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Is Accuracy Racist?

Is quoting President Obama without fixing his grammar “racist”? Some say it is.

Dylan Stableford, YahooNews (“Was the Associated Press transcription of Obama’s CBC speech ‘racist’?“):

By most accounts, President Obama gave a fiery speech at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual awards dinner in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, telling blacks to “quit crying and complaining” and support him in the fight for jobs, according to the Associated Press. But was the AP transcription of Obama’s remarks racist?

That’s the subject currently being debated afterthe issue was raised on Chris Hayes’ MSNBC show on Sunday.

On MSNBC, the African-American author Karen Hunter complained the news service transcribed Obama’s speech without cleaning it up as other outlets did–specifically including the “dropped g’s.”

Via the AP version:

“Take off your bedroom slippers. Put on your marching shoes,” he said, his voice rising as applause and cheers mounted. “Shake it off. Stop complainin’. Stop grumblin’. Stop cryin’. We are going to press on. We have work to do.”

Hunter called the AP’s version “inherently racist,” sparring with New Republic contributing editor and noted linguistics expert John McWhorter, who argued the g-less version “is actually the correct one,” noting that the president’s victory in the 2008 election was due, in part, to how effortlessly “he can switch into that [black] dialect.”

Whatever the reason, Hunter found it offensive. “I teach a journalism class, and I tell my students to fix people’s grammar, because you don’t want them to sound ignorant,” she said. “For them to do that, it’s code, and I don’t like it.”

It’s worth noting that the same sorts of arguments arose during George W. Bush’s presidency, with the White House cleaning up the president’s speeches to make him sound smarter, and news outlets sometimes not doing so.

According to Mark Smith, the AP reporter who filed the story, Obama was making a point by dropping his g’s, making the transcription a no-brainer.

“Normally, I lean toward the clean-it-up school of quote transcribing—for everyone,” Smith told Mediaite. “But in this case, the President appeared to be making such a point of dropping Gs, and doing so in a rhythmic fashion, that for me to insert them would run clearly counter to his meaning. I believe I was respecting his intent in this. Certainly disrespect was the last thing I intended.”

“The AP Stylebook counsels against using spellings like gonna or wanna–or in this case, complainin’ and cryin’–’in attempts to convey regional dialects or informal pronunciations, except to help a desired touch or to convey an emphasis by the speaker,’” Tom Kent, the AP deputy managing editor for standards and production, said in a statement to The Cutline. “In this case, our reporter, who was there in person, felt the spellings were appropriate to convey a particular touch that President Obama appeared to be intentionally making use of.”

This isn’t of a piece with a discussion of dressing witches and pink and avoiding white paper and other such nonsense that links any association with color as potentially racist. The rendering of informal speech into a formal setting can indeed make the subject come across as less intelligent and play into racial, ethnic, and regional stereotypes.

This hit me starkly yesterday reading a column by Jason Whitlock on Michael Vick. This quote in particular stood out:

“Everybody seen the game,” Vick said. “I’m on the ground constantly, all the time. Every time I throw the ball, in all my highlights, just watching film in general, every time I throw the ball I’m on the ground, getting hit in the head. I don’t know why I don’t get the 15-yard flags like everybody else do.”

My immediate reaction was that Vick, who attended Virginia Tech for two years before departing for the NFL, was an illiterate moron. The repeated issues with basic subject-verb agreement is jarring in written form in a way that it isn’t in an informal television interview or even a press conference.

Whitlock, himself a former college football player and a black man, is neither a racist nor trying to make Vick look dumb in the column. Indeed, he staunchly supports Vick’s grievance here. But accurately quoting Vick had the impact of reinforcing the notion that he’s an ignorant thug.

My informal rule in quoting is essentially the AP’s: I’ll naturally clean up the quotations transcribed from speeches so that they fit the expectations of the written form. My intention, whether in reporting on a session I’ve attended or an interview I’ve conducted, is to convey the speaker’s message as clearly as possible and doing so using their own words. To the extent there’s a conflict, I err on the side of the former. Similarly, when I quote a commenter or something on another blog, I’ll quite often correct typos and obvious spelling errors so that the conversation is about the ideas, not the grammatical acuity of the person being quoted.

