I remember the 1950′s when children could get secret decoder badges from Captain Midnight and the Secret Squadron. All you had to do was cut out the paper covering over your jar of Ovaltine (drink of power for little investigators) and send it straight to the Captain and he would send you the badge, free of charge. Oh, wondrous day when that prize appeared in your mailbox and you could finally interpret the mysterious messages that Captain wanted to send you over the little black and white TV your parents owned.
Move ahead in time by about 60 years, and we find a new captain and new secret messages, but where is our decoder badge? Captain Newt Midnight and his Secret Squadron, want you to understand their secret codes, but they forgot the decoder apparatus, leaving it to the “elite media” (myself) to do the decoding for you.
When Captain Newt gets on the airwaves he likes to refer to the “food stamp president.” The decoded message he wants to convey is that President Obama wants to give away the nation’s wealth to the poor and to racial minorities, no doubt because he is also a racial minority and because his mother, during one difficult time period, collected food stamps.
Caption Newt also likes to say that “poor children lack a work ethic” by which he intends his audience to know that the poor and non-lily white among us don’t get ahead in life because they are lazy. He intends to remedy this situation by putting our school’s hard- working custodians out of business and turning over the cleaning and minor repairs to the the children in poor schools. Of course if you you attend a tax enriched school district, you could stay in the classroom and learn. However, if you are one of the deserving poor, there is no need for you to learn much at all, since you will grow up and become a recipient of food stamps, while your counterparts on the Main Line go to Harvard and Yale.
The Captain informs us that President Obama adheres to a “Kenyan anti-colonial worldview.” We certainly need our decoder badges to understand this statement. Kenya is in Africa and Africans are black people. An anti-colonial worldview means that black people must have a chip on their shoulders against the whites who came unbidden to their county and proceeded to act as though the country weren’t already owned. Therefore, we are supposed to understand that our President has a vendetta against Caucasians, never mind that his mother was Caucasian and that he barely remembers his father.
Newt likes to refer to those ideas and activities that are “fundamentally alien to the American tradition.” That means that if the founding fathers didn’t come up with the idea, that we shouldn’t favor it either. That includes gay marriage, Medicare, Social Security, a woman’s right to own her body, and tacos and the people who eat them.
The Captain speaks of the “radical European socialist agenda” of Mr. Obama. By this, he means to say that Europeans enjoy universal health care, among other humane benefits of a civilized society. Newt fails to mention that when someone isn’t covered by health insurance and needs to go to the emergency room, that the taxpayers pay for that person’s care anyway.
Captain Newt and the Secret Squadron are happy to tap into the underlying resentment that a certain portion of the Republican party has towards the poor and the racial minorities. They know, however, that they can’t come right out and say exactly what they mean because that would be too overtly classist and racist, so they use euphemisms that skirt just on the edge of the unacceptable. They know their intended audience will “get it” and indeed they do, judging by the uproarious applause they produce when he coyly opines his views to his chosen people.
It was most interesting for me to learn that more than 20 years ago, Newt wrote a booklet on the effective uses of propaganda that he sent out to his fellow Republicans. The title of the booklet was “Language, a Key Mechanism of Control.” This missive told what positive words and phrases to use when running for office and referring to yourself, and it highlighted the negative language to use when you want to refer to your opponents. Some of the words to use when you speak of your worthiness to hold office, are flag, liberty, hard work, and prosperity, but when it comes to anyone who is running against you, you must make sure to say they are anti-(flag, family, jobs) as well as use words such as liberal, radical, and collapse. The National Teachers of English were so impressed with the booklet that they awarded it the Doublespeak Award of 1990. I believe that we can agree that Newt retrieved this gem from his attic, dusted it off, and has found it very useful here in 2012.