The Nigel Tufnel Theory of Rhetoric
One thing worth sharing this week that couldn’t fit on Twitter was this story from Pakistani-administered Kashmir:
“”She said ‘I didn’t do it on purpose. I won’t look again.’ By then I had already thrown the acid. It was her destiny to die this way.”Anusha’s father is reported to have taken his daughter inside, beaten her and then acid was poured over her with the help of his wife. Officials say that the couple did not take their daughter to hospital until the following morning.”
Fatherhood brings a new edge to the sour stomach one gets hearing stories of such cruelty. As I prepared to deliver as biting a condemnation as I could muster, I found that words were failing me. No, I realized a moment later, words hadn’t failed. We had failed to preserve them. The words had all been used up. There are scarcely any left that haven’t had their meaning scooped out so their zombified corpses could be sent to die in a theater of the viciously ridiculous ‘War on Women.’
So I redirected my righteous indignation and commented: “Our stateside ‘War on Women’ sloganeers should ‘check their privilege.’ (To whoever had the privilege of devoting generous helpings of spare energy to come up with it, volunteers at the Irony Hotline are standing by to take your call.)
One commenter admonished that just because these particular non-Westerners demonstrated some particularly troubling attitudes about women — and who’s to judge one culture’s “exceptionalism” over another? — it was no excuse for our society’s failure to respect women’s rights, even if minor in comparison. True as far as it goes, but it was not my point. My point was that if we use up the most violent terms in our language to peddle false facts (“77 cents”) or make scandals and movements out of thin air (“binders of women,” #YesAllWomen), then we rob ourselves of the ability to describe truly horrible things that are actually happening in the world. “If you can remove words from the language, or change their meanings, or emotionally charge them so negatively that using them results in closed-minded condemnation, you have effectively removed the ability to think about those concepts from the public discourse.”
Which brings us finally to Sir Tufnel and his guitar amplifiers that “go to eleven”:
Nigel Tufnel: You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You’re on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you’re on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?
Marty DiBergi: I don’t know.
Nigel Tufnel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?
Marty DiBergi: Put it up to eleven.
Nigel Tufnel: Eleven. Exactly. One louder.
You can be sure that if a way was found to make our language go ‘one louder,’ our loudmouths wouldn’t even wait till the next election to find a need for that “extra push over the cliff.”
It’s not just feminists who are looking for a fix. Just this week, polar bear researchers admitted their estimate of dwindling polar bears “never has been…in a scientific sense, but simply a qualified guess given to satisfy public demand.” It was also revealed that the claim that “97% of scientists believe that climate change is a man-made, urgent problem is a fiction,” and that the NSF paid $5.6 million in taxpayer dollars to stage voicemails from the future, reciting such moronic script as “The Neo-luddites..hate everything..They’re gonna wipe us out.” Those who trade in racial passions are almost as bad as the ‘scientists.’ Charlie Pierce called Justice Clarence Thomas a “Confederate.” Bob Beckel called some lady “treasonous.” And finally there’s our arguer-in-chief, whose rhetoric is getting so tired even the strawmen are starting to wonder if they could take him.
Nigel Tufnel understood you can’t play along at eleven all the time. And he was an idiot.