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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Polluting The Language

I haven't said anything about the Wes Clark phony controversy because nothing annoys me more than people flogging fake controversies in a deliberately obtuse manner. Life's too short for that. I did want to make note, however, of an increasingly annoying trend in political coverage; the excessive use of the neologism "swiftboating."

Those of us old (or sober) enough to remember 2004 will remember that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (SBVFT) were an odious bunch who were intent on smearing Kerry to cost him the election. Their attacks were not based in reality or honesty, and they were not claiming that his judgement about foreign policy was flawed, or that his experience in 'Nam wasn't an excercise in executive leadership. They were claiming that he shot himself and took medals he never really earned.

That's what "swiftboating" is. Swiftboating is NOT any criticism of a veteran. Swiftboating is not pointing out that though one's military service, though important and honorable, it is not a unique or important qualification to being president. Swiftboating doesn't have to be about military credentials; it can be about anything. The heart of a swiftboat attack is that one side will argue, with a straight face and at the top of their lungs, outlandish claims with no basis in fact, the existence of which creates a controversy out of whole cloth, usually regarding a politician's strength. If anything, one might say that Clark is the one getting "swiftboated" here.

Many people on boths sides of the aisle are too quick to call criticisms "swiftboating." I'd just like to beg for a more judicious and, in my view, accurate use of the term.

The genisis for this post was from this Video from TPM, of Rick Sanchez saying "Did Wesley Clark pull a swiftboat on John McCain?" (about 1:02 into the video.)

Now, your Rick Sanchez moment of Zen.