It’s sad and dangerous how easy it is (for everyone) to misunderstand a slogan and react defensively. When a belief is condensed to a few words, it necessarily assumes a whole set of contexts, contexts a reader of that slogan may misunderstand. There are examples of brilliant writing where tremendous nuance has been conveyed in only three words; they are exceedingly rare.
Three-word slogans put into hashtags seem to clarify and encapsulate meaning to their authors, and to the people who already share the beliefs and even prejudices of the person who used the slogan. They also seem to clarify and encapsulate entirely different messages to people with other sets of assumptions. When that person responds with another slogan it is difficult to prevent a shouting match.
Today a friend posted a link to an article titled Studies Prove Without Doubt That Unvaccinated Children Are Healthier Than Their Vaccinated Peers1 to his Facebook stream. Just two days ago I said I was done listening to anything about vaccines, but I ended the post with:
If you have a study or actual data of some kind to cite, do it.
I’ve just read the thoughtful opinion piece No, It’s Not Your Opinion. You’re Just Wrong by Jef Rouner at the Houston Press. I don’t find much to disagree with in the text of the article, but there is a subtext I find troubling. While Mr Rouner and I are in agreement that asserting something as one’s own opinion should not used as a shield against logic or facts, I’m troubled by the implication that anyone has a monopoly on the truth. Even if Mr Rouner never intended that to be part of his message, it has been added and/or amplified by many people who have reposted the article on social media.
Much of this conflict may come from imprecise language, or at least different assumptions about the usage of particular words. My current thoughts on usage:
I don’t claim to know the truth about vaccines. I am not a scientist, or a doctor, or a researcher of any kind. So far the available numbers overwhelmingly indicate that they do a lot of good. Would we be better off if we brought back polio? Do I even need to write it out? No.
Yet it keeps on coming up, even among people I’d otherwise thought of as intelligent. I’m getting tired of following up on these conversations, because the conversations themselves are simply tiresome. There’s never new information presented, and anyone who does not immediately accept the claims is dismissed as a stooge or a shill for whatever conspiracy there may be.
Another word found in Go Set a Watchman. It usually says good things about a novel when I have to look up multiple words in one sitting. Not always; sometimes it seems like the obscure words don’t add value. I have mixed feelings about the use of gulosity here. If I were asked to edit this I might not insist it get replaced but I’d want to have a conversation about why it was important. Perhaps it’s archaic, but remained in use in the South for some time? Or perhaps there is a nuance of usage I’m missing.
Literally, cannibalistic. «Cannibalize» might mean to take mechanical parts from a device in order to repair others, the way that «scavenge» describes the use of backpressure to reclaim unspent fuel in a four-stroke internal combustion motor. Anthropophagous, anthropophagy, anthropophaginian, anthropophagite, and anthropophagi all seem only used to describe humans eating the flesh of other humans.
Found in Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman. I don’t want to go in to the context here, but I was almost sorry I looked this one up.
I remember enjoying the Mad Max movies from the 80s,1 though truth to tell I don’t remember actually caring about them very much. I don’t think I ever saw the Thunderdome one, which I’m not bothering to even look up the actual title of.
Still, post-apocalyptic desert, guns, and explosions, and Charlize Theron all add up to a movie that was made for me. Yesterday the new rebooted Mad Max film arrived in theaters and it’s all over my social media and RSS feeds. Most of the reviews are favorable, surprising me with words like «brilliant». Is it possible that this sci-fi action flick has transcended genre and come in to life as an amazing film?
Google has made a big deal out of selling Google Apps as a way for health-care providers to securely store patients’ medical records. As of this writing Google will sign Business Associate Agreements for their Google Apps for Business customers—about five dollars per month.
In a recent Facebook conversation I bemoaned the fact that most United States residents cannot name even one of their State’s senators, and less than a third can name two.1 That got me thinking about whether my own knowledge of our political landscape is any good. So I gave myself a simple test: to write a list of all fifty states, and identify the junior and senior senators from as many states as I could.
I didn’t do very well. If you want to try it yourself, you should probably stop reading now, because I’m going to start naming names soon and that will prime your memory.
First embarrassing fact: I could only name forty-nine states without looking at a map.2