so it goes, onto y'know what's best for actual other countries, what the people do and don't want (as in y'know being "liberated" or not, often liberated right out of their lives).

because, see, he -meant well,- did Bush, in starting this thing, and god, he can't help it if it didn't go as planned? The important thing isn't taking responsibility or maybe even y'know listening to other people every once in a while (who? what? huh?); the important thing is, he's a well-meaning -good guy.-

Everyone is a well-meaning good guy. Except some people.

and, say, what's that signpost up ahead?

belledame222 said...

where are you from, phlegmatic?

belledame222 said...

So I assumed Bush was complimenting him on his presidential skills,

Yes well. having seen the video, it's...typical. Damning with faint praise is Bush's speciality anyway; i think it just comes naturally to him, like breathing. mostly, i got a real sense that the reminder that SOMEONE IS GOING TO BE REPLACING HIM SOON was y'know terribly upsetting. hey, whoa! they haven't even picked him yet!! i'm not dead! i don't want to go on the cart! i could go for a walk!...

Phlegmatic said...

Me? Im from England. I was going to say I dont find George Bush or Tony Blair "articulate", I think they stop and start too much, but you know. Hehe...

belledame222 said...

Blair is a silver-tongued balladeer compared to Dubya. then again, so's my cat.

belledame222 said...

anyway, as i was trying to get at: i just don't think "articulate" comes off as much of a compliment. "Eloquent" does, maybe. "Articulate" doesn't. even if they are listed as synonyms. it just comes off as, I don't know:

"Yes, dinner was edible, thank you."

Couple that with "He's a good-lookin' guy," and...well, consider the source, i suppose.

i mean, it's true: what'd people expect from Dubya? a Shakespearian ode to his grace, wit and charm? how can you praise what you don't have and can't recognize? and are furthermore an envious little fuckstick, talking about someone from the opposition party, no less, who's as stingy with genuine praise for anyone as he's lavish with cash for his cronies?

Phlegmatic said...

Heh, well I think its probably just that thing the accent does. Like getting a person with a posh English accent to sell you something over the phone. To me his voice is a little odd and I think he has these weird stops when he speaks. Makes me think hes nervous all the time. But it makes sense I suppose, since Id go bright read and my voice would crack if I was in that position.

I agree with you on "eloquent" being a better choice. Sounds a little more pleasing to the ear in my opinion. Still, Im pretty reserved when it comes to Bush, and even my own priminster as well, because its clear they have made something of a mess. And Im the type whos too lazy to make a mess in the first place.

belledame222 said...

well, no; he comes off pretty damn inarticulate even in transcription. i find. more so, even.

Bint Alshamsa said...

Those stops and starts drive me nuts too. I can just imagine what's going on inside of his head:

blah, blah, blah--hamster stops running for a second to take a breather causing Bush to pause with deer-in-headlights look on his face---blah, blah, blah

ecc450 said...

anyway, as i was trying to get at: i just don't think "articulate" comes off as much of a compliment. "Eloquent" does, maybe. "Articulate" doesn't. even if they are listed as synonyms. it just comes off as, I don't know:

"Yes, dinner was edible, thank you."

Do you seriously expect Dubya to pull a word like "eloquent" out of his ass? "Articulate" is probably the only word he *has* for someone who speaks well (which *is* Obama's most abundant positive attribute, IMO), and he probably still had to sound it out carefully.

If it weren't for his persistent "accidental" references to the "Democrat Party", I would probably give him a total pass on this for that reason, but I can't entirely rule out that this was some kind of dog whistle for his base.

Eli said...

Oops, that last one was me - stoopit Blogger keeps insisting on logging me in - I'm on Wordpress now, dammit! Lee me lone!

Cassandra Says said...

I have to protest your title. Not even in jest should BOR be referred to as articulate...
The thing about his response is, for people whose racism is that deeply rooted they literally are incapable of realising that their prejudices are affecting their perceptions. I don't think Billy Boy's being disingenuous, he really, truly doesn't understand that not only are his (and Bush's) prejudices shaping their choice of words, they are clearly apparent to everyone else. They just don't see it.
This is what happens to people who lack the capacity for reflection. Like you said, narcissists.

belledame222 said...

as I once said to some tiresome ubiquitous troglodyte whose current fappage was, in part, because i'd called him out for a homophobic remark,

"Look, lambchop, here's the deal. Yes, you're homophobic; but, thing is, that is the -least- of your problems, really. You're a thoroughly unevolved, unconscious, trainwreck of a so-called human being with all the wit, smarts and depth and empathy of a day-old pizza-box stain. It'd be more of a surprise if you -weren't- a bigot, frankly. It's just one more part of your charm, really."

belledame222 said...

(something like that, anyway)

belledame222 said...

meanwhile, not very far away, as Anthony just noted at S/T (see link above)

The link to the story:

The comment, from fellow right-wingnutter Dom Giordano:

“If you start to, you know, delve around the edges, say, ‘Wait a minute, isn’t he mixed race? Weren’t we told that last year?’ Or whatever, biracial. Not allowed to say that anymore.”

