C is for Contrafibularity, R is for Refudiate, I is for Irrational
by Charles Lemos, Tue Jul 20, 2010 at 12:16:58 AM EDT
In the above scene from the BBC comedy Blackadder Series 3, Dr. Samuel Johnson arrives at the palace, having completed his life's work, to present the now finished dictionary of the English language to the daft and not quite all there Prince Regent played by Hugh Laurie when Blackadder played by Rowan Atkinson throws Dr. Johnson for a loop by offering him his contrafibularity, a made up word meaning congratulations. One wonders what Dr. Johnson might have thought of our newest wordsmith from Wasilla, Sarah Palin. However unlike in Blackadder, the linguistic creativity of Sarah Palin is no laughing matter.
This is far from the most important news of the day, the truth is that Washington Post story on the national security apparatus built up since 9/11 with little oversight and seemingly little coordination is a much more important story, and yet writers across the world have devoted inordinate time and space to the Palin story. At one point this morning, "refudiate" was the second most searched topic on Google. As I write this, it is currently ninth.
Over at The Atlantic, Marc Ambinder finds that Palin "is getting quite savvy as a politician: when she makes a mistake, or appears to do something dumb, she is quick to exploit her own misfortune ... not in a way that excuses her original mistake, but that alludes to the improbable fact that there is some in-joke, some secret code that the rest of us aren't getting." He adds:
"Palin knows how to humanize herself. That's a rare talent for a politician to cultivate, and one that she's getting better at every day. What's more, she humanizes herself by somehow ascribing her misfortune to the establishment that's trying to tear her down. Her audience loves it.
It is certainly true that "her audience loves it." As I noted in my first post on this topic to her adoring base, no transgression can melt the polar adulation they have for her. The only time that there have been rumblings of discontent heretofore was over her endorsement of Carly Fiorina over the more conservative Chuck DeVore in the California GOP Senate primary. But the problem for Palin is that is only her audience who is eating this up. Say what you will about elitist publications but it is not a good thing that The Economist, on the Samuel Johnson Blog on Language no less, would take to criticize Palin. Over the course of the day, the mockery has been incessant. Twitter feeds on Movies with Refudiate or Shakespeare twists such as "The Laming of Shrew" or "Mid Summer's Night Moron" have a deleterious effect even if her supporters circle the wagons around her. The blind leading the blind, or in this case the dumb leading the dumb and dumber, isn't exactly a recipe for success.
But there is another point that needs to be made plainly evident and it is a serious character flaw that requires frank, explicit talk. Sarah Palin is psychologically incapable of admitting a mistake. She could have chalked this up to a simple typographical error (though her slip of the tongue earlier in the week would have left doubts) but no instead we got an unbounded narcissism. Rather than admit an error she compares herself to the greatest playwright in the English language, a language which she does not even master.
The inability to admit a mistake is, of course, a common conservative trait, though this is not to suggest that all conservatives are incapable of admitting errors. Mitch Daniels, the Governor of Indiana, for example reversed himself on the privatization of Indiana's welfare system cancelling a $1.34 billion contract with IBM noting that the state could do a better job of handling welfare claims. But among the more ideological members of the GOP, politics means never having to admit a mistake much less having to say you're sorry.
Just look at where we are now: the budget deficit this year will amount to 12.5 percent of GDP; 40 percent of the Federal budget is credit financed with more than half of that financing now coming from overseas. In 2011, the debt to GDP ratio will exceed 100 percent. Social inequality now matches levels not seen since before the Great Depression. The U6, the broadest measure of unemployment, is at 16.5 percent. In at least five states, the U6 is over 20 percent. A record number of Americans have been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer. For young African-American males, the unemployment rate is over 40 percent. Foreclosures rates are still climbing though they are expected to peak by year's end. And yet the GOP prescription is more of the same policies - lower taxes, fewer regulations, and a redistribution of wealth upwards - that put us in this predicament. Since 1976, 58 percent of all income gains have accrued to the top one percent of US households. Meanwhile, 25 percent of American workers earn a wage that puts them at or below the poverty level.
One would have thought that after the near collapse of the US financial sector and the steepest economic decline in 80 years, the debate over market fundamentalism - the belief that unfettered, unregulated markets can deliver economic prosperity and a secure lifestyle for all Americans - would lead to at least some introspection and reflection over what went wrong. But no, what's the Speaker-in-waiting John Boehner's response to the rather lukewarm financial regulations that just passed? To repeal them.
They have a blind faith in free markets but the blindest of them all are those closely associated with Tea Party movement, the Sarah Palins, the Michele Bachmans, the Sharron Angles, the Rand Pauls. Their faith in markets isn't rational. And their inability to admit even the most innocuous of errors suggests if entrusted with political power, they will drive us off a cliff for they are that committed to the failed policies of the past and are incapable of making any adjustments in their thinking. In short, they are irrational.