It is of great benefit to my understanding of the world that I live with someone who isn’t plugged in to the internet as I am. Or perhaps I should say, not to the same portions of it that I am.
I mean, Dan is a mathematician, and he works hard and working from home while we appreciate it (We don’t like to be apart) has not helped with the working hours, because now the would-be commute is also work time. And, oh, look, he an go and solve that little niggling problem before bed. And… how come it’s four AM.
I’m not saying I don’t do that too, it’s that, being a writer and working for myself, I also go through times of doing deep dives on this and that, and then coming back to politics, because I’m a politics-interested critter. (It’s not that I have an interest in politics, so much as my early life showed me they have an interest in me. I don’t turn my back on it. Can’t.)
His time is more limited, and his time off — he does the taxes for all the family businesses and I’m not the only one with three — usually ends up being spent researching HIS obsessions, like music or some obscure movie thing that fascinated him for no reason I can figure out, or something about early 20th century history.
But he definitely never hung out on political blogs. Which means when I’m trying to explain why something is immediately obvious — like, DIL in training doesn’t like to eat sandwiches, so I immediately said “But you’ll still make them for my son, right? Otherwise, it’s just unnatural” three of us laughed and my husband looked confused. Because “women as sandwich makers” was not part of his mental archive. And then I had to explain how it started in the blog fights of the early oughts — I end up, more often than not having to get galoshes and a spade and go digging, until he gets how we got here.
And then I suddenly feel a weird sympathy for the left and their absolute belief we use “dog whistles” and are in the middle of some form of conspiracy.
It’s not just that they can’t meme, or are humorless (though dear Lord, that’s part of it) but the inherent structure of politics in this country — and parts of the world, though they’re behind us by a few decades — makes the two sides very different in how they communicate.
The left STILL commands all the traditional communication channels. And because they are and assume they are the “accepted” mode of being in the culture — because they have the cultural megaphones from media to education, from government mechanisms (even when nominally not) to entertainment — they communicate in the open. They just slap their “I support thing” as virtue signaling over everything, plus some. They — and this is partly personality attracted to the side — seem to change their programming over night and all talk about “new thing” in unison.
This means their mode of communication is detached from reality (often) and rests on shaky ideological/economic foundations but it’s out in the open and blared from a megaphone.
They make jokes that aren’t jokes, merely pointing out they support the thing. And they say things they think will shock the right, but they have no clue what the right is or what would shock us.
They are in a way the young girl just released from a convent school trying to shock the kids in public school. They get weird looks. We understand them, but they don’t get us at all.
Meanwhile the right comes from years of silence. Years of being silenced, and not even being able to explain it to anyone. If I had a dime for every time I told someone in the nineties or oughts ‘yeah, most bestsellers are left because the right ones who are known to be so are stopped early” and got back “Nah, the left is more creative, because they’re anti-establishment and blah blah blah.” (HOW the left, in control of everything, is supposed to be anti-establishment is a good question. I mean, sure, they do a lot of things they think are shocking, but wouldn’t shock anyone who wasn’t born in my grandparent’s generation. Look, people, naked Shakespeare was OLD HAT when I was a kid in the late sixties. Now extrapolate from that.)
At least now most people know — it took twitter, I think — that the right was being hard-silenced.
Which means most people my age who are the oldsters of the “we talk back” generation came to our own conclusions and thought we were crazy to dissent from what “everyone knew” for the longest time. No, really. We were out there, thinking we were along, but we could see no other way to make sense of things, so we stood. Alone, we thought.
A lot of my generation discovered they weren’t UTTERLY alone due to Rush Limbaugh. (I was never a big listener. I just am not. I don’t listen to podcasts, except maybe once a week. Even the audio books I listen to are usually things I already read. I don’t hear very well, and need to be sure I can “catch” what’s said, even if I miss some words.)
And most of us hit the nascent right blogosphere with two feet in the early oughts. Which is where a lot of the early memes like the “girls make sandwiches” meme comes from.
