Campaign insults from red to blue

As a helpless victim in a purple battleground state during the 2014 political campaign, I suffered through a months-long waterboarding with the most vile, ugly, vicious political ads I can recall. And in the wake of the actual election, all I’ve wanted to do is rest, recover, and avoid as much political news and analysis as possible.

This morning, however, I came across something that appealed to my inner linguist — an analysis of the insults and epithets commonly used during the campaign and which were most popular with which party. The story, “How to insult your political opponents like an American” by lexicographer Katherine Martin, is from the OxfordWords blog at the Oxford Dictionaries. One of the graphics:

politicalinsults

Martin discusses the origins and intent of some of the terms, but most are self-explanatory. And it’s worth noting that more than a few I’ve heard in private were not suitable for inclusion in this study.

I wonder if this breakdown will continue to be valid over the next two years. For example, will Democrats, now in the minority, become the new obstructionists?

Frankly I’d not been aware that many of the unflattering words I’ve used to describe the opposition were notably partisan, but if the shoe fits …

And let’s be honest: Is it an insult if it’s true?

 



Categories: Election 2014, language, Politics

31 replies

  1. I’m definitely going to read that piece, but the graphic alone is pretty telling (though I’m pretty sure that those who were flinging the most insults will say that it’s biased, as all things are that aren’t all rah-rah for them).

    And yep, if it’s true, which in many cases it is, it’s not an insult as far as I’m concerned. How can you insult an asshat? 😀

  2. Loved it, we don’t have this much fun during our elections, our pollies insult each other in a more lady or gentlemanly way, our current PM is called a misogynist because he really is, a party hack or elitist may sometimes get an airing but not often.

    Does this mean we are more civilized than our American cousins? or because we are still colonials? or because we have compulsory voting, which I am all for and in total agreement with and our pollies are smart enough to know that we will not tolerate much mud slinging which I think is the most likely?

    It’s an interesting comparison for me at least

    • Compulsory voting? That’s an interesting concept. How do you compel people to vote? Is there a penalty for not voting? Is it wise to compel votes from people who might not give a flip about the election, or the candidates, or politics? What’s to keep them from voting capriciously, in whatever way might best mess up the election?

      • There are hefty fines for failing to vote.And yes I do believe it very wise, there is always the “Donkey Vote” as we call it, that’s when somebody just votes straight down the line, but the overwhelming proportion of the population when the time comes do actually sit and consider what they are going to do.

        The downside currrently is that nasty piece of work, that American citizen, rupert murdock (I never do him the honour of using capital letters in his name) has the current Prime Minister tony abbott (same ) (The Mad Monk) in his pocket. I did do a big scathing blog long before the last election on the subject and it’s proved completely accurate in it’s predictions.

        Everybody over the age of 18 MUST register with the Australian Electoral Office. Our turnouts at election time are almost 100% Some people elect to take the fines. On election days, and by the bye in Australia every polling station is identical the system is the same throughout the country there can be no cheating its all controlled by the independent body the AEO, There have been occasions when I have not voted for any candidates but I have gone along to the polling station and been marked off and taken my papers and just folded and deposited them in the boxes. This is acceptable and is called informal voting.

        It’s a system that works very well indeed and I’m a fim believer in our system.

        Too we have proportional voting but I wont go into that here, theres plenty about our system on the Internet and you may find it not only interesting but enlightening. The USof A could use a good honest system like we have believe me.

        But I do love your political figting and follow it avidly 😛

        • Our campaigns are always … um … colorful. Unfortunately the very wealthy, either corporations or individuals, are now free to spend as much as they want to influence elections, and it is seriously corrupting our voting system. I can see how those unaffected by the outcome would find it all quite quite amusing.

      • These are a couple of blogs I did which you may find more informative regarding Australia; you may find too the new format I’m using better than the sad grey that I had before and easier on the eye

        http://lordbeariofbow.com/2013/04/15/australia-heading-for-the-gurgler/

        http://lordbeariofbow.com/2013/09/06/murdered-by-the-media/

        the second has a link that’s well worth viewing.

  3. Since I NEVER vote for Democrats OR Republicans, I pay little attention to the major parties campaigns. I have Australian friends who have previously explained their forced voting policy to me. Neither they, or I see any benefit in forcing uninformed people to choose anything. I watched Jay Leno’s “Jay Walking” interviews and still watch “Watter’s World” interviews. People who can’t recall who is the current president or any of his/her agency directors have no reason to enter a polling place… in my opinion… but it takes all kinds to make a horse race.

    • Well I can’t speak for your Australian friends, but I think that by the use of the word forced they are giving the wrong impression. To me forced seems to infer that you are physically dragged kicking and screaming to a polling station and with a gun held to your head told to vote. This is not so! The idea basically is to get people actually thinking and becoming involved in the election of the peple who will be representing them in Parliament.