In this case, AP made the right call: Obama was purposefully affecting an informal idiom in his speech and presenting that informality in the transcript captures that.

It helps that the reader is likely to already have a firm sense of Obama’s intellect and verbal skills. If the speaker were a not particularly well known black man, a different judgment might have been called for–particularly in the news reports about the speech, if not the transcripts.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Sam says:

    “We are the country that built the Transcontinental Railroad.”

    Am I a racist for not making the correction to such an idiotic statement made TWICE by The One?

    Is CNN racist for not correcting the the White Houses 4th grade geography mistake?
    http://whitehouse.blogs.cnn.com/2011/09/27/oops-white-house-fails-basic-geography-test/

    I do wonder what the LSM would write for a week if Palin put out those comments and geographical errors.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 10

  2. Sam says:

    Are the LSM racists for many omitting the ““If asking a billionaire to pay the same tax rate as a Jew….” comment?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 11

  3. Sam says:

    Is Chris Hayes Ralph Madcow in drag or vice versa?

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 17

  4. Sam says:

    “According to Mark Smith, the AP reporter who filed the story, Obama was making a point by dropping his g’s, making the transcription a no-brainer.”

    He was using his “negro dialect when he wanted to” just as Harry Reid said!
    Give a whole new meaning to “pandering to the base”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 10

  5. Jay Tea says:

    Sam… we did build a transcontinental railroad. Obama called it an intercontinental railroad.

    And the “Jew” thing was, 95% likely, a misstatement — he started to say “Junior,” caught and corrected himself.

    Look, I’m with you on Obama being a SCOAMF, and there are tons of examples — “corpse-man,” “speaking Austrian,” “ashthma breathalyzers,” wrong year in the signature book in London, and countless more. But your arguments here?

    Not helping.

    J.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  6. mantis says:

    James,

    I agree with pretty much everything you say here, except when you turn Karen Hunter into “some.” She’s only one person.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  7. Sam says:

    @Jay Tea:

    Your right! Sorry. Hard to make that mistake as you can see. I guess it stuck in my head all these years.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  8. Hey Norm says:

    ZZZZZZZ

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  9. PD Shaw says:

    It’s an interesting issue that I wish wasn’t marred by race.

    For purposes of speech analysis, I think it’s appropriate to drop the “g,” insert hyphens, insert “uhs,” etc. Did anybody correct this from Perry:

    Is it the Mitt Romney that was on the side of…against…the Second Amendment before he was for the Second Amendment? Was it was..before he was before these social programs, uh, from the standpoint of he was for, uh, standing up for Roe vs. Wade before he was against vers- uh, Roe vs. Wade…uh…he was…uh for Race To The Top… Uh…he’s for Obamacare and now he’s against it…I mean, we’ll wait until tomorrow and, and, and see which Mitt Romney we’re really talking to tonight.

    For purposes of straight reporting, which is the purpose of the Vick quote, this is distracting.

    The fact is that Obama is one of the few people whose speeches are worth deep analysis. If he’s dropping “g”s that he normally employs for rhetorical effect, I don’t see a problem pointing that out.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  10. Wayne says:

    My big issue is that they treat everyone with the same standards. If they do or don’t clean it up with Republican then they should do the same for a Democrat.

    People from different areas of the country pronounce words differently. They spell it the same so in a written transcript it should be written the same. There should be none of the purposeful misspelling to try to reflect the reporter’s bias perspective on how the words were pronounced.

    I do believe that actual word should not be change. Many seem to like to include the “uh’s “, “well”, etc of Bush but leave them out on Obama. Then the flubs like inserting Jews or misstating the wrong country were major scandal when Bush did them but Obama gets a pass. It the same standards deal again.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  11. James Joyner says:

    @mantis: She brought the issue up but others are agreeing with her.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  12. Rob in CT says:

    My big issue is that they treat everyone with the same standards. If they do or don’t clean it up with Republican then they should do the same for a Democrat.

    Agreed.

    The rest is noise.

