Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Taken Out of Context

This is the most popular new defense among politicians in the days of the digital soundbite. Stemming from the fact that no one watches full rallies or campaign speeches anymore, politicians have clued into this all-purpose counter-attack whenever a quote they say hits the airwaves in a negative way: it was taken out of context.

It's a genius response, for a couple of reasons. First of all, it can be difficult to find the full context of the quote in order to verify what they said. Documentation is somewhat lacking on the web. Second, it suggests a level of deliberate distortion by the opponent, and so this defense doubles as an attack. Finally, it gives the politician a chance to backtrack on something they may have said without thinking. In this way, the "out of context" explanation is a versatile tool for any public figure.

So, when I read this story and saw that context was being used as a defense, I was curious. Now, this is not the only story of ridiculous behavior over North Carolina's Amendment 1 proposal. But the interesting thing here is that the wife of a NC lawmaker is saying something that is clearly race-related, and then goes on record saying that her words were "taken out of context".

According to the report, Jodie Brunstetter (Wife of NC Republican senator Peter Brunstetter) said this to a local pollworkers: "The reason my husband my husband wrote Amendment 1 was because the Caucasian race is diminishing and we need to uh, reproduce."


Question one: Mrs. Brunstetter claims that this quote was taken out of context. She does not deny saying it. So, my question is, in what context is this quote not offensive?

Mrs. Brunstetter went on to defend herself by saying that she probably used the word "caucasian," but that she did not mean it in a race-related manner.

Question two: If Mrs. Brunstetter used the word "caucasian," in any context, in what way does that not have to do with race? Does "caucasian" have a second meaning I am not aware of? People generally don't use words like "caucasian" unless they are referring to race in some way. So, how can Mrs. Brunstetter say that she did not mean to use a racial label in a racial manner?

This is the point we are getting to now. It's like the game of spy vs. spy: the changes in how media works prompts changes in how politicians respond to media. That inevitably changes how the media works again, and the cycle continues. Right now, context is the thing that everyone is going on about, and the one thing that seems difficult for the truncated attention spans of the American Audience to demand from its preferred media. We've seen the devastation of non-contextual quotes, videos, and information. This is how people like Andrew Breitbart, James O'Keefe, and Crossroads GPS do their business. There is so much damage that can be done with information that is baseless, distorted, and falsified that it's a wonder we haven't heard more about keeping up with this kind of thing.

Hopefully, one of two things will happen. Either the media will do it's job and provide full context for the things it reports people as saying, or the people become more proactive in demanding this information. It's nearly impossible to tell the difference between real "out of context" issues and politicians covering their asses.


1 comment:

samp said...

I hadn't heard that about the NC woman. All I can say is WOW!!!

Sadly we still have a long way to go to inclusion or acceptance whatever you say. Hard to believe there are still those with these views.

I am speechless regarding the "man of God's" comments re: gays...no words.

I agree with your assessment.