The main value of using an allusion is that it allows one to convey a whole lot of very rich meaning in just a single phrase or two. For example, think what it means to call someone a “Judas” or to compare President Obama’s negotiating with the Republican House as like Charlie Brown’s trusting Lucy to hold the football.
In using an allusion, it’s important to remember that its meaning will depend on context and audience. For instance, either saying or hearing “9/11” will mean something quite different to a New York fire fighter than to a member of Al Qaeda, right? From that perspective, I know what the Fox News slogan “fair and balanced” means to anyone who lives outside the right wing echo chamber: a cynically hypocritical claim that means the exact opposite of what it asserts. But I can’t help wondering what it means to the on-air “personalities” and regular guests at Fox.
I remember reading once that Sean Hannity joked about how his audience actually believed the on-air farce he provided. And I remember an incident involving Chris Wallace and Bill Clinton. Clinton had agreed to be interviewed on Wallace’s weekend show on condition that he be given some specified amount of time to talk about his foundation. He gave the interview, but was denied the time he’d been promised to promote the foundation.
Furious, Clinton asked Wallace why he’d violated their agreement. Wallace said he had planned to allot the time but been ordered from higher up not to do so. Then he asked Clinton for an autograph.
This suggests Hannity is fully aware that the crap he dishes out is neither fair nor balanced nor honest. And Chris Wallace clearly understands that whatever it is he’s doing, he’s definitely not being a strong, honest, legitimate journalism. What about the others? In the bit that follows below, John Cleese suggests they’re all just stupid. But think about it. Which performers in the Fox News clown show are as stupid as Cleese says? What shades of difference are there? (For the record, I personally think Bill O’Reilly is exactly the kind of guy Cleese is describing.)
Bobby Jindal: Republicans need to “stop being the stupid party.”
Republicans: “Why, Bobby? The G.O.P. base and Dirty Energy donors love stupid politicians!”
Is the body language significant?