The Note: Hanging on the Telephone

"Yanowitch has established what has been described to me as a 'secret messaging group.' Though he rebuffed requests for an interview, a member of this Masonic cabal leaked to me a roster of potential saviors of the Democratic Party even unlikelier than Lakoff. Along with the usual pollsters and strategists it includes the internationally best-selling mystery writer Harlan Coben, creator of the Myron Bolitar series, about the adventures of 'a hotheaded, tenderhearted sports agent' (as describes it). Another member is R. J. Cutler, the reality-TV impresario behind last summer's Showtime series American Candidate (modeled after American Idol), which put the lie to H.L.Mencken's maxim that you can never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people. As the show was conceived, viewers would select a 'candidate' to run for president in the serious, if alarming, hope that the winner would actually enter the race. (The show flopped. Given Cutler's political affiliation, it failed on another level, too: viewers chose a thirty-eight-year-old Republican.) The idea seems to be that people like Coben and Cutler, having moved the masses with their art, possess mysterious alchemical skills that can just as easily be applied to politics."

"Of course, buzzwords are not going to rescue a failing party. That so many Democrats have achieved the Olympian state of denial necessary to believe otherwise suggests that the tempting abstractions of language and messaging have diverted them from a truth that ought to be perfectly clear: rather than being misunderstood, they were understood all too well."

The Note has published several pieces criticizing the Lakoff view and politics as linguistics -- and we'd like to hear from his defenders. Send your correspondence to:

The New York Times Magazine's Deborah Solomon has a cool Q and A with quixotic evangelical lobbyist Richard Cizik:


""Creation care'' sounds like a division of Medicare."

It's still better than environmentalism.

"What is wrong with that term?"

"It's not the term. It's the environmentalists themselves. I was recently speaking with the leadership of the Sierra Club and the National Wildlife Federation, and I told them, 'Gentlemen, I respect you, but at this point don't plan on any formal collaborations.'"

"Why? Because they lean to the left?"

"Environmentalists have a bad reputation among evangelical Christians for four reasons. One, they rely on big-government solutions. Two, their alliance with population-control movements. Three, they keep kooky religious company."

"What is your idea of a kooky religion?"

"Some environmentalists are pantheists who believe creation itself is holy, not the Creator."

"And what's No. 4?"

"There's a certain gloom and doom about environmentalists. They tend to prophecies of doom that don't happen. Look at the movie 'The Day After Tomorrow,' in which New York City freezes over."

The West Wing:

"The West Wing" has been great this season. It really has.

With a few glaring exceptions (ahem, Cuba), the episodes have been rejuvenated, daring, weirdly evocative of the campaign trail, well-cast.

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...