But the blogs, and particularly the blog comments, being a wild west type of atmosphere, where people who developed their opinions in isolation came together and figured out how it all fit for the first time, is a completely different form of communication from the top down, revealed truth talk on the left.
On the right, the clash between right feminist and right not particularly enthralled with feminism gave rise to “Make me a sandwich and get me a beer” as response to screeds on how you’re disrespecting some feminist shibboleth. (Particularly when women on the right hadn’t fully realized how much of the feminist “current thing” was really Marxism in a cute scarf and high heels.) And from that it got meme-fied into short hand, so you could drop a picture of an early 20th century mesmerist levitating a girl and label it “And like that this sandwich maker becomes an ironing board” and it was immediately funny, both poking fun at feminist outrage and the troglodytes or pseudo troglodytes (I’ve been known to be one of those) on our side who think women are inherently house-keepers. (And a lot of this is self-conscious mocking of the person by him/herself.)
We had to develop a sense of humor about our internal battles, including our own opinions, and we had to be able to communicate we weren’t ossified in our opinions really quickly, to prevent minor disagreements becoming blog or alliance shattering wars.
A lot of memes come from that. Because they can communicate “Yeah, this is what I think, kind of, but I’m aware it’s also funny.” Or “This is how I see your opinion. Care to clarify” in — usually — a non-offensive, quick-hit manner. A manner that allows the other person to come back with “Yabut–” Or “Funny, but in fact–“
The left doesn’t do that, because no scrapping allowed in the ranks. They value unity and directives come from above.
Beyond giving them a tragic inability to meme (Seriously, we should start a fund to send them to meme school) it also leaves them with the conviction that the right is always speaking in “dog whistles” or “code” and that we’re plotting horrible and scarifying violence against them, in these bizarre coded words.
Part of it is that we kind of due speak in a code. As I find out every time I have to translate something for not-plugged-in husband. There’s layers upon layers.
What they don’t get is that it’s not a secret code on purpose. It’s more like …. family speak. Which makes sense. I have lost my linguistics shingle in the moves, and at any rate, haven’t exerted my profession in too long to now tell you the proper terms for all of this stuff, but–
There are different types of communication for different environments. In church a sermon communicates better than whispers between the pews, say, in effectiveness. On the radio, you listen to the opinions of the performers/broadcasters. On the blog, at home, around the water cooler, around the kitchen table communication is different. And communication of equals — which is mostly what the right comes from right now — often embeds the history of how this came to mean a thing or more often how this makes us laugh.
Look at your family and chances are there is at least a joke that started in something a now-dead great grandparent said or did, and which got elaborated on or turned into shorthand for something.
Like my grandfather, once notoriously mouth-fumbled (he was one of those incredibly smart men who trips on his own words) “Veal soup” which was apparently a thing in his childhood, and he was lamenting no one made anymore into “Hand soup of cow veal” (homemade soup of veal, but ….) which in my family of birth has become the phrase that signals “You’re being tautological and fumbled the speech.”
Or my mom, in her youth, saw a woman with a one year old daughter, who had lost her her shoe. (Babies seem to drop shoes like rain.) Instead of being a sane human being who realizes a not-yet-walking kid didn’t lose the shoe on her own and can’t answer, the mother was yelling at the kid “Where’s the shoe, Aurora? You’re going to bankrupt me. First you lost a necklace, now a shoe.” My mom imitated this in crazy cakes splendor, including the accent. So, I grew up with it. Usually when mom was trying to find something that had disappeared. (And usually the spiel was aimed at herself. If at me it was as a joke. Like, she knew whatever I’d lost I’d lost because she hadn’t told me she’d need it, or didn’t tell me where to put it.) And it has transmitted to my family, particularly as younger son was known for losing his shoe. Always only one shoe. (This is why in the alternate timeline in which Dan wasn’t called to work, and we didn’t cancel our reservations for vacation in the WTC on 9/11/2001 I know exactly where we would be when the plane hit: In the room, trying to find Marshall’s missing shoe, so we could have breakfast and go out.) This means not only would we say “Where’s the shoe Aurora” to him, but when Dan came back from the car to figure out why the almost-ready shoe and wife haven’t rushed out, so we can go to church, he was likely to be met with said kid crying and said wife snarling the one word “Aurora.”
