Politicians Fall in Love with 'Word Bites'

Political sound bites have shrunk even further, from sentences down to "word bites." Defeatocrats, Islamofascists and "The Secure Fence Act" are all examples of politicians boiling down their ideas to bumper-sticker phrases.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

The Secure Fence Act is just one example of politicians boiling down their philosophies to what might be called bumper sticker phrases. Commentator John Ridley says these mini mantras have now shrunk to the size of a postage stamp.

JOHN RIDLEY: Defeatocrats, he said. Tony Snow said Defeatocrats, and with that the era of the soundbite was officially over. The soundbite, you know, when politicians reduce the sum total of their ideology to a catch phrase that'll get play on the evening news. You remember this golden oldie.

President RONALD REAGAN: Are you better off than you were four years ago?

RIDLEY: Or how about this one?

President WILLIAM CLINTON: There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.

RIDLEY: And who could possibly forget…

President GEORGE H. BUSH: Read my lips…

(Soundbite of cheering)

President G. H. BUSH: …no new taxes.

RIDLEY: Now, hail to the new boss - the wordbites. Talking about Ned Lamont's victory in Connecticut, Tony Snow called the Democrats who supported him Defeatocrats, and the era of the wordbite was ushered upon us.

The electorate, dumbed down as the electorate is, no longer has to spend extra seconds trying to absorb complex issues that have been boiled down to single sentences. Now they can be spoon-fed complex issues that have been boiled down to non existent words. We're at war against the Islamo-fascists.

Politicians obfuscate real issues with nontroversies. Blacktovists are agitating in the streets. Anti-Semicrats are nothing but hypocrites.

Now, none of this is wholly new. Rush Limbaugh made a name for himself pushing the label femanazis on independent women. Back in the day, southern Democrats were ID'd as Dixocrats. But Defeatocrats, it works so hard to sound like a clever moniker but lacks any craft in rhythmic quality, and ultimately comes off as a cheap taunt than a fusion of philosophies.

But seriously, Defeatocrats? I mean was lose-iticians already taken? I can't put all the blame on Snow. Clearly he caught the neologist bug from Beltway pundits who are following the lead of fringe brethren in trying to show game in verbal coinage. I read a column recently by Joe Klein where he repeatedly referred to conservatives as wing nuts and liberal bloggers as blog nuts.

Now I can understand the desire to mince some new lingo, the ego stroke that goes with having your freshly brewed word repeated over and over. But it's one thing when Rush and Al Franken engage in low-level discourse you'd come to expect from media gutter dwellers. It's another thing when a guy writing for a major news magazine resorts to actions that are little better than name-calling. It's banality pimped as pith to the general public. It's razzing, pure and simple.

And since when is it decorum for elevated thinkers or administration spokesmen to engage in schoolyard tactics? Well, as a punditator(ph), I say since the era of the wordbite.

MONTAGNE: Commentator and novelist John Ridley uses fewer words in his new graphic novel series, The American Way.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.