    I didn’t actually give a damn about Bush’s “gaffes” – it was his policies that mattered. I’d wager you think the same.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  13. rodney dill says:

    So then dropping g’s when reporting on Palin saying something is racist.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  14. ponce says:

    ZZZZZZZ

    Agreed.

    With so much happening in the world of foreign policy, this is pretty weak tea.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  15. mattb says:

    James,

    The fundamental question is: what is the point of the transcript? Is it intended to represent the written content conveyed through speech or is it intended to represent the speech (including *how* it is presented).

    If the purpose of the transcript is the first, then the performance of dialect shouldn’t be a consideration.

    If the purpose is the second, then McWhorter is, as usual, completely correct.

    What make this dicey is that the AP admits to typically only doing the first type of transcription. And that, seems to get to the heart of this issue:

    “Normally, I lean toward the clean-it-up school of quote transcribing—for everyone,” Smith told Mediaite. “But in this case, the President appeared to be making such a point of dropping Gs, and doing so in a rhythmic fashion, that for me to insert them would run clearly counter to his

    meaning.

    Meaning is the key word here. And it seems to me that both sides are correct in saying that the meaning here had to do with “intention” and performance of “race” — or more accurately identity.

    Which get to:

    It’s worth noting that the same sorts of arguments arose during George W. Bush’s presidency, with the White House cleaning up the president’s speeches to make him sound smarter, and news outlets sometimes not doing so.

    As I remember Bush modulated his “texas folksyness”, in the same way that Clinton would scale the “Bubbhaness”, when he spoke to different audiences. If AP applied the same eye to representing their affect and performance of those identities in those transcripts, then things are being consistently applied. If AP didn’t do this sort of thing in the past (or does so in the future), then things get dicey.

    At that point I have to wonder if the affective aspects of Obama’s performance would have been better addressed in the body of the article than in the transcript of the speech itself.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  16. Tano says:

    @Sam:

    “We are the country that built the Transcontinental Railroad.”
    Am I a racist for not making the correction to such an idiotic statement made TWICE by The One?

    Would it be racist for me to point out the idiocy of your statement?

    Its one thing for an extremely busy man, with a million things on his mind to make a slip like that -saying “intercontinental” instead of transcontinental” in the course of making a speech.

    Its far worse for someone like you, with far less on (and in) your mind, typing these words out, in your leisure time, presumably reading them over, and still not realizing that you have just made the same mistake, in the other direction.

    In a better world, you would now be shamed into a more respectful and humble tone in all your future characterizations of those you disagree with.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 4

  17. mantis says:

    @James Joyner:

    She brought the issue up but others are agreeing with her.

    I followed the links on the search page you linked, and found no one agreeing with Hunter. Whom are you referring to?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  18. Hey Norm says:

    @ Rodney Dill…
    You Betcha’!!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  19. WR says:

    @Sam: Apparently JWest is getting bored with commenting here as Sam and is now desperately trying to get himself banned again.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  20. Ebenezer Arvigenius says:

    If AP applied the same eye to representing their affect and performance of those identities in those transcripts, then things are being consistently applied. If AP didn’t do this sort of thing in the past (or does so in the future), then things get dicey.

    With all due respect that’s an unreal standard to set for an organization of any kind. It would be strenuous enough for a thorough individual to keep something like this consistent in his work. To ask a newscorp to homogenize a judgement call like “except to help a desired touch or to convey an emphasis by the speaker” over several different individuals is to ask the impossible.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  21. Franklin says:

    I think the AP style guidelines sound reasonable, and agree that they were followed here. Yes, there is room for interpretation. Welcome to the real world.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  22. mattb says:

    @Ebenezer Arvigenius:

    With all due respect that’s an unreal standard to set for an organization of any kind. It would be strenuous enough for a thorough individual to keep something like this consistent in his work.

    To a degree I agree. But this is also what editors are for.

    But I don’t think the rule is that hard to make: When a speaker — like the President — slips into a dialect, then the dialect should be transcripted (and lets all agree that affect is a necessary part of the meaning). That then provides an general rule that one can actually start to evaluate the decisions of reporters.

