The video depicts a mass shooting in a church by a lone assassin who looks very much like the grinning 45th president of the United States. It is violent, gruesome, tasteless, and obviously faked, but the adjective the New York Times editors chose for the headline above Monday’s story was none of those words. It was, instead, macabre, a word with a long, lurid, and murky history.
The organizer of the American Priority event at which the video was screened said the video was part of a “meme exhibit.”
But they wasn’t the only timely new entry. My attention was drawn to deep state, a term with a relatively short history in US English—M-W dates its first appearance to 2000, but doesn’t provide a citation—and a close connection to conspiracy theories.
Aristocracy, as you know, is government by the “best” or the “noblest” citizens. Kakistocracy is the opposite: government by the worst (or, more literally, the shittiest). Idiocracy was invented by director Mike Judge to serve as the title and theme of his 2006 dystopian comedy, set in the year 2505, when a professional wrestler and porn star occupies the White House. (In what passes for the real world, it took only 10 years for a WWE Hall of Famer and porn-star diddler to win the presidency; in a 2017 interview, Judge admitted that in the age of Trump, his film now seems “optimistic.”)
Until now, I hadn’t noticed the idiotic phonetic explainer. Intentional, I hope.
And epistocracy, our word of the week? It’s a recent coinage, created about 16 years ago by Brown University political philosophy professor David Estlund, that means “government by the knowledgeable.” The episto- part is related to other words about knowledge, including epistemology (the study of knowledge systems) and epistemic closure (an information cocoon). (I wrote about epistemic closure in 2012.)
On July 27, the 45th president of the United States took to Twitter, as he does, to attack Elijah Cummings, who has represented Maryland’s 7th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1996. The president called Rep. Cummings’s Baltimore district “a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.” He misspelled Cummings’s name “Cumming.” It was unclear whether he knows that a rat is a rodent, or whether he just likes to repeat himself alliteratively.
If you’re members of the U.S. House of Representatives, all you need are four: Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.
So many candidates! Twenty-five at last count, although by the time I click “publish,” six or seven of them may have thrown in the towel. (Rep. Eric Swalwell, who took part in the first round of televised debates, in June, dropped out earlier this week. His slogan was “Go Big. Be Bold. Do Good,” but three short verbs didn’t sufficiently activate his supporters.)
More than two dozen candidates, but few signs of originality in their messaging. Nine candidates—Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Pete Buttigieg, Tulsi Gabbard, Wayne Messam, Joe Sestak, and Tom Steyer—use only their first names in their logos, a trend that goes back as far as 1948’s “Give ’Em Hell, Harry” and 1952’s “I Like Ike,” but which got a big boost in 2016, with “Jeb!,” “Hillary” and “Bernie” as first-name-basis contenders.
Beyond that major theme, I see a bunch of other trends. Here are my evaluations and letter grades for the 2020 Democratic slogans; you can see all of them, organized alphabetically by candidate name, with their respective logos, on Ballotpedia, the nonprofit “digital encyclopedia of American politics and elections.”
The 2019 Deadspin Name of the Year is down to the Elite Eight. Vote for your favorites in a field that includes Pope Thrower, Pretzel Monteclaro, and Jizyah Shorts. Yes, they’re all real names. (Deadspin) For background, see my 2018 Visual Thesaurus column about the tournament.
How great writing begins: an analysis of the opening paragraphs of “the 94 most compelling articles” in The Atlantic, Fast Company, and the New York Times op-ed section. (Better Humans)
In English, it’s “Once upon a time.” How do other cultures and languages begin their classic tales? (Chitra Soundar)
Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana—the youngest and gayest candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination (so far)—also has the coolest campaign logos. (Note: Not a political endorsement.) (Brand New)
Last week’s headlines were full of bovine references. I’m not talking about the usual bull: This was all about a fake cow with hundreds of thousands of (presumably) real Twitter followers—a cowfluencer, you might say—that’s being sued by a sitting U.S. congressman.
The cow in question (1,200 followers on March 18, 634,000 followers on March 24):
The congressman (404,000 followers):
Yes, Devin Nunes of California’s Central Valley, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, is suing Twitter over a parody account that tweets hashtags like #TheMooovement and #ProtectTheHerd and mocks the “udderly worthless” congressman, who owns a dairy farm not in his home county, as he often boasts, but in far-off Iowa. Nunes is also suing a parody account called Devin Nunes’ Mom and a couple of non-anonymous accounts, all of which he claims “repeatedly tweeted and retweeted abusive and hateful content” about him. He’s asking for $250 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages. Because Nunes is a public figure, the suits have little chance of succeeding, but they’ll keep a herd of lawyers busy for a while.