Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bad metaphor of the day

From Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, proffering an explanation of Barack Obama's appeal among college students:

"What I find amazing, particularly because our students are brighter than ever — and it doesn't matter whether it's Penn or La Salle or any school — but the students go and sorta drink the Kool-Aid of a wonderful speech."
On this metaphor's terms, Barack Obama is Jim Jones, leader of the Peoples (sic) Temple, and those listening to his speeches are blind followers, duped by a cult leader to participate in their own destruction. (Though it was Flavor Aid, not Kool-Aid, that was mixed with cyanide for the 1978 Jonestown murder-suicides.)

Of course, Governor Rendell, like J. Alfred Prufrock's lady friend, might object: "'That is not what I meant at all. / That is not it, at all.'” Like James Carville speaking of Judas, Rendell is using a metaphor. But metaphors have meanings and implications. One can disavow a metaphor upon realizing its meanings and implications. But one cannot rely upon a metaphor to make a point while disavowing its meanings and implications.

Condescending and insulting and grotesque as it is, the Kool-Aid metaphor is also revealing: if Governor Rendell has to reach for a metaphor of cult leadership and blind followers, he plainly fails to understand the thoughtful interest and effort that the Obama campaign has inspired among many young adults. Something is happening here, but you don't know what it is, do you Mister Rendell?

Here's the short clip of Rendell talking with college students: On drinking the Kool-Aid. Major props to the young woman in glasses, willing to argue with the gov.

["Something is happening here": à la "Ballad of a Thin Man," with apologies to Bob Dylan and Mister Jones.]

Related reading
All metaphor posts (via Pinboard)

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