    It seems to me that the concern is over one dialect being represented (and carrying some potential stereotypes) while others are possibly not being represented (and therefore not carrying their respective stereotypes).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  23. TheColourfield says:

    “But accurately quoting Vick had the impact of reinforcing the notion that he’s an ignorant thug”

    So poor grammar=thug?

    Wonder if Brett Favre would be described the same?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  24. Hey Norm says:

    Actually…based on Vick’s behavior the past week I would say he’s a whiney little baby. But I think the same thing about Paul Ryan…so that comment may, or may not, be race based. Y’all decide.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  25. Boyd says:

    I also lament the introduction of racism into this, since it seems to me to be so misplaced.

    * I routinely speak the way President Obama did for the phrase in question, and often write that way, as well. When I do, I’m trying to “season” my thoughts using more tools than just my words. It would seem that the President was doing the same thing in his speech. I have a hard time seeing any racism in transcribing the phrase in that way.

    * Some folks see racism in every shadow (wait, is it racist to say that?). I heard a woman yesterday declare that there are people who oppose President Obama because of their racism, but somehow cease being racists when they support Herman Cain. She couldn’t elaborate on how that might be accomplished, though.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  26. Wayne says:

    @Rob
    You may not have given a damn about Bush’s “gaffes” but many did. Many harp on him and Palin about their gaffes or even some non gaffes. Amigos anyone? They tried to claim Bush and Palin lack intelligence because they made gaffes

    You may not have cared about the gaffes but have you slam Republicans for them?

    @Tano
    As I recall you don’t apply the same standards toward Republicans.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  27. Dave says:

    My immediate reaction was that Vick, who attended Virginia Tech for two years before departing for the NFL, was an illiterate moron.

    Accuracy is not racist.

    However, believing someone to be “an illiterate moron” (or, even worse, “thug”) for using traditional African American vernacular in an informal setting is absolutely racist.

    That’s like believing someone is inherently rude and smelly because you heard them speaking French.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  28. Boyd says:

    @Dave:

    That’s like believing someone is inherently rude and smelly because you heard them speaking French.

    I’m thinking you might want to pick a different example. When I spent a year in the Defense Language Institute, all of the French students were normal Americans when they started, but by the time they graduated, they were…yes, rude and smelly.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  29. rodney dill says:

    @Hey Norm: Ya der hey.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  30. PD Shaw says:

    @Boyd: “I routinely speak the way President Obama did for the phrase in question”

    I do too sometimes. I think I don’t get the underlying premise here that President Obama puts on a “black dialect.” To my ear, which is Midwestern, Obama relaxes from what is typically a more formal, rigid style of a professional to a more casual words or tones when he is trying to emote. I don’t think that’s “black dialect.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  31. James Joyner says:

    @Dave:

    However, believing someone to be “an illiterate moron” (or, even worse, “thug”) for using traditional African American vernacular in an informal setting is absolutely racist.

    No, it’s the opposite of racist. It’s hewing to a universal standard. And, like it or not, people are judged by the way they speak.

    In Vick’s case, the “thug” perception comes from the fact that he’s a convicted felon who served real jail time for heinous crimes. Other signifiers–from speech to dress to grooming–will reinforce or undermine that perception.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  32. Not Likely says:

    Why isn’t a “negro dialect” when Palin drops her g’s?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  33. mattb says:

    @PD Shaw:

    think I don’t get the underlying premise here that President Obama puts on a “black dialect.” To my ear, which is Midwestern, Obama relaxes from what is typically a more formal, rigid style of a professional to a more casual words or tones when he is trying to emote.

    At times, but I think it’s pretty fair to say that in a situation like that he is slipping into a Southern Baptists/Evangelical call and response dialect that is often associated with Black Churches (though you can find many White Churches that use similar styles).

    That “preacher” style + dialect + his (and his audience’s) skin color = creates some assumptions

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  34. Rob in CT says:

    Wayne

    You may not have cared about the gaffes but have you slam Republicans for them?

    I may have a few times, depending on the severity (as perceived by me) of the gaffe, or how funny I found it.

    Mostly I mock the substance of GOP proposals, not a slip-up in delivery. I honestly can’t remember if I ever mocked Bush for a gaffe. I probably did a few times, because I was really, really, really pissed off at him. Not for being a Republican. Not for being a poor speaker. For Iraq, mainly, and also other “war on terror” issues, and for the tax cuts, which I considered irresponsible under the circumstances.

