The Word Factory

Daily broadsides from The Baffler's just-in-time corps of knowledge workers


Daily Bafflements

The Baffler   September 28, 2016
These Trumps don’t just provide rhetorical treats. / Thomas Hawk
These Trumps don’t just provide rhetorical treats. / Thomas Hawk

Midasing, cookie-grubbing, and gish galloping are just a few of the rhetorical moves embraced by Trump, as The Week helpfully explains.  

Chris Inglis, former deputy director of the National Security Agency, has taken to NPR to dub Oliver Stone’s Snowden as a “gross mischaracterisation of what NSA’s purposes are.” One has to wonder—in what way?

If Only Hillary Clinton Were More Like Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus

David Rees   September 28, 2016
Whose hair is floppier? Chuck Todd wants to know. / CNN, Column C.
Whose hair is floppier? Chuck Todd wants to know. / CNN, Column C.

Did Chuck Todd see Clinton’s relentless, suffocating citations of facts and figures and talking points and data sets as a betrayal of the late-’90s indie-rock code: Never Let Them See You Try? Was her ostentatious display of competence the oratorical equivalent of Neil Peart’s preposterous thicket of drums and cymbals and who-knows-what-the-fuck-kind-of-ethnic-windchime-he’s-plinking-on-now?

Daily Bafflements

The Baffler   September 26, 2016
"The proud peacock fans his tail feathers in pursuit of a mate. By galloping sideways, the cat manipulates an intruder’s per- ception of her size. The chimpanzee, asserting his hierarchical rank, holds his breath until his chest bulges. The executive in the boardroom crests the table with his feet, fingers interlaced behind his neck, elbows pointing outward." Excerpt from "Power Poses" by Carney, Cuddy, and Yap. / Lisby
"The proud peacock fans his tail feathers in pursuit of a mate. By galloping sideways, the cat manipulates an intruder’s per- ception of her size. The chimpanzee, asserting his hierarchical rank, holds his breath until his chest bulges. The executive in the boardroom crests the table with his feet, fingers interlaced behind his neck, elbows pointing outward." Excerpt from "Power Poses" by Carney, Cuddy, and Yap. / Lisby

The video footage of the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott raises, yet again, the question of how the law keeps protecting cops who panic. Natasha Vargas-Cooper wrote about it earlier this year.

“By galloping sideways, the cat manipulates an intruder’s perception of her size,” wrote Carney, Cuddy, and Yap in 2010.

Bye Bye, Blackbird

Natasha Vargas-Cooper   September 26, 2016
Gore Vidal. / Carl Van Vechten
Gore Vidal. / Carl Van Vechten

During his long life, it was said that Gore Vidal’s literary and cultural appeal stemmed from one singular feat: that he pisses from a very great height. Vidal’s rarefied, mingent corpus was disorienting and too snobbish for some, but for grown-ups, it’s a delight.

Daily Bafflements

The Baffler   September 23, 2016
As witnesses' cellphone videos become a bigger part of breaking news, what are the responsibilities of professional journalists? / Judy van der Velden
As witnesses' cellphone videos become a bigger part of breaking news, what are the responsibilities of professional journalists? / Judy van der Velden

Over at Columbia Journalism Review, Shelley Hepworth dives into the sticky situation surrounding eyewitness video. In an era where citizens with cellphones often have the first—and best—footage of news events, what is the responsibility of journalists and editors trolling social media for material?

When Goo-Goos Attack

Max B. Sawicky   September 23, 2016
Leftist and radical critique of Hillary seems to be focused on alleged corruption, rather than real policy differences. / Reynold Brown
Leftist and radical critique of Hillary seems to be focused on alleged corruption, rather than real policy differences. / Reynold Brown

One of the less edifying displays in this election—there are many—is the level of left-liberal and radical critique of Hillary Clinton. Whether you advocate a vote for Clinton, Stein, or nobody, the discussions of Clinton need more ideological heft than is often observed in left-of-center fora.

Lies of the Times

Chris Lehmann   September 22, 2016
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Sit up and take notice, monitors of plain speech in our elite journalistic discourse: the New York Times has at long last elected to call a lie a lie, at least as far as Donald Trump is concerned.

Token-Hunters: Your Friendship Is Not a Gift

Amber A’Lee Frost   September 21, 2016
Beware the weekend warriors of woke Twitter, on the hunt for token non-white friends. / Ryan McGuire
Beware the weekend warriors of woke Twitter, on the hunt for token non-white friends. / Ryan McGuire

“Say it to my face” may sound righteous and brave, but the smug boors who shout that slogan the loudest are often the ones least prepared to listen. If you try to tell this person how her tokenism makes you feel, it could mean a lot of work for you.

Daily Bafflements

The Baffler   September 21, 2016
Bees. / Peter Ostergaard
Bees. / Peter Ostergaard

In Civilization and Its Discontents, Freud describes the pre-historic man as a fellow who likes to get his jollies off by pissing on fire pits. “The first person to renounce this desire and spare the fire,” Freud explains, “was able to carry it off with him and subdue it to his own use.” So, too, with the $100 candle hooked up to the internet of things—he who subdues the fire with his app (n.b., this isn’t a euphemism, you perv) shall be able to put the wi-fi-enabled candle to his own use.

Protocols of Moron

Corey Pein   September 20, 2016
Conspiring in secret.
Conspiring in secret.

What do you get when you combine an atomized, alienated public that possesses a deep and justifiable mistrust in institutions with a floundering press-political-entertainment complex that’s desperate to hold our nanoscopic attention spans? You get a nation of half-assed shamuses who’ve traded genuine political argument for paranoid fantasies about alien masterminds, lizard overlords, and government airplanes dispersing mind-control mist over population centers, not to mention presidential candidates who think and talk just like conspiracy theorists.

Daily Bafflements

The Baffler   September 19, 2016
A word to the wise:
A word to the wise:

“I explain to her that I haven’t called ahead for credentials, but that I just plan on quietly standing with the press corps, jotting down ridiculous things I see and maybe firing off some incredulous low-quality pics on Twitter.” (Thanks, McSweeney’s.)

What set Peale’s message apart from standard New Thought invocations of the Higher Self and its abundant earthly reward was his clear allegiance to a reactionary brand of business conservatism.” Baffler editor in chief Chris Lehmann has an excerpt of The Money Cult over at LitHub—about Trump’s go-to religious source, Norman Vincent Peale.

Daily Bafflements

The Baffler   September 16, 2016
Tech tycoons, tech politics,  and tech sales tactics. What's a cat to do? / Anna Magal
Tech tycoons, tech politics,  and tech sales tactics. What's a cat to do? / Anna Magal

Our friends at MuckRock will fund your pet research project on Palantir with their Thiel Fellowship, although we’re a bit skeptical that the program only lasts one year—we suspect the Paypal founder’s misdeeds and covert operations from intelligence contracting to publisher-killing, could keep you busy for a while.