Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Conservative lexicon update: "Public" and "private"

As many p3 readers know, modern Republican English--tracing its roots back through the focus-grouped falsehoods of Frank Luntz all the way to Newt Gingrich's definitive 1990 work Language: A Key Mechanism of Control*--is a notoriously difficult dialect to master.

In our continuing efforts to promote bipartisan conversation and understanding, p3 is proud to present another of its occasional features on the conservative lexicon.

"Public" - Something that the government, the news media, religious institutions, and the voters should take intense (usually disapproving) interest in, such as the possibility that a same-sex couple somewhere in California would like to get married. For example, this item from the December 2008 newsletter of CA Assemblyman Michael Duvall:

This past election cycle, voters in Florida and Arizona passed their own initiatives similar to Prop 8. And perhaps most important, 30 states across the nation have voted to protect the institution of marriage by defining it as between a man and woman.

With that said, the purpose of an initiative is to allow every eligible voter the opportunity to directly create public policy. In recent weeks, opponents of Proposition 8 have clearly shown that they have no intention of letting this happen.

"Private" - A matter of absolutely no concern to the government, the news media, religious institutions, or the voters, such as a married elected state assemblyman bragging on the floor of the state assembly about multiple instances of S&M-lite sex with married lobbyists, from whom his campaign has accepted donations, that have taken place in his office. For example, this apology from CA Assemblyman Michael Duvall:

I made a mistake and I sincerely apologize. I deeply regret the comments I made in what I believed to be a private conversation. This is a private matter and I ask that everyone respect the privacy of all involved.

[Note: This statement by former Assemblyman Duvall was published on his website; it has since been replaced by this brief announcement of his immediate resignation for the sake of "fair[ness] to my family, my constituents or to my friends on both sides of the aisle."

In a future installment of "Conservative Lexicon Update," p3 will explore the linguistic peculiarities involved when conservatives use the word "fair."]

*It seems the only online sources for the complete text of "Language: A Key Mechanism of Control' available online (including the one linked to here) date it from 1995 or 1996, when in fact it was reprinted in full in Harper's Magazine (November 1990) 17-18. The little wheels in Newt's head were hard at work long before he became House Majority Leader.

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