      Those that stay uninformed are likely to be the “Donkey” voters and for the most part it works and works very well indeed regardless of what your friends tell you.

      It is a system that has worked well for many years and one that the right of the political spectrum want desperately to abolish, Our Liberal (= USA GOP) party would love to see an end to it, but all right minded people accept the system as the fairest way, I do believe that the unrepresented section of our population is infinitely smaller than the US, I think that the real majority of US citizens are completely shut out by the greed and selfishness of people like rupert murdock and don’t have a voice representing them at all.

      I may be wrong but somehow I don’t think so.

      • Maybe you’d agree that voters in Australia are COERCED into voting by making them pay for the privilege of not voting. If they can’t afford to not vote or they refuse to pay for not voting what happens to them? Continuing to resist voting, and refusing to pay in order to not vote and if they refuse (as a last resort) to allow the government to attach their property… will eventually get them killed. Just like what happens to us when we refuse to “voluntarily” pay our IRS overlords.

        But… it takes all kinds.

        • Good heavens you don’t get it or understand it do you? You don’t have to vote! You do need to turn up at a polling station and have your name crossed off the roll for that election; and wheres the problem or harm in that?

          We are very happy here with our system and find the American system quite laughable; each state has a different system,seems a different enrollment system and it appears that if they don’t like you or the colour of your skin they can ban you altogether from voting.

          Here in Australia we are ALL treated as equal when it comes to our right duty and honour to vote something you obviosly cannot will not or do not want to understand; please do not try and tell me that ALL American citizens are treated with the same respect, because you are not..

          • I’m with Ima on this one. I don’t like the coercion (when there’s a penalty for not doing something, then you are being coerced into doing it). Responsible, dutiful people will show up and will vote, just as they do here. But having to appear at the polls and sign in whether or not one wants to and whether or not one intends to vote does not strike me as being respectful of the individual’s right to make his own decisions. And by the way, no one in the US is prevented from voting. Different states have different rules because we were a bunch of states before we became a union. States’ rights remain very important here.

            • We don’t look on it or think of it as coercion, I consider myself a responsible, dutiful and reasonably intelligent person. I have at times gone to the polling station and voted informally, I have writtten something across our papers, we still use pen and paper, “None of these!,” I have been known to write “You’ve got to be kidding” and I have no objection to ‘wasting my time’ doing this.
              Our voting system is a “Proportional” system and there have been times when I have not fancied any of the contestants so with our system I put them in order of the worst at the bottom and the best of a bad bunch at the top of the list and I’m sure that at times this has worked,
              If I didn’t go along and exercise my right and a candidate wins who proves a disaster who do I blame the thinking people who voted him/her in or the non thinking voter who couldnt be bothered.

              Between 1914 and 1918 more than 63000, 1·6 of Australia’s population died fighting in WWI and they fought and died to give us this right and obligation and I would never vote to abandon our system, I recall not many years ago there was a movement by the conservative side of our political spectrum that brought up the idea of removing the compulsory and proportional system for something along the lines of the British and US systems of first past the post simple majority. Thankfully the Australian voters put a stop to that nonsense, had we have gone that route we’d now have a system where the right wing parties would never have been held to account.

              We would not have our health care system or our education system our pharmacy system whch are second to none, we’d have been in a similar situation to the US,

              Here everyone gets free and good health care they have no worries, Do you?

            • But if your feeling was “None of these” or “You’ve got to be kidding,” why be bothered with showing up at all? Why should you have to appear? That’s coercion and, it seems to me, by its very existence makes the election result suspect.

              As for the results of your voting — health care, education, etc. — that’s the net result of who was elected, not how they were elected. As I recall, you also have a prime minister you don’t like. Wasn’t he, too, a result (directly or indirectly) of your election system?

              There’s no perfect system, and it’s only natural we’d each prefer our own. At least we live in free countries where we can vote.

            • I don’t think it can be called coercion when the people voted for it in the first place and by and large are more than happy with the system. Our oting system is very fair and open run by an independant Electoral Office , and heaven help any pollie who tries to intervene, Everybody involved is completely independent, the political parties are only allowed to stand and watch the count from a distance and all parties are present at the count. It is open and fair.

              As for our social medical system it was that platform that swept the late Gough Whitlam into power back in the 70’s he died last week mourned be all people in Australia even the Libs, who benefited from his works, I think in our case it is safe to say that is not only how but why.

              I’m sure if you were to live here you too would come round to this way of thinking when I arrived in Australia in 51 I was dead set against it, but no more Ive seen and learned the wisdom of it!

