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Tony Grist

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Mis-speaking [Mar. 26th, 2008|09:41 am]
Tony Grist
When Obama called his grandmother a "typical white woman" that was a genuine example of mis-speaking. I'm sure he didn't mean to sound so dismissive. What he aimed to say was she had typical views, but the adjective slipped out of its proper place in the sentence and located itself elsewhere- and he was left with a mini-crisis on his hands.

And when he announced to a flabberghasted audience that 10,000 people had just died in a tornado strike in Kansas- when the actual death toll was 12- that was- well- I'm not entirely sure what that was: he was tired, it had been a long day, he'd misheard something an aide had whispered in his ear. Whatever it was that caused the mis-speak, it wasn't anything that particularly redounded to his discredit; it wasn't a lie; it was just a little side-slip into the surreal.

I'm having greater difficulty putting a benign spin on Clinton's claim that she came under fire at Grozny airport. I know memory can play you tricks because my own memory is none too brilliant these days- but if I found myself remembering traumatic incidents that could be proved never to have happened I think I'd be worrying about my mental health. Being shot at is a life-changing experience; it isn't something that becomes a little fuzzy with time. Unless you're suffering from Altzheimers you know whether you've had that experience or not. Someone fired an air rifle in my direction once; it's indelible. No, this wasn't a simple mis-speak (I'm coming to hate that word); It was a construct, presumably agreed in advance between Clinton and her speech-writer- designed to big up her reputation as an international stateswoman and confer some sort of ersatz warrior glory- which would come in handy if and when she faces McCain. But it was stupid claim- because it was so easy for her enemies to check and falsify. Silly woman- she just went and swift-boated herself.

Politicians lie. It's what they do. I don't want to suggest Obama is cleaner than Clinton; I believe he's said all sorts of things that don't check out- about his relationship with that sleazy guy back in the hood, for example-  but he hasn't yet screwed up the way Clinton has screwed up over Grozny. The thing about Clinton's mis-speak is it's so televisual, so meme-worthy. Already there's a clip on YouTube that says it all: first the self-aggrandizing speech, then the footage from the airport- featuring the reception committee she says wasn't there and the little girl she stooped to embrace. It's a killer, it really is- and if her candidacy continues it's going to get played and played and played.

As lies go it wasn't a bad one- it was a bit of puffery; it didn't start a war- but the trouble is it's not a lie that can be obfuscated by a lot of lawyerly talk. She can burble all she likes about mis-speaks- and all her opponent has to do is run the footage. There are no bullets, she doesn't run for cover; instead she smiles and greets and dawdles. Seeing is believing. Nothing but nothing can cloud the clarity of those pictures.

[User Picture]From: margaretarts
2008-03-26 02:56 pm (UTC)

Re: Grozny? + artists

Yes, Bosnia; just found the news report here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3depGF5E-0

Weird how Hillary didn't just massage the facts but created new ones. As you say, poliphilo, these statements were so easily refuted, even by the reporter (Andrea Mitchell) who went with Hillary in '96 on that same trip.

Yes, Obama needs to watch his step very carefully and not mis-speak, but his heart and head are in the right place.

It would be nice if the Democratic candidates just had a snack with graham crackers and juice and colored together for a while to some happy music, then came back in about two weeks, refreshed and ready (finally) to stop sniping and focus on the win.
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[User Picture]From: seraphimsigrist
2008-03-26 03:36 pm (UTC)


well if he is elected I hope his heart is in the
right place but I suspect that is an interpretation
we all are quick to give to someone we favor, and
good of us in a way surely...
as to the creation of new facts ,this is what I
have observed in a good many performance artists
and public persons and it is the interpretation
I propose...
in some, I am thinking of a jazz trumpter, it seems
more playful than selfserving but a problem is that
the person who does this sort of loses track of
what really was...
the great poet Marina Tsvetaeva was like that and indeed
invented an infatuation with her by Rilke which did
not in the factual world exist
(though they corresponded)
but her life was so tragic that one can hardly regret
even an invented happiness
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[User Picture]From: margaretarts
2008-03-26 04:03 pm (UTC)

Re: Tsvetaeva

Well, there are so few times I've disagreed with you, Seraphim my friend! I can't personally liken Hillary's out-and-out lie with a riff from even a self-serving jazz trumpeter. Art doesn't lie, I hope, just by being an interpretation. I don't know the story about Tsvetaeva and Rilke, but often through history those stories have had two sides: one seemingly logical and one seemingly crazy. But as I say, I don't know that particular story.

As for Hillary's story, I can't see that she was merely interpreting reality. The Bosnia airport story is small potatoes, but she's had a long history of inventing stories to suit her projected image. One wonders, what next? (And I can imagine how the kind people of Bosnia might feel on hearing her new interpretation of her '96 visit....)
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[User Picture]From: seraphimsigrist
2008-03-26 05:27 pm (UTC)


of course it may be a lie
but just to be clear about what I
am proposing and the same to Tony who
seems to be thinking something else in his
response to me, that this is a process of
reinvention which can work surely in writing
or in speaking and in thought, one simply
remakes events as one goes along...to a
greater or lesser extent.
It was the characteristic of Tsvetaeva that
she reinvented things and relationships and
events in this way , that in different ways a
number of people I have known do this,
and I am suggesting that it is possibe
this this rather than any awareness of telling
a lie is behing Hillary's peculiar pattern
of behavior.
but of course it can be not that but a lie,
but just to be clear about what I am suggesting.
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[User Picture]From: veronica_milvus
2008-03-26 08:16 pm (UTC)

Re: Tsvetaeva

the last few lines about Marina Tsvetaeva seem to me like poetry.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-03-26 04:02 pm (UTC)

Re: Grozny? + artists

I love that image of them settling down with their juice and crackers to do some serious coloring.

You're right; they must be awfully tired by now. It's not surprising they're making gaffes. There's this to be said for your system of selecting candidates, that it really does test them to the limits.

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