    For example, I was far more irritated by the “Axis of Evil” speech than his “fooled again” flub (I know what he meant, he just flubbed the delivery).

    edit: I should mention that I don’t listen to politicians – I haven’t from an early age. I read about what they said, but I don’t listen. I can’t. It makes me sick to my stomach too often. I find reading the words is easier. So I wasn’t the type of guy who was going to watch a TV clip of Bush misspeaking and go “hahahaha! LOSER! You can’t talk you dumb Texan [yes, I know he's actually from my lovely Connecticut] hahahaha”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  35. Jay Tea says:

    Personally, I really miss Bush’s Bushisms. There was something charming about his “OB-GYNs sharing their love with their patients” and “fool me twice…. won’t get fooled again” and “misunderestimate.” And I nearly lost it when he discussed it at the 2004 GOP convention, when he knew he had a problem “when Governor Schwarzenegger was correcting me.”

    Obama doing self-deprecating humor? PLEASE. He’s way too thin-skinned to do it except under extreme duress. He’s more comfortable mocking others.

    J.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  36. mantis says:

    What a surprise. Jay Tea is charmed if a Republican does something, but annoyed when a Democrat does the same thing.

    By the way, the quote from President Bush is:

    “Too many OB-GYNs aren’t able to practice their love with women all across this country.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  37. Hey Norm says:

    @ JTea…

    Addressing Republicans the President said some things are more important than high poll numbers – “and on this, no one can accuse me of not living by my principles.”
    At a charity event he said “”Contrary to the rumors you have heard, I was not born in a manger, I was actually born on Krypton and sent here by my father Jor-El to save the Planet Earth.”
    At a recent observance of International Women’s Day, he saluted heroic women “from those on the Mayflower to the one I’m blessed to call my wife, who looked across the dinner table, and thought, ‘I’m smarter than that guy.’ ”
    In a photo session, he declined to wear a helmet thrust at him by the champion University of Alabama football team: “It’ll mess up my do.”

    Once again your ideology is not supported by the facts in evidence.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  38. Franklin says:

    @Jay Tea: So he’s under extreme duress at, for example, the White House Correspondent’s dinner? Your observations do not seem match anything resembling reality.

    Actually I do enjoy it when certain people push memes in a frail attempt to undermine people they disagree with. Obama is “thin-skinned”. Sure, keep telling us about that. Nevermind the supporting evidence.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  39. Jay Tea says:

    Like I said, duress. And ain’t he humble, comparing himself to Superman and worrying about his haircut. You want counter-examples?

    Special Olympics bowling.

    Nancy Reagan holding seances in the White House. (Factually incorrect, too — Nancy’s mumbo-jumbo was horoscopes; Hillary Clinton was the one who spoke with spirits.)

    Nick “Babyface” Lovelady.

    Donald Trump at the Correspondents’ Dinner.

    Obama’s default humor is “I’m awesome, you (or they) suck.” I don’t like what that says about the Commander-in-Chief.

    J.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  40. Wayne says:

    @Rob
    I hope you understand that many who do the same things to Obama, does it for the same reasons. Democrats tend to push liberal policies that we conservatives don’t like. Obama falls into that category as well.

    Also there is the matter of payback. Anyone who gets upset at someone else for doing what they did themselves lacks credence.

    I don’t pay attention to gaffes that much and don’t draw much of a conclusion from it. I don’t use Obama’s 57 States gaffe as proof he is stupid. I will use it as example of hypocrisy when people try to use gaffes from Palin or other conservatives as proof they are stupid.

    I would caution against relying on second hand information. Even transcripts are often change\fix up. People interpretation of what was said can vary greatly. Just watch a debate then listen to what anchors especially the one with opposite philosophy of yours state that the speaker said. Many of the media are liberals therefore you will often get a liberal spin to a story. Personally I prefer to see things firsthand instead of trusting someone else to tell me what the truth is. Of course I can’t always do that and I do take into account my own bias.It is not a perfect system. However IMO that is better than being told what to believe.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  41. PD Shaw says:

    I don’t use Obama’s 57 States gaffe as proof he is stupid. I will use it as example of hypocrisy when people try to use gaffes from Palin or other conservatives as proof they are stupid.