I have this head image of my great grand kids frantically looking for something, while my grand kids shout “Aurora.” And when questioned they’ll say “I don’t know. I think it’s Portuguese for “I lost something I shouldn’t have.””
Because that’s family communication. Layered and fossilized, and often leavened with humor in the cracks. Which is at this point in the twenty first century the communication to the right of Lenin. Because our origin, out of silence, was in scrappy email lists, boards and blog comments, where we didn’t want to alienate permanent allies, but some things had to be countered.
Which means some of our fossilized jokes and short hand are utterly bewildering.
Sure, the left thinks “boog” or “boogaloo” and never mind “Luau” is some super secret white supremacist short hand. (And I’m still convinced it was the reason for the tiki torches in the cos playing Nazis’ hands. Because they thought tiki and luau meant something TO US. Which they do, but not that way. And it doesn’t symbolize someone is on our side, either. For one Nazis aren’t on our side, and no, we’re not just saying that. We really hate all socialism, and all its false glamour and all its empty promises, and we don’t care if it’s international or national. You see, we understand economics. Sorry.) But then again when the left came out with the mini panic about Hawaiian shirts and thought it was signaling for a conspiracy to overthrow the government, I had to recover from a near fatal laughing fit (well, I have asthma) and explain it to my husband, going way back to the beginning.
It went something like: It started with ACWII, and because it rhymes and is funny, and also to signal this really isn’t something we want, but it still has to be talked about, softened with “Electric boogaloo.”
From there, it of course became by the end of the month just bogaloo or boog. And again, because it’s organic and language of equals, and because it allows us to make funny jokes and memes, it followed the sort-of-rhymes route to Big Igloo and Big Luau.
From there to a picture of a bunch of guys in Hawaiian shirts grilling something and explanations of how they were revolutionaries, or they’d share their recipe or something.
Now for us this makes sense, and is funny.
However if you’re the left, whose directives come from above, it’s impossible to penetrate language at that level. All they see is that suddenly, inexplicably, the references to Luaus and Hawaiian shirts are EVERYWHERE. And then they realize there are a lot of guys wearing Hawaiian shirts (Judging form science fiction cons, it’s the favored attire of late middle aged guys who have gained some weight, nothing political.)
And next thing you know the Times is reporting breathlessly on the “Boogaloo boys” who wear Hawaiian shirts and plan to overthrow the republic (From the way that disappeared, I’m assuming the Facebook group they showcased was 39 FBI agents and one young man with Aspergers who was just glad to be accepted somewhere for the first time in his life.)
It makes perfect sense from their point of view because if they were slinging “code” no one else understands around that much, it absolutely would be to coordinate an operation in which they plan to kill us all.
It never occurs to them these are just viral-propagated jokes, and at most — at most — we plan to get on their nerves and laugh. To the extent we plan anything, which ain’t much.
It also never occurs to them that we not only don’t actually want to kill them all, but we’re still praying very hard that this cup passes us by without tipping on the barbecue in the big luau. Because we know what’s actually at stake, and don’t get our idea of revolution from movies where everything is done in a couple hours and everyone goes home after disposing of the popcorn container.
Or that if/when they push us out that far, the result won’t be coded words and a carefully coordinated attack, but hell on Earth that sets fire to the very water.
And you know what? I hope they never have to find out.
As for their occasional freakouts at our “coded speech” point and laugh. It’s all we can do. But be aware the poor saps have some reason for their confusion.
They’re the establishment. Their ideas are delivered top down. They never had to communicate in funny short hand.
Which is why the more they tighten their hand the more we slip between their fingers.
Be water, my friends. And stay frosty.