Sunday, February 24, 2008

Some Thoughts on the Logic of Talking Heads

02/24/08

Some Thoughts on the Logic of Talking Heads

Richard L. Franklin

I turned on a TV set yesterday to catch the news. The first choice was a CNN channel because they do only news 24 hours daily. The talking head that appeared on the screen was solemnly declaring he was about to discuss 'a very serious matter' concerning actions by Barrack Obama.

I breathlessly awaited the great revelation. Had that dark skinned man once been arrested for molesting a white teenage girl? Had he physically abused Michelle or their little girls? Had he once been caught for shoplifting while high on crack? Was he once given a warning ticket for foot tapping at a public latrine?

My mind raced to embrace the multiplicity of possibilities. Then came the 'very serious matter' the newscaster had promised. He very solemnly announced that Barrack Obama 'had stolen the words of another man'. I was then treated to a film clip of Obama quoting Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King. After each quote, Obama had asked, 'Are these just words?' Yes indeed, he surely had been stealing words, but not the words of only one man. He had stolen the words of four great orators of American history. I felt like throwing up.

Woe unto he who steals the words of the great orators of our past. Oh yes, I almost forgot, He also stole the stirring words of a close friend of his who had appended the eloquent question 'Are these just words?' after each quotation. Obama had in fact 'stolen' this four-word query from Governor Deval Patrick, a close friend of Obama's, with whom he often exchanges thoughts on oratory and politicking. Patrick has often used phrases and ideas suggested by Obama and vice versa. What a shameful complicity between these thieves of words.

Hey, not only did Obama use the words of four great Americans, he had the gall to not credit a single one of these great men for his stirring words. Furthermore, he had failed to credit Governor Patrick for his magnificent query, 'Are those only words?' Obama used this stolen question several times and never once credited his friend Patrick. What an abomination.

When I was a teen at West High School in Minneapolis, I was chosen to give an annual memorial day speech at a large nearby cemetery wherein many American servicemen had been laid to rest. I chose to memorize and deliver the Gettysburg Address, since it was written to honor men who had died serving their country. When I came to the line about 'honoring these dead', I was able to accompany the words with a sweeping gesture pointing to the many gravestones surrounding us. I had been a bit nervous that this was a bit too theatrical, but not so. My performance was a huge hit. I was subsequently surrounded by the audience, whose members wanted to shake my hand and assure me that I had made that year's annual ceremony the best ever. Two or three of the old folks had tears in their eyes. I was stunned.

An eruption of thanks and sheer adulation had occurred; yet I had plagiarized every single word of my speech. Not only that, I never gave credit to Lincoln for one single word. Obama is a piker in comparison with Franklin. He's into verbal petty larceny. I was into grand larceny.

Fortunately, I was not tarred and feathered for stealing another man's words. I was in fact praised for selecting one of the greatest speeches of American history and one that was absolutely appropriate since it was written to honor dead American soldiers on Memorial Day.

As these and other thoughts and memories raced through my mind, I flipped from one TV news channel to another, covering at least a half dozen news programs. Every last one was going on and on and on about Obama's despicable 'plagiarism'.

I was dumbfounded. I could barely take in what I was hearing. Then something strange happened. I suddenly had an epiphany. A man was actually being pilloried for using the words of great Americans. I then asked myself if that truly was the crime he was being accused of. Was he perhaps being savaged by every talking head in America for stealing the question, 'Are these only words?' My mind swirled with the nuances and possibilities.

I have long mourned the fact that rational thinking is not taught at any level whatsoever during the school years of America's young people. This explosion of anger and disgust toward Obama on seemingly every talk show and news program of America was not only totally irrational, it also bordered on cruel and obscene.

If elections were honest in America, this kind of mindless blowup could conceivably determine who would be the next president of America. In other words, a blatant, obvious fallacy could conceivably sink one candidate and raise up another to the presidency in a close race.

Don't ever tell me that the total lack courses in rational thinking in American education is no great loss.

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February 24, 2008 Franklin’s Focus 2/15/08. Richard Franklin is the Publisher-author of Franklin's Focus, a daily opinion piece and the author of 'The Mythology of Self Worth; Using Reason to Dispel the Fallacies that Trigger Needless Anxiety, Depression, and Anger'

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