Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Iggy's doublethink

There are a couple of recent TV commercials that have piqued my curiosity recently. One, for a popular burger joint, ends, "It's not fast food--it's Wendy's." The other, for a power drink (and don't get me started on the cultural significance of those), decries all other power drinks and then says of the one being sold, "It's not a drink--more like a sip."

Now, this isn't quite, "It's not torture, it's enhanced interrogation," but something rather different. After all, we can mull and mess with definitions of torture; but we can't do the same thing for fast food and liquids. Nor is it the same thing that Michael Ignatieff did last week, when he argued forcefully that George Galloway should at once be admitted to Canada for free speech reasons and kept out for security reasons. That's just trying to please everyone. In the commercials before us, however, there is neither nuance of definition nor an attempt to be all things to all people: in each case the voice is telling us that something that obviously is, is not.

How does the consuming public react to these odd statements? I suspect, given the long run that each has had, that they are reassured. They can order and scarf down a burger in five minutes without purchasing "fast food." And they can down a stimulant without having a "power drink." People tend to think in categories, and those categories become endowed with ontological significance. In other words, people unconsciously come to imagine that they exist in some objective sense.

The Liberals, of course, are no strangers to haggling over definitions (opposition to the Free Trade Agreement, for example, meant signing the deal with some editorial changes), or being so vague and noncommittal that citizens on all sides of an issue can find their positions affirmed in Liberal pronouncements. But tthis latest rhetorical device seems to be a new addition--at least, I haven't run across such a clear example of it before.

When Ignatieff defends his party's capitulation on the issuing of a $3 billion blank cheque to the Conservative government, while simultaneously stating indignantly that it isn't a blank cheque at all, he is engaging in nothing less than a species of Orwellian doublethink--and he wants us to as well. As reported:

“I want to make Parliament work but I don't write blank cheques. That's not what my voters sent me to Parliament to do,” [Ignatieff] said less than three hours before Liberals approved the fund.

Heh. That's not a blank cheque--it's a signed one where someone else fills in the amount.

Better get used to this. It's not a blink--more like a flip. It's not a fast one--it's Ignatieff's. Stay tuned for a lot more of the same, and I hope this observation doesn't get my accreditation to the Liberal Convention, which just arrived today, revoked.

[H/t Mentarch]

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