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September 8, 1998


Football Schmootball: MOB REG Doublethink

As Norman Solomon points out in his piece on "Orwellian Logic 101," in this issue of The Harbinger, Orwell defined "doublethink" as a way of training minds to jump like circus dogs through hoops and do somersaults when there is no apparent whip forcing them to do it. Orwell's trained-dog metaphor illuminates his idea of doublethink as manipulative technique used by those with monopoly power over the media to train minds "to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed."

The Mobile Register gave us a perfect example of doublethink with its editorial "Sort Out USA's Problems Before Embracing Football" (8/23/98). But whereas, Orwell uses metaphor sparingly to drive home an idea, the Mobile Register's use of metaphor is totally lacking in elegance and finesse. Metaphor impressed into the service of doublethink reveals more about the intentions of the rhetoric than it achieves in convincing an audience about the truth and honesty of, in this case, the editorial message. It takes a great deal of skill with language to make readers forget that your newspaper for weeks has been hailing, in articles and editorials, the advent of football at USA. But in their Sunday editorial, there was no skill at all, just a crude and bald attempt on the part of Mobile's daily to shove abruptly its own words down the hidey hole, telling its readers they should forget football at USA for perhaps a very long nonce.

Why the sudden about face? That we shall never know for sure, but one thing we can know by examining carefully the editorialist's language is how inept doublethink manipulation attempts to disguise its motives in disjointed metaphors.

The thesis of the Mobile Register editorial is: "The time is not yet right for the school to plow new ground." The new ground to be plowed in this analogy is football. Stale yes, but forgivable enough had that been the only stale instance of metaphor. It gets much worse. After giving several reasons supporting the thesis that the time needs to be right to plow new ground, the editorialist shifts gears and gives the real reason the time is not right. Furrowing the new ground with the football plow will fail because there is an unmoveable and peculiar obstacle -- a "tail-wagging-the-dog setup," namely the USA Foundation. That is, our editorialist taking off the farm hat and putting on the canine-expert hat, finds him/herself caught between leading the too eager plow- horse back to the barn and facing an unruly tail wagging the too compliant university. His/her escape from this dilemma is to change metaphors in mid- furrow or between wags. But since the unruly tail is the real problem, our editorialist realizes that he/she needs yet another metaphor. The relationship between dog and tail must undergo "restyling." But alas, in the nick of time, our editorialist realizes that "restyling" will not get the job done and that something more radical is called for than just superficial redecoration.

Finally the editorialist lets the cat out of the bag. What's really needed, we learn, is "legislative action to restructure the foundation and give USA trustees more stewardship of their endowment money" so they can, the Mobile Register hopes but doesn't say so, get on with the real business of starting football at USA. But it's not over yet. From plowing the land and restyling tails on wagging dogs we get, at last, the piece de resistance. We go a-sailing with steward-trustees at the helm, who, while they're waiting for the "legislative action" to fix the tail-wagging dog, "set a steady course" for the debt-fraught and problem-beset ship of the university.

My point again in parodying the language of the editorialist, in case you haven't gotten it, is to call attention to the fact that devious purposes and bad language often go hand in glove. The glove covering the language when removed shows that for all his/her fancy talk, our editorialist has little more to say with his/her editorial megaphone, than to express frustration over the fact that the Mobile Register's lust for football has been very effectively checkmated by the USA Foundation and that in round two, Dr. Fred Whiddon is counterpunching hard and effectively. But you can expect that when the time is right for plowing new ground the Mobile Register will retrieve football from its hidey hole.

-- Tom Brennan

Life Forms by Dan Silver

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Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor,

I recently discovered something Martin Luther King said that prompts me to write this letter. His comment: "History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition is not the strident clamor of the bad people; but rather, the appalling silence of the good people!" My subject: Leadership Roles. My point is simple and direct. It is against Biblical doctrine for women to be in charge of organizations where capable men are involved. Why? Because women lose their femininity when they do so; plus men's masculinity degenerates as they allow it. And most tragically of all, direction from God is lost in such weakened organization. It's natural for women to be in charge of children, other women, and unhealthy men; but when they venture into leadership roles over healthy men, they soon lose the special softness in their behavior, appearance, and thinking. They, quite frankly, become controlling and not fun to be around in this condition. Likewise, men who allow this unnatural condition become wimpish. If you read the Holy Bible you'll know that I'm not just blowin' smoke about this big issue. Sometimes, we good men need a hearty, swift kick in the pants for letting women wear the pants in the social organizations. God rules the Universe -- it's not his wives that do so. Who's better example to follow (Mathew 5:48)?

Merlin Ross
Orem, Utah

Dear Editor,

For the millions of Americans who suffer from asthma, the term "breathtaking" has a literal meaning. Common everyday activities such as cleaning, climbing stairs or exercising can actually take breath away, but it shouldn't have to.

To promote the early detection and treatment of asthma and curb suffering and deaths, area allergists will conduct free asthma screenings Saturday, October 3, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Riviera Center Outlet Shopping Center in Foley. For more information, the public can call 943-4796 in Baldwin County or 304-0042 in Mobile.

Asthma is a serious disease characterized by a chronic inflammation of the lung airways that causes coughing, chest tightness, wheezing and shortness of breath. While the exact cause of asthma is unknown, an asthma attack can be triggered by such things as pollen, dust, food additives, or physical exertion.

The number of deaths attributed to asthma has increased by 60 percent since 1979, often because people don't known they have the disease and therefore don't receive proper treatment. The asthma screening program is sponsored by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology and facilitated by Dr. Leonard Caputo and volunteers from our medical community.

Sandra Weinstein
Research Coordinator
The Asthma & Allergy Institute
Mobile, AL

The Harbinger, P.O. Box U-980, Mobile, AL 36688-0001