Whitelash/Blackface

I recently came across a new word to describe the reaction of the lower class white voter in the United States who voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump as a whitelash. Political commentators say that it was a reaction to eight years of rule by an Afro-American, who they feel has not done very much for them.

whitelash

This type of sharp reaction against someone or some action is commonly called a backlash.

 After declaring Itself a nuclear-free zone in the eighties and questioning the presence of nuclear weapons on foreign warships, there was a considerable backlash against New Zealand from the US military, who cut most military ties with their ally.

The new word connects the ideas of race and repercussion very well. The opposite would presumably be a blacklash.  This word doesn’t exist but sounds perfectly feasible.

The huge gains by Trump in low-income white areas, long neglected by politicians, is regarded as a whitelash.

 Another colour word in the news is blackface.

minstrel

This word refers to the dark-coloured make-up worn by white actors who are pretending to be black people. It derives from the vaudeville era in the United States when white singers and actors would sing songs from the period of slavery. It continued through to the 60’s and 70’s until people finally realised it was really rather racist. As a child I remember seeing a British TV series, The Black and White Minstrel Show with blackfaced actors crooning away to blonde maidens. It seemed so anachronistic as well as racist.

Now British TV has been forced to can a series featuring a white actor, joseph Fiennes, playing Michael Jackson following protests from the singer’s family. Although in the clip I saw, Fiennes still appeared white (as was Michael by the end), journalists have labeled it a case of blackfacing.

fiennes

 

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Post-truth

post-truth

This expression, used to label politics in the last year, is one of the catchwords of the moment and is generating a considerable amount of debate. It has even been voted word of the year in some websites.

Like post-modern and post-election it has been coined to describe a period we are living in that follows something else. Before we were truthful, now we are not, hence post-truth.

Popular as it is, and despite its chances of a reasonably long shelf life, it is a good example of an inaccurate and generalised term that says less than it suggests.

First, this is because truth has not ceased to exist. To have lies you must have truth, they go together. What I guess it is trying to say is that there seems to be more tolerance of lying in public life these days.

Next, it depends what you mean by truth. For one person, something might be real and true while for another it is false. Even seemingly absolute truths like concrete tangible acts and things can be subject to debate and interpretation. Simply because each person’s perspective is different.

Thirdly, it has been initially applied to specific actions and words of certain politicians. It is still somewhat early to describe this as a trend or indicative of this period.  Or is it?

Politicians have been shown to lie since time immemorial (think of the Greeks and the Egyptians) so all that may be happening now is that our enhanced access to the political world via TV and the internet is allowing us to see the full extent of the lies!

I would go one step further and say that mankind has made the lie, or the white lie an integral part of social communication, in order to get along with each other. Telling the absolute truth is not what people tend to want to hear all the time and no one more than politicians know this.  Therefore, they give us glossy campaign promises, vague uplifting statements (Make America Great Again), which lead people to believe in things that are not depicted so clearly.

The fact that post-truth is a euphemism is a great example. Much more palatable to say we live in a post-truth political world than to say we live in a political world of lies and lying.

So, before we get all indignant about this new moment in our history, let’s ask ourselves if it is not more of the same wrapped in different shiny paper.

 

Fembots and Maybot

fembot

A fembot is the type of female robot made famous in the Austin Powers movies for being sufficiently seductive to lure men and then kill them.  Firing poisonous gas from their boobs was one of their cute tricks.

The other day I was reading about the Maybot.  This is the nickname at least one (John Crace in The Guardian) or more British journalists have given to their Prime Minister Theresa May.  maybot

Apparently she is being very slow to make a move on the plan for Britain leaving the European Union (Brexit) and quick to fall back on old platitudes and vague generalisations.  So much so that she seems like a robot repeating a recorded message. And so the term Maybot is born.

Of course, her surname says exactly the opposite of the determined, sure pair of hands her party claimed when they voted for her to replace David Cameron. She MAY or MAY NOT be that but it is not a name like WILLS or ACTON (Think about it!) which suggest more proactivity.

With Theresa we might end up with a fair amount of dithering and fence-sitting, though to tell the truth her job is not an enviable one.