19 December 2007

Text, Context, and Pretext

Rush Limbaugh is in “trouble” again, for attacking Senator Clinton’s fitness for office on the basis of age and appearance. But he’s only in trouble because there are people who just cannot be prevailed upon to act as if the meaning of an utterance is determined by its full context. And that is pretty awful when you consider that the people ignoring context are – get this! – professional journalists, against whose performance bloggers are weighed and found wanting.

Here’s the offending remark by Limbaugh:


Will this country want to actually watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis?
Here’s context, that portion of his monologue, which preceded the offending remarks.


Americans are addicted to physical perfection, thanks to Hollywood and thanks to television. We know it because we see it. We see everybody and their uncle in gyms. We see people starving themselves. We see people taking every miracle fad drug there is to lose weight. We see guys trying to get six-pack abs. We have women starving themselves trying to get into size zero and size one clothes; makeovers, facials, plastic surgery, everybody in the world does Botox, and this affects men, too….

There is this thing in this country that, as you age – and…women are hardest hit on this, and particularly in Hollywood – America loses interest in you, and we know this is true because we constantly hear from aging actresses, who lament that they can't get decent roles anymore, other than in supporting roles that will not lead to any direct impact, yay or nay, in the box office. While Hollywood box-office receipts may be stagnant, none of that changes the fact that this is a country obsessed with appearance. It's a country obsessed with looks. The number of people in public life who appear on television or on the big screen, who are content to be who they are, you can probably count on one hand. Everybody's trying to make themselves look different – and…they think they're making themselves look better. It's just the way our culture has evolved. It's the way the country is. It's like almost an addiction that some people have to what I call the perfection that Hollywood presents of successful, beautiful, fun-loving people. So the question is this: Will this country want to actually watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis?
Truly it is said: A text without a context is a pretext.

The media would have us believe that Limbaugh attacked Senator Clinton. But clearly he insulted the American people, including the media.

Reality check: ever see any truly unattractive people on any news program? I don't mean just hit-with-the-ugly-stick ugly. I mean fell-off-the-ugly-tree-and-hit-every-branch-on-the-way-down ugly. You don't see such people on TV. They work in print or radio journalism.

And the news media wonder why more and more people trust their coverage less and less. If they can’t get it right about something as relatively insignificant as a radio talk show, no one should wonder that many of us don’t think they are really too keen on reporting the truth about the battle in Iraq, or the economy, or global warning or much else.

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James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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