Actual "Actionability"

From the New York Times today, re: Osama Bin Laden tape (ps, why is always a tape? wonders C; isn’t that a little lo-fi? Is that to underscore the whole fundamentalist vs. Western libertine thing? Couldn’t he Pod-cast it?):

The White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, told reporters that President Bush had been told about the tape on Thursday morning after an appearance in Virginia. Mr. McClellan said American intelligence agencies were trying to determine whether the tape provided clues about Al Qaeda’s operations.

“If there is any actionable intelligence, we will act on it,” Mr. McClellan said.

“We are winning,” he said. “Clearly Al Qaeda and the terrorists are on the run, and that is why it is important that we do not let up, and do not stop, until the job is done.”

And I thought my students had trouble articulating themselves. I mean, for fuck’s sake. This man–and everyone else working in the Bush White House–talks and talks and talks, and NOTHING COMES OUT. His words turn to vapor the minute they hit the air.

What does this mean for, um, the American People? What does it mean that the folks in such visible, highly-compensated, diplomatic positions of global power DON’T SAY WHAT THEY MEAN? That they render language moot every time they open their mouths? Does it, like supply-side economics, have a trickle-down effect on the rest of us?

“Ms. M,” my students say, gesturing, “I need help with the thingy-thing.”
“The what?”
“The, um. The THINGY-thing. The, um. The–this,” they say, pointing.
“What’s that?”
“The conclusion?”
“Yeah,” they say, rolling their eyes, like, Why didn’t you say that in the first place if you knew what I meant?

“All right, what are the three kinds of narrators?” I ask during a review session.
“Um, the omunist,” S says, spinning in a desk chair.
“The what?” I squeak.
“The omunist!” she says with more conviction. No one else seems to think she’s mistaken.
“The OMNISCIENT narrator?” I say, writing it on the board.
“Yeah, that.”
“Say it,” I plead gently.
My face crumples.
“Om…nih…shint,” she says triumphantly. My head drops in gratitude. At least my students have the excuse of learning a new language. Scott McClellan has only the excuse that he’s learning Doublespeak.

On a lighter note, don’t get me started on the truncation of proper nouns to save time, like “Lex and Mad” for “Lexington and Madison Avenues.” Are one or two syllables really so time-consuming?

Ambivalent with regard to hope in the future, I remain,
Ms. Mag Av


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