Maps and territories. Implied geese and bottles.

Fred Clark on trap streets:

We showed this to my friend’s dad, who explained how such minor fictions are sometimes included on maps to trap copycats who might try to pass off this atlas as their own work. The repetition of such errors would be evidence that the copycats had stolen their work, demonstrating the real source of their imitation.

The same principle applies when tracing the provenance of spin and talking points. Key phrases serve the function of trap streets. The spin doctor introduces a novel phrasing for an inaccuracy, when the precise same wording of the precise same inaccuracy is found elsewhere, we know that this repetition was copied from the original because the false claim, like the street that isn’t there, could not have arisen from independent observation of the real world.

Thus, to repeat the specific example from the previous post: this newspaper editorial is copied from this talking-points letter from the RNC. It contains the watermark, trap-street identifier, the misattribution of the phrase “slow bleed.”

Fred Clark on map-reading:

I would argue that free markets can be a Good Thing. The charging of interest, when properly harnessed, can be a powerful engine for growth and prosperity, creating incentives for investment that makes possible many good things which would otherwise be impossible. The recognition of this fact, over the centuries, led to an evolution of our interpretation of the prohibition against usury. It ceased to mean the charging of any interest (even “the hundredth part” or 1 percent) and came to mean, instead, the charging of “excessive” interest. We began to reinterpret the evident meaning of the text in an effort to reconcile it with what we were learning about the world and how it works. The prohibition against usury remains in recognition of the principle contained in the text, a principle we continue to honor despite the sometimes laughably elastic application of that weasel-word excessive.

This argument can be challenged as mere “rationalization,” in the psychological sense, an after-the-fact attempt at self-justification by a religious tradition whose adherents had become wealthy and worldly. But I would counter that in the non-psychological sense, rationalization is, well, rational. The application of reason is reasonable and necessary, and I find the reinterpretation of the prohibition against interest to be a reasonable step.

This reasonable step is regarded as noncontroversial when the matter involved is our own money. When the matter involved is someone else’s sexuality, however, such a reasonable step is regarded as extremely controversial. Why do you suppose that is?

I have my suspicions.  God appears not once in any of them.


3 thoughts on “Maps and territories. Implied geese and bottles.

  1. pedro

    Well then…umm…why don’t you tell us what they are…or are we supposed to guess?

    Seriously Siwy. These sorts of posts disappoint me. I don’t want to read OTHER people’s blogs and then a sentence from you. I want to read YOUR blog!

    Give me more bitch!

  2. Steve

    I thought I was being a little too precious in answering a rhetorical question in the first place. But:

    Why do we make allowances for our own money in religion, but not other people’s sexuality? Because the construction of religion is no different than the construction of any other institution, and we’ll rationalize anything we need to in the name or our own comfort, while viciously persecuting the other guy. Because if priests could marry, the Catholic church wouldn’t be such assholes about contraception, just like, as Gloria Steinem said, if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.

  3. Eric

    To respond to the first half of the post, isn’t a “slow bleed” still favorable to the blood-letting occurring now.

    By the way as evidenced by CNN and others, by putting it in quotes I don’t have to comment on the terms truthiness.

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