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“Shithole”

Posted in Reviews - of books, mostly by EloiSVM42 on February 10, 2018

I’m pretty proud of the Fourth Estate these days. The media is taking its responsibility seriously. The newspaper war between the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times for scoops about the Trump administration is absolutely thrilling. It’s amazing how many reporters each paper has put on the beat, and it is paying off with great stories and increased circulation, which translates directly to advertising revenues.

That said, the media’s treatment of one story went off the rails in a way that, except for being serious, was rather funny. When President Trump displayed his racism and xenophobia by referring to Haiti, and African countries broadly as “shithole countries,” the media stumbled all over itself about how to handle Trump’s comment. Shit is one of the seven words you are not supposed to say on television.

Some wrote “S***hole” or said “S-hole.” Others just wrote or said it was a “vulgar term,” or “something that can’t be said on the air.” One news network said “Shithole” but then backtracked to “S-hole.”

Chaos doubled when one of Trump’s defenders said Trump didn’t say the word at all (he did), and redoubled when some moron defender said he said “Shithouse” instead, giving us the dictionary example of a distinction without a difference. (Samantha Bee, of course, said Shithole right off the bat, which for her is mild anyway.) Eventually, most media outlets worked up the courage to quote what Trump said directly.

With a nod to Bill Maher, New Rule: when a word is used in a quote, use the quote. Don’t try to soften it. That’s not only too politically correct, but it distorts the intended emphasis and sounds silly. This is especially true for the President, whose words, for better or worse, speak officially for the government.

For example, the word “nigger” is one I would never use…unless I was doing a public reading of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. In that context, it is a quote. It is his word; Twain chose it deliberately, in this case to strengthen his pointed opposition to slavery. (“The difference between a word and just the right word, is the difference between “lightning” and “lightning bug”.” – Mark Twain) I cringe or scoff every time I hear or read “the ‘N’ word.” It’s so, so precious and pusillanimous.

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