Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Another NY Times-hating moment

"All 2,982 names together, arrayed atop parapets stretching more than 1,500 feet around two great pools, will convey the vastness of the loss."

When the world gives you insincerity ringing in your ears...

...make earrings?


Stan Apps said...

That's the kind of language I put in my sonnets. So insincere it aches with pathos! (a creepy kind of backhanded pathos. . . since the insincerity doesn't mean the issue doesn't matter)

Ryan said...

Your last point about the weird backhandedness of this type of pathos, "works both ways": both toward the insincere entity expressing the pity or feigned reverence (many people mistake this for sincere piety, of course) but also toward whoever points out that this pathos is backhanded and insincere. Today, in class, there was an example of this. We were talking about abstraction in language, namely, discussing terms with meanings that seem to obscure meaning rather than clarify (our word was the derogatory glossing performed by the adjective "homeless", e.g., homeless people). I began to discuss how the Pentagon and the media, at the Invasion of Iraq's onset, began to use the term "troops" instead of "soldiers," since the former is less personal, more of an abstraction, and much more generic, thus obscuring death tolls and negative PR/reporting. Some students understood this, but others assumed that I was attacking the soldiers themselves, just as from the NYT context, there might be some who'd assume I was mocking the 9/11 victims.

Backhanded pathos works this way; it creates a cushion for those who dare to use it, and isolates them from any obvious attack. "But it was US who asked that this tragic event by memorialized IN THE FIRST PLACE..."