Palling Around with Dash

29Oct08

What is terrorism?

The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.

What friends of Barack Obama do we believe to have been involved in, or to have supported such activities?

  • Bill Ayers, co-founder of the Weather Underground and active bomber of U.S. government buildings.
  • Rashid Khalidi – university professor and reputed former PLO spokesman.

Is it unfair, inaccurate or code to say that Barack is guilty of “palling around with terrorists?” Rashidi is a close personal friend. The evidence is strong that Ayers is a critical partner in Barack’s career, but he has not been forthcoming with details, so we are left to speculate. But some, like Anil Dash at Dashes.com, are upset with Sarah Palin’s use of the palling phrase – without, it seems to me, bothering to test its accuracy.

But a closer look at her deliberate use of vernacular and language reveals that she has gone far beyond any other candidate in vice presidential history in the dangerous and irresponsible implications of her attacks. She has phrased her attacks on Obama in a way that avoids accountability to the press while specifically addressing the subset of her audience who are most likely to advocate extreme actions against Obama.

The crux of the issue is simple:

  1. Sarah Palin has unequivocally associated Barack Obama with the idea of terrorism and specifically with “terrorists”.
  2. Republican President George Bush has defined in our National Security Strategy, and the Republican Party’s platform affirms, that we may identify and strike at terrorists before they have committed any defined acts of aggression against American citizens.
  3. George Bush has made clear, by stating before a joint session of Congress that “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”
  4. Palin has used deliberate choice of language to avoid these connections being highlighted by the media, while increasing the likelihood that the target audience for her message will be incited by her statements.

…she appears to be attempting to convince a substantial portion of her supporters that Obama supports terrorism against the United States and thus should be, at the very least, incarcerated as an enemy combatant (which we are doing to American citizens already) or at worst, assassinated for supporting terror.

This is, of course, is an appearance that only presents itself to some. That Barack has built his career while partnering with bizarre and bad people is not in doubt, nor is the fact that some engaged in terror or supported terrorist activities. Palin’s statements are factual and fair.

She has done this knowing full well that she can retain plausible deniability thanks to the ambiguity of her statements as they’ll be interpreted by the media, by her detractors, and by her more reasonable supporters.

It would seem that Mr. Dash is jumping to conclusions. It’s a hazard of doing too much thinking and not enough assuming of the obvious. For starters, Dash’s assertions fail the reality test. Did Palin succeed in throwing the press off course, or did she suffer attacks for her “palling around with terrorists” language? She was attacked.

Did anyone, besides Dash, that is, posit that she was really demanding that Barack be arrested and sent immediately to Gitmo? He’s the first one I’ve heard suggest this. Has anyone, in response to Palin, made demands that Barack be arrested? Not that I’ve heard.

Dash goes on to explain the idea of Code Switching – think Oprah slipping into black vernacular to ingratiate herself with her target audience – to make her language more impactful to the chosen audience than proper English would be to the larger population.

Put simply, if Palin says “Barack Obama consorts with terrorists,” she is making the assertion that he supports acts of violence against American citizens and the media will refute this obviously false assertion. If, instead, Palin says he “pals around with terrorists”, she’s used code-switching to mask the seriousness of the charge, obfuscating her meaning enough to get away with making an assertion that inevitably calls for the imprisonment or even assassination of a political opponent.

This clever use of language only hides Palin’s meaning from members of the press. Because writers for traditional media are usually highly educated and pride themselves on their mastery of Standard American English, they can often look down on dialects like AAVE and North Central English. Instead these forms of language being seen as legitimate and interpreted in the social context where they’ve formed, they’re dismissed as being the words of “people who don’t even speak proper English!” In the cases where the ideas aren’t outright dismissed, there is still rampant misinterpretation of meaning: Reporters wrongly see a term like “palling” as imprecise, when compared to a word like “consorting.”

In my mind, consorting is simply not a word that people use and readily understand the subtleties of. It might carry more baggage than Dash assesses is delivered by palling. Palling is, after all, friendly and warm – consorting sounds legalistic and dangerous.

On top of this, by deliberately omitting the word “domestic” as a descriptor of “terrorist” after its initial mention in her speeches, Palin has amplified the recurring theme of “otherness” that the McCain campaign and its surrogates have pinned on Obama. There is an unequivocal attempt to assign a commonality of purpose and intent between Obama, his supporters and campaigners, and terrorists who would attack Americans.

Yes, if Barack only had hung out and planned his career with domestic terrorists, then we’d have nothing to fear! It’s like how domestic flights are safer than international ones.

Sarah Palin’s conduct has gone far past the bounds of decency, and far past even the most dangerous efforts of any previous candidate for such high office. This is an inexcusable, unforgivable, and unacceptable transgression and my belief is that she should be removed from consideration for the office of Vice President for her dangerous, unethical and unamerican display of irresponsibility.

This sort of obsessive analysis distracts the educated class, and allows the elite to miss the obvious flaws in Barack’s candidacy – inexperience, youth, radicalism and the natural questions of judgment and character that arise from his long partnership with dangerous people such as Wright, Khalidi, Pfleger, Ayers, Rezko, Farrakan, etc. And, of course, there’s his stated displeasure with the work of the Founding Fathers.

PS – is there a hidden message in Dash’s obviously deliberate failure to properly capitalize un-American?

Sorry – it’s contagious.

Here’s a refresher course on how Barack used to brag about his Chicago Annenberg Challenge experience, which is omitted from his resume today.

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