Monday, July 14, 2008

Gods and know-nothings

Clueless at KSFO

The departure of Melanie Morgan from the KSFO commute-time talk show may have reduced the variety of right-wing vitriol, but the Bay Area radio station remains a reliable source of nonsense and idiocy. Sometimes word maven Richard Lederer calls in to promote one of his books or bandy words about, but Lederer represents the apogee of intellectualism when it comes to KSFO. Too bad he wasn't on hand this morning when Brian Sussman and Officer Vic (Tom Benner) were highlighting Barack Obama's supposed lies about his plan to withdraw troops from Iraq. That's probably because Lee Rodgers was off today and prefers to reserve Lederer's visits to his own segments. Thus the B team was in place in his stead.

Or maybe it was the C team. Sussman and Benner don't know the difference between “precipitous” and “immediately.” They mocked Sen. Obama for denying that he had called for a “precipitous” withdrawal of troops from Iraq. Their evidence was a statement on Obama's website that he would begin withdrawals “immediately” upon becoming president:
Sussman: As of Friday, this was still on his website: “Barack Obama's plan. Judgment you can trust.” In September 2007, he laid out a detailed plan for how he will end the war as president. You ready for the plan?

Benner: Yeah, Brian.

Sussman: It's on his website. “Obama will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq.” Now does that sound like precipitous withdrawal to you?
Excuse me, guys, but “precipitous” means “hasty” or “rapid”; it carries connotations of recklessness, which I'm sure is what you were after. By contrast, “immediately” means “without delay” or “right away.” You can begin something immediately (rather than delaying it) and there is no implication that the process you began is either rapid or slow. Tim Conway could immediately start shuffling across the room like the world's oldest man. His progress would be slow.

We must, however, entertain the possibility that Sussman and Benner know full well the distinction between “precipitous” and “immediately.” I think they don't, but it's possible. They are propagandists for a right-wing radio station, so anything that advances their agenda is permissible. Besides, they can count on many of their listeners to fall for whatever they say. Love and war. And politics. It's all fair!

I admit, though, that I think it's more likely that Sussman and Benner are as clueless as they come across during their broadcast. The key bit of evidence came hard on the heels of their colloquy on Obama's alleged contradictions. Sussman segued from his quotation of a statement from Obama's campaign site that contained the word “immediately” to a discussion of supposedly seditious elements that had been dropped from the website:
Sussman: You can't find this link any longer. It's been off for months now. But I still have the copy, when you could link from his website to their website and from their website to his website. This was Muslims for Obama.

Benner: Yes.

Sussman: Their tag-line was “Donate one dollar for one nation under God.” Now I got news for you. I don't think the God they were talking about is the God of Christianity and Judaism and let's include Hinduism and Buddhism and all the other isms. I think it has something to do with—

Benner: The one that says “submit.” [Laughter] Isn't there one? It seems to me. Let me go up to the catalog, Bob. Let's see, there's one here that says “submit or die”! Yeah, that's the one.

Sussman: In a word, yes. Submit.
Since Sussman and Benner haven't been paying attention, let's clue them in. The world's three major monotheistic religions are closely related. Just as Christians fancy themselves the successors of Judaism, the religion whose adherents supposedly didn't recognize the coming of their messiah, so do Muslims see themselves as successors to Christianity, the religion whose adherents didn't recognize the coming of the new prophet Muhammad.

In brief, Yaweh = God = Allah. You can have fun quibbling about differences in emphasis (whether the Jews may have also recognized lesser gods, why the Christians adopted a trifurcated concept of deity, and if Muslims regard Allah as the perfected version of predecessor notions of godhood), the fundamental notion for all three religions is that there is one supreme god. Arabs who are Christians use the name “Allah” when referring to God and do not imply by that usage that they are adherents of Islam.

But I trust you noticed the more egregious error in Sussman's ignorant rant. He included Hinduism and Buddhism under the Judeo-Christian “one God” umbrella, where they certainly do not belong, while excluding Islam, which certainly does belong in the line of descent of Old Testament monotheism. Hinduism espouses many gods while Buddhism is content to acknowledge none. English vocabulary words aren't the only things the KSFO talkers don't understand.

That's not the point, though, is it? The agenda at KSFO is not fact-based. The intent is to drive a wedge between the United States and Islamic culture. We need bad guys to ensure more electoral victories for the GOP. We're the good guys. Muslims are the bad guys (along with Democrats, liberals, gays, lesbians, atheists, and evolutionists). They're not like us. Oh, and Obama isn't like us either. Vote Republican.

Thank you, no. Republicans and their shills embrace a crabbed and cramped cultural view of us-and-them that reduces everything and everyone to caricatures. Let us laugh them to scorn. Cheekily borrowing some words from Psalm 2:4, I say that we shall have them in derision. They are so easily refuted. But will that be enough? My one concern about these idiots of the airwaves is reflected in the cautionary words of Adlai Stevenson, who was reportedly told by a supporter that he was sure to get the vote of every thinking American. “Thank you,” replied Stevenson, “but I need a majority to win.”

If you're a thinking person, get out there and make a majority. Otherwise the know-nothings win. And we lose.


Anonymous said...

I don't think it's vocabulary they fail to understand. It's derivatives. I'm sure you've seen plenty of students like that, right?

Zeno said...

You're right, of course, but I don't know if it would have increased the comprehension level of my readers to have written the post in terms of time t being small (soon) versus speed ds/dt being large (fast).

Anonymous said...

On this side of the pond (Scotland) "precipitous" means "steep" and "precipitate" means "unduly hasty". It's early(ish) here and I had to read your piece twice before it made proper sense to me. Great article, though

Anonymous said...

"Excuse me, guys, but “precipitous” means “hasty” or “rapid”; it carries connotations of recklessness, which I'm sure is what you were after. By contrast, “immediately” means “without delay” or “right away.”

Therefore, by using the word "immediately", recklessness (and its consequences) can be easily held at bay. Q.E.D.

Perhaps other unpleasant realities can also be slain by semantic contortions. Worth looking into.