    Better example: how many people posted on Bachman’s statement that John Quincy Adams was a Founding Father, who also posted on Obama’s statement that Lincoln was the founder of the Republican Party?

    I think it’s an empty set.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  42. Dave says:

    No, it’s the opposite of racist. It’s hewing to a universal standard. And, like it or not, people are judged by the way they speak.

    Assuming someone who speaks black vernacular (a well established dialect of english with rule-based grammar) is INCAPABLE of also speaking within the universal standard is blatant racism.

    Vick was talking to Jason Whitlock, a black guy obviously fluent in black vernacular. It makes sense he would use black vernacular in that conversation. Assuming that usage means he’d be incapable of answering a question from, say, Bill Buckley or Will Safire, using the universal standard is a racist assumption.

    Take Ta-Nehisi Coates. He’s a well read dude. Writes and speaks beautifully. Obviously incredibly literate.

    He also speaks in African American vernacular on occasion. If you heard him using the African America verb-tense agreement Vick uses here (which is governed by rules and grammar standards that you are apparently, pardon the imprecise term, illiterate to) would you automatically assume he’s illiterate?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  43. James Joyner says:

    @Dave: Buckley and Safire are both, sadly, no longer with us.

    If I heard him speak and either didn’t know he was Ta-Nehisi Coates or had never heard of Ta-Nehisi Coates, quite possibly.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  44. Sam says:

    @Tano:

    But he is SOOOOOO smart we are told.

    Now I have pointed out the idiocy of your comment!
    Sycophant!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  45. Rob in CT says:

    @Wayne:

    Many of the media are liberals therefore you will often get a liberal spin to a story. Personally I prefer to see things firsthand instead of trusting someone else to tell me what the truth is. Of course I can’t always do that and I do take into account my own bias.It is not a perfect system. However IMO that is better than being told what to believe.

    I think this is excessively paranoid. I understand that a transcript may have been edited. I doubt, however, that said edit would completely change the meaning. I’m not talking about a blogger or Op-ed writer selectively quoting, mind you – that CAN totally change the meaning of something. I’m talking about a transcript.

    I read transcripts of Clinton speeches. I literally couldn’t bear listening to the man speak. Transcripts worked better, if I cared about what he said in a speech.

    Of course, the speeches themselves are mostly theatre anyway, as I’m sure you know. The policies are what matter, and often times what’s laid out in a speech only vaguely resembles the policy enacted/pursued.

    Anyway, we don’t really disagree on this subject (other than as regards the tricksie liberal media – I find this charge waaaaay overblown). I don’t speak for anyone but myself, but my issues with Dubya had zero to do with his speaking abilities and I rarely (if ever) mocked him for it. I was too busy being irate over Iraq, etc.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  46. Dave says:

    Buckley and Safire are both, sadly, no longer with us.

    And the english language is the worse for it.

    If I heard him speak and either didn’t know he was Ta-Nehisi Coates or had never heard of Ta-Nehisi Coates, quite possibly.

    This should demonstrate to you that linguistic based assumptions are, at the very least, grossly ignorant.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  47. James Joyner says:

    @Dave: No, I think it far more fruitful to presume that someone speaking in an illiterate patois is illiterate and then to revise my opinion if they turn out to be Ta-Nehisi Coates rather than to assume they might be Ta-Nehisi Coates and therefore draw no conclusions.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  48. Dave says:

    I don’t understand how a patois can be “illiterate”?

    My wife’s family speaks in a deep Massachusetts dialect. My Swiss cousins speak a language called French. And sometimes one called German. Michael Vick and Jason Whitlock speak an english language dialect called African-American Vernacular English (AAVE).

    All those people I just mentioned speak the way they do in casual settings because that’s the language of their heritage. I don’t assume that means they haven’t caught up on their Dickens/Chaucer/Foster Wallace. You shouldn’t either.

    “A language is a dialect with an army and navy.” – Max Weinreich.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0