Wednesday, August 1, 2012

We the PEOPLE Are NOT "Folks"!

Obama needs to stop using the term "folks" in his assorted addresses!

"As president of the United States I call for that national effort. I call for it in the name of this nation which we love and honor and which we are privileged and proud to serve.

I call upon our people with absolute confidence that our comon cause will greatly succeed."

- Part of radio speech by FDR delivered in late 1940, preparing the populace for war.

"Substitute 'folks' for people, farmers, old men, and widows, and the relationship between the abandonment of dignified public speech and the degradation of the political process becomes clear."

- Susan Jacoby, in The Age Of American Unreason, p. 5

Ms. Jacoby is exactly correct in her perceptions, and if I see one more politico on the tube referring to an audience as "folks" I think I will clap him or her upside the head, least figuratively! I am sick and tired of the use of "folks" in addresses when it's clear, as Jacoby goes on to note, it's a device to "make the speaker sound like one of the boys" and also to demean and denigrate speech and the political fabric. After all, if we are all just "folks" then our special interests that are unique to each of us vanish. Forget Social Security for the aged widows and widowers, forget affordable college loans for college students, forget disability benefits for vets! We become mere cogs to be manipulated in the Neoliberal Wurlitzer by the Neoliberal hacks and wonks.

Jacoby goes further (p. 4) in noting that the use of "folks" in political addresses "conveys an implicit denial of the seriousness of whatever issue is being debated".

Social Security reductions via "chained CPI? "Aw....c'mon, you FOLKS  can't be that interested in such an obscure topic! Let's talk 'bout the latest TV ads instead! Or....Homer Simpson cartoons!"  More generally, it is "symptomatic of debasement of public speech inseparable from a more general erosion of American cultural standards."

When did this "folks" crap begin? Jacoby pins it down to post -1980, when the avuncular clown Ronnie Reagan was elected and treated the populace - thinking and unthinking alike - as if they were just 'folks' in one of his cowboy -western flicks. "Hey, c'mon along for the ride, folks, it's gonna be a dandy!"

Let's reference Jacoby again (ibid.):

"Look up any important presidential speech in the history of the United States before 1980, and you will not find one patronizing appeal to 'folks'. .....In the 1950s, even though there were no orators of Lincoln's eloquence on the political scene, voters still expected their leaders to employ dignified if not exactly erudite, speech."

And one NEVER heard the word 'folks' in any address!

Why is it tolerated today? Why do we let politicians, including presidents, address us with the quotidian slapdown of 'folks'? Because by and large we've gotten lazy, lazy in our discernment of language and also accepting collateral language and the insidious manner in which it undermines the intellect, and discrimination faculties. (Which Jacoby also applies to the widepsread use of "troop" or "troops" instead of soldier, soldiers - as if we accept the mind manipulaters generic euphemism so we can no longer recognize we are talking about warriors. "Who lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Troop?")

Of course, once a debasement in meaning is accepted, however briefly, it contaminates other use of language and enables PR or propaganda manipulations. Thus, the Cubana Airlines Flight 455 wasn't "blown up" (e.g. by American-supported terrorists) but "crashed" (in CIA parlance), Returning our marginal tax rates to what they were becomes "tax increases", while the adoption of rational revenue streams to avoid future financial default - by sunsetting tax cuts- becomes a "fiscal cliff".   Giving banks multi-billions of taxpayer money becomes "bail outs".  And....a prolonged military occupation transmogrifies into a "war".

As Jacoby points out "In this continuous blurring of clarity and intellectual discrimination, political speech is always ahead of the curve..especially because today's media have the power to spread and amplify error."

The ubiquitous use of "folks" factors into this by reducing us all to the same folksy common denominator  - hence each of us morphs into a zero, an essential nobody or twit who just fell off the turnip truck. Hey, we're all just "folks"! Howdy, folks and how are ya?"

Advice to the pols: leave out the 'folks' bullshit, and stop patronizing us. We are the PEOPLE who actually put you and yours into power. Don't ever forget that, and that we the PEOPLE can also take it away!

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