            • By the bye before Federation in 1901 Australia was a bunch of states/colonies too, but the overall good for all Australians took precedence.

            • (catching up on my reading – a bit late to the party)
              What an interesting conversation. We have a number of Aussie friends living/working here. Great people. They are amused by politics ( we all agree that both the Brits and Aussies have a better command of vocabulary and the parties here tend to go with name calling character assassination either because of lack of education or lack of anything substantial to say)
              Oddly they also said while things/society in general seems to be work better there due to more population similarity, there has been and is poor treatment of some groups.
              In any case, they’ve convinced me if I was younger and had enough money as required, I’d immigrate there in a heartbeat. Great sailing. Great people

            • Unfortunately that is true there are some minor groups that receive the wrong end of the stick, however they still receive the same social service benefits, free Medicare etc. We do have a problem here at the moment, we have an imbecile for a Prime Minister who got elected on a pack of lies, there is no other word for it, he admires and wants to bring Australia down to the American system, where if you don’t have medical insurance; Tough! The GOP Tea Party fools would love him 😡

              I think there will be a huge surge in enrollments in the Union movement which thankfully will help rid us of this plague that is now trying to take over this country. 😀

            • Seems like it’s the same all over: there’s good and bad. Both countries do try to rectify wrongs in the past when other places don’t even make and effort.
              The American “system” is no longer – now we are are being reduced to serfs by insurance companies (who manage the health care system and the government ended up letting them set rates as long as the companies cough up money. It is income redistribution. We are not rich.Our costs have skyrocketed. Services much more poor. So we are doing out best to stay healthy.), big Phram. companies (who the government handed over setting prices for drugs. The companies are now dictating to doctors what drugs to prescribe), plus the giant multinational industries/companies are making sure legislation goes their way. As you have said, sad turn of events – the only hope is astute and educated voters. Enjoy the weekend!

            • The Drug companies do not like Australia brcause our government set the cap on the prices consumers pay; senior citizens and pensioners and those on unempoymnt or sicknss benefit, the indigenous people get subsidised; as an example being a senior/pensioner old bloke I pay a miserable $6 per prescription for my Micardis (blood Pressure) Crestor, Allpurinol (for gout I do enjoy a drop or two: a 100 days supply) and a few other pills that I need to take.

              The working person pays somewhere in the region of $30 per script.

              Theres no way I can be charged more, I can afford more but an ALP thats Labor = socalist Government put the cap on, and the current Liberal (= GOP) are doing their damndest to go the US way; they do so at their peril!

              In total the 11 pills / capsules I take each morning costs me less than $50 per month.

              Would I be nasty in saying to my American cousins ” Eat your heart out!” 😀
              😛

            • loading up the boat now…it’s ok to anchor offshore if I don’t bother the sharks, wind surfers, kite sailors, and surfer dudes, right?

            • You forgot the killer jellyfish and bluebottles but yes that’ll be fine, might I suggest you throw your anchor in Pittwater, a delightful spot, check it out on Google 😀 Oh and by the bye don’t get too close to the dolphins and wales they’re very friendly in our waters but getting to close is taboo. I think that covers it all,:D

    • “No reason to enter a polling place”? Personally I think they should have no right to enter a polling place. The Constitution, of course, wouldn’t allow a prohibition like that. But what I see on Jay Walking and similar “man on the street” interviews makes me want to cry.

      • It’s hard to get people away from the numbing of TV, computers, and shallow celebrity news….get off the couch to vote? Not likely. While I’d love to force them to show up and check off names (complaining loudly) it would be against free will and personal choice…besides like you say, the dullards who aren’t interested aren’t going to do anything constructive
        But hey, wouldn’t the media have fun filming the ones who show up and yell “I’m here, but I hate ALL of them and showing up but not voting is my way of protesting!” Could be very informing on what we’ve got?

  4. The term “racist” was more likely to be preceded by “liberal/left-wing/Democratic?” That’s news to me.

  5. Interesting, but not surprisingly, the insults are used more favorably by the Republicans.

  6. Mudslinging through insults is revealing of confirmation bias, but I doubt that it changes many minds about politics. What really sticks in my craw is the apparent effectiveness of political ads that appeal to bias and bigotry as opposed to reason. One New York Times writer refers to this practice as bumpkinification. I am indebted to AFrankAngle who linked this amusing and ultimately depressing article on his blog.

    • “Bumpkinification.” I’d laugh if it weren’t so sad. I didn’t notice any ads, from either side, appealing to reason or offering honest information. One really had to dig for voting records, positions on a variety of issues, etc. Judging from the turnout, I’d say not many cared enough to do that. The current state of our election system is indeed depressing.

“We have met the enemy and he is us." ~ Pogo

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