For the last several years, the American left has decried the use of certain words and phrases they say convey coded messages. While those words mean one thing to most people, they mean something completely different to a certain segment people.
During the 2008 presidential campaign and for the eight years of President Barack Obama’s presidency, the left claimed calling the president by his full name “Barack Hussein Obama” was a dog whistle. Why? Because the name “Hussein” sounded Islamic and like former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
So, for some people, it was just a name. But to the unwashed with their racist tendencies, they all knew what “Hussein” was meant to convey.
In a time when terms like “microaggression” and “safe space” have entered our vernacular, the media and the left analyze our use of the English language to an extreme degree.
It is no longer enough just to be aware of the literal meaning words have; now people need to consider what those words might mean to someone else … or even what someone else might think those words suggest to a third party.
“Don’t tell me words don’t matter,” Obama said in a 2008 speech in Wisconsin.
He was right. They matter more than most of us thought they could.
Given this standard the media and left have demanded — where we need to consider every facet of words and language to avoid offense — doesn’t it stand to reason that they do the same?
Consider the tactics Trump opponents have used to attack Mobile’s own Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions, whose full name is “Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III,” is one of the left’s favorite targets in the Trump administration.
Left-leaning show hosts and pundits on MSNBC seething with smugness and contempt pronounce “Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III” in such a way as to suggest to their audience that this a Southerner with antebellum baggage or worse — conjuring images of white, slave-driving plantation owners, or at a minimum, guys parading around in Ku Klux Klan robes.
The first Jefferson Beauregard Sessions was Sessions’ grandfather, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions Sr., born in 1860. Obviously, this was a common name at the time. Jefferson Davis, who was a U.S. Senator from Mississippi at the time of the eldest Sessions’ birth and would go on to be the president of the Confederacy, had the same name.
The suggestion by some of Sessions’ critics is he was named for Davis to promote the legacy of the Old South.
It seems those who decry the dog whistle are also very good at using their own versions of the dog whistle. Just as Obama did not select his middle name, Sessions did not choose his.
Are we supposed to apply different standards to both?
This left wing dog whistle syndrome extends to other things. The mere mention of the word “Alabama” in some circles is meant to conjure up negative connotations — trailer parks, incest, Trump voters, poor dental hygiene, etc.
In 2008, the Washington City Paper offered an entire article on the phenomenon of calling someone “Bama,” as in, “He’s so Bama.” The City Paper’s thesis was that calling somebody “Bama” was borderline derogatory because no person in Washington, D.C., should be likened to the state of Alabama.
Compare that to comments from then-presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas. He characterized his opponent Donald Trump as a candidate with “New York values.”
That took on many interpretations. New York values? How could you possibly attack an entire state in such a way? Some interpreted it as an anti-Semitic dog whistle.
At the time, it was pretty clear Cruz was referencing the state’s liberal-leaning politics and elite tastes. But why let that get in the way of so many other possible interpretations that could disparage a political candidate and his supporters?
The fact is, conservatives do not spend a lot of time thinking about this stuff. Sure, there are those in the business of Republican politics who do, but when have we ever heard of a college Republicans meeting being a forum for those in fear of microaggressions?
The left claims it is the right that engages in so-called dog whistle politics. However, they seem blind to their own stealthy, race-baiting messaging.
“LOL. Let’s keep repeating ‘Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III’ because it makes him seem like a racist, Old South aristocracy nitwit.”
But saying “Barack Hussein Obama” — “That’s nothing but a racist dog whistle meant to stir up Islamophobic emotions because most people that hear it are too dumb to know it is a secret literary device.”
There are two sets of rules, but it’s nothing new. We’ve known that for some time now. Those on the right will be called out for their dog whistles, but those on the left rarely ever will be.
What we can glean is the self-proclaimed experts on detecting these code words also have the uncanny ability to use their own version of those words themselves.