Thursday, 09 August 2012

Forest? What forest? All I see is trees. The vehemence with which a conservative denies the veracity of this particular advertisement is directly proportional to their awareness that it speaks to the truth that occupies their nightmares: that so many millions of people will genuinely benefit from the Affordable Care Act that it’ll become increasingly difficult to elect Republicans. The brown people who once populated their nightmares have been replaced by roaming hordes of healthy Americans who appreciate the legislation that saved their lives. These people will pull the lever for Democratic candidates because they feel indebted to the party. But they’re even more frightened by another group of people: those who have lost loved ones due to dropped coverage or lifetime limits. Why? Because it’s impossible to defend a system in which corporations invest in the deaths of their clients to the relatives of the deceased. Rationing works according to a terrible but understandable rationale: “You must die so that others may live.” But the current system works according to a singularly grim calculation: “You must die so that others might profit.” That’s not a winning argument and those responding to this advertisement know it. They need to transform its message into something palatable. For example: Knowing what we know now about the timeline of all this, what’s left of the accusation in the original smear ad? What is it, precisely, that Bain is being faulted for doing or not doing? They shouldn’t have closed down the plant because it was unfair to expect the workers who were laid off to ever find new jobs with insurance? It was negligent not to predict that some workers’ wives might get laid off too and wouldn’t find a new job for years before they became ill? There appears to be no actual policy or business critique here. There only “appears to be no policy or business critique” because someone’s afraid that confronting it will remind people of the substantial policy and business critiques that are always at play: that relying on an insurance system that’s only affordable when partially subsidized by an employer leads to a situation in which chronic unemployment is tantamount to a death sentence. They can’t even bring up that fact to refute it without ending up defending an untenable argument. So they deflect: Romney left Bain’s day-to-day operations two years before the evil plant closing. The plant was in financial trouble before Bain ever got involved. Because if they focus on the specific facts presented in this particular argument they might not be compelled to defend the current system on principle. They might be able to avoid the unpleasant truth that the emotional appeal of the advertisement comes from the manner in which it militates the facts of a life against the callousness of a corporate culture. Remove Bain from the equation and the appeal is no less effective. Conservatives know and fear this: they know that they’ll be running against stories like this and they know that the only humane response to them is...
Would someone please teach these people how to plagiarize? Every quarter I tell my students a joke. I tell them that I’ll let them plagiarize so long as they paraphrase their source material and attribute the original idea to its author or put it between quotation marks and identify where they found it. They usually stare at me agog for a seconds before what I’ve said sinks in. But it usually sinks in. It’s a shame I didn’t teach Fareed Zakaria, who’s not only a plagiarist, but one of the most stunningly untalented plagiarists I’ve ever encountered. Another thing I tell my students is that if they’re going to plagiarize well, they need to find source materials specific to the argument they want to parrot, which means that they can’t just type “visual rhetoric Blowup” into Google because the first few links will direct them to stuff I’ve written. Only an idiot would quote my only words back to me. I encourage them to find obscure material—like academic essays on Antonioni or Italian New Wave—and pluck their attributed paraphrases or quotations from there. So what’s so stunning about Zakaria’s plagiarism? He plagiarized from one of Jill Lepore’s articles in The New Yorker. The New Yorker. I know most people only read it for the cartoons, but I promise you that Google has access to the words as well as the pictures. But Zakaria’s even dumber than that. He plagiarized from a recent New Yorker article in the pages of Time magazine. It’d be one thing to plagiarize a recent New Yorker article in an essay that only one person, your professor, will ever read. It’s dumber thing entirely to publish material lifted from one national publication in another national publication. He should have known that anyone interested in the material he quoted would pop onto Google and see that it appears in two different places in a very nearly identical context. But wait! It gets even better! It seems as if Lepore herself might have a problem with plagiarism, which if true means it’s possible that Zakaria second-order plagiarized the work of an undergraduate at Harvard. And we let this man talk to president and kings? To coin a phrase: Why oh why can’t we have a better press corps?

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