Beck’s response, according to MM:

Beck responded by saying “he’s very white in many ways,” adding, “Gee, can I even say that? Can I even say that without somebody else starting a campaign saying, ‘What does he mean, “He’s very white?” ‘ He is. He’s very white.”

After the interview, Beck attempted to crawfish his racist ass away from the implications of his comments:

After the interview, Beck attempted to clarify his comments to executive producer and head writer of The Glenn Beck Program, Steve Burguiere, who is known on-air as “Stu.” Beck claimed that Obama “is colorless,” adding that “as a white guy … [y]ou don’t notice that he is black. So he might as well be white, you know what I mean?” In addition, Beck said: “I guarantee you, there will be blogs today that will have me being a racist because I say that.”

boo hoo.

and the previous alluded-to Biden remark:

Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, who announced his candidacy on Wednesday with the hope that he could ride his foreign policy expertise into contention for the Democratic nomination, instead spent the day struggling to explain his description of Senator Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat running for president, as “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.”

The remark, published Wednesday in The New York Observer, left Mr. Biden’s campaign struggling to survive its first hours and injected race more directly into the presidential contest. The day ended, appropriately enough for the way politics is practiced now, with Mr. Biden explaining himself to Jon Stewart on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show."

Earlier, in a decidedly nonpresidential afternoon conference call with reporters that had been intended to announce his candidacy, Mr. Biden, speaking over loud echoes and a blaring television set, said that he had been “quoted accurately.” He volunteered that he had called Mr. Obama to express regret that his remarks had been taken “out of context,” and that Mr. Obama had assured him he had nothing to explain.

...But later in the day, with Mr. Biden coming under fire from some black leaders, Mr. Obama issued a statement that approached a condemnation. “I didn’t take Senator Biden’s comments personally, but obviously they were historically inaccurate,” he said. “African-American presidential candidates like Jesse Jackson, Shirley Chisholm, Carol Moseley Braun and Al Sharpton gave a voice to many important issues through their campaigns, and no one would call them inarticulate.”

...“He understood exactly what I meant,” Mr. Biden said. “And I have no doubt that Jesse Jackson and every other black leader — Al Sharpton and the rest — will know exactly what I meant.”

When he was asked, again, what he meant, Mr. Biden — known in Washington for his long-winded ways and his love of the microphone and the spotlight — bristled as he struggled over the squawk of feedback and echoes.

“I’m not going to repeat everything I just said,” he said. “There is a vote that starts at 2:30, it takes 11 minutes to get to the floor. I can take one more question but not on the subject I have already spoken to.”

And after taking one more question, Mr. Biden did something entirely out of character: He announced he was done talking.

Mr. Biden’s assurances notwithstanding, both Mr. Jackson and Mr. Sharpton — African-Americans who have run for president — said they had no idea what Mr. Biden meant. And both suggested they felt at least a little offended by the remarks.

...Mr. Biden’s comments also focused new attention on remarks he made about Indians last year, when he said, “you cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I’m not joking.”

The article also notes that

At the very least, Mr. Biden’s remarks obscured a campaign roll-out in which he said that Mr. Bush had “dug America into a very big hole” with the war in Iraq and that the nation would need a leader experienced in foreign policy to take over during dangerous times.

Now. Is this

a) everyone else's problem--Obama's, Sharpton's, Jackson's, any number of black people-- for getting offended at a stupid remark

b) the media's, for calling attention to his gaffe

c) his own, for making the stupid remark in the damn first place?

Hint: It's politics, Jake.

As in, it is helpful to be -political,- sometimes.

Whatever else about Clinton, i gotta say: there is something to be said for "slick," sometimes. Not as good as being genuinely, well? Eloquent? Passionate? but, beats having your foot in your mouth and your head up your ass. Especially when you're trying to get important shit done.

belledame222 said...

CS: Yeah, "disingenuous" is hard to say, really, with people that unconscious. If you're lying to yourself as well, does it count as honesty? Is that degree of chronic cluenessness -willful- at some level? Questions for the ages, i guess.

Amber said...

The word itself isn't what matters so much as the context. Personally I've used articulate as a compliment before and meant just that - no hidden meaning or anything.

I think the conversation w/ Phlegmatic is an important one to have. Because, sometimes we become so immersed in whatever cultural environment we're a part of, that we forget that there are people on the outside looking in wondering wtf we're on about. And it's useful - to them and us - to explain it, tease out the deeper meanings, etc. It reminds me of a conversation I had back in college with a guy who was from... I can't remember exactly where... somewhere in Western Europe. And he didn't understand why "colored person" was offensive but "person of color" was acceptable and even preferred. His point? Semantically, they mean the same thing. And he was exactly right! So, I did my best to explain the historical context of each and the reasons why one is seen as offensive because of that context. In doing so I was able to make things a little clearer even to myself, because I was forced to articulate (the verb!) something that previously had just been swirling around in my head as an assumed, "Yeah, everyone knows that."

Word verification: zowme

Amy said...

wow, words are funny tings.
And lexical choice, & semantics are sehr important. And very telling.

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