McClatchy is reporting that some Democratic politicians have started to use #Obscene Language in their public pronouncements as a way to enhance their political standing with their base. The theory is that the liberal base is incandescent with rage and so people who need their votes have to cuss in order to show that they feel their anger. Besides, some are rationalizing the new obscene rhetoric by noting that Donald Trump used ungentlemanly language in the infamous Hollywood Access tape..
It is situations like these when one wishes that the late, great George Carlin was still alive. One of Carlin’s most famous routines concerned the seven deadly words that you can’t say on television. His point was that words are just that and do not have any inherent capacity to wreck harm other than how the listener chooses to react. On the other hand, Carlin, like a lot of comedians of his era, employed obscene language frequently in his routines, partly because their shock value elicited nervous laughter in the audience.
Carlin must be rotating in his grave now that some of the words considered too vile for TV are now coming out of the mouths of politicians when reporters are present and even when the cameras are on. What he would not give for one final HBO special so that he could herald the words not deadly enough not to be spoken on the stump.
The question arises, will the strategy work? The idea that deliberately cursing makes one more authentic is a risky proposition. If the language doesn’t come naturally, then the politician using it runs the risk of seeming inauthentic..
Also, even in these debased times, a great many people are going to be offending at politicians letting loose the occasional F-bomb. It would not matter if the voter sometimes using that sort of language in private. He or she may not want to hear the same words coming out of the mouths of people proposing to be their leaders. The practice smacks of a lack of self-discipline and an even greater lack of morality. Some may shrug it off or even cheer if the language is directed at politicians they don’t like. But many will wonder if they really want such people in positions of power where their children can hear them.
The truth to tell is that the English language is varied enough that there are plenty of words of invective one can use without getting apparently obscene. In any case, people tend to want a little uplifting hope to go along with their calumnies.