Friday, May 1, 2015

There's a word for that

     Call me a sap. But my heart bleeds for people handing out stuff on the street. Talk about a tough job. The public ignores me, too, but I don't have to watch them do it. These poor folk have to stand there, like a rock dividing a stream, while indifferent humanity flows around them, spurning whatever pathetic scrap they're trying to give away, inevitably some green flier about a barber shop opening or new deli.
     Unless of course it's a mini granola bar. Samples! Then a crowd form as if they've never eaten, reaching out with one hand while pointing at their open mouths with the other, going "Oh! Oh! Oh!"
     Food or flier, I grab their offering as a matter of principle: what's the harm? And sometimes I am rewarded, such as with a small, ticket sized coupon: "roti: MEDITERRANEAN GRILL. Win Roti every day for a year."
     Cool. Prizes. I eat there. Decent salads. On the back, under "Random Acts of Roti," four instructions. 1) Go to a web site. 2) Enter a password. 3) "Write Down Prize Code." and 4. "Bring this card to Roti for free Food or Drink!"
     OK. It's a quiet day. So I go to their site, It wants my name, email address .
     I enter my info, and am informed I have won a free fountain drink.
     Hmmm...I usually don't even order a fountain drink. But all right. I take my coupon to Roti, meeting a buddy for lunch last week. While we wait in line, I explain my sense of violation at surrendering my precious data only to have Roti spit some cola on my shirtfront: I had been hoping for rice pudding.
     "Information rape," he laughs. I'd never heard that phrase.
     "Is that a thing?" I wonder. He's younger. Maybe he has a handle on the lingo.
     "No, it was just something I said."
     Information rape. That seems a useful concept to toss into the aether, to describe dupes who fork over their data and get little in return.
     I immediately felt the chill. While "rape" in my Oxford Dictionary is defined first as "The action or an act of taking a thing by force, esp. violent seizure of property" and doesn't mention forced sex until the third definition, that won't help me when I'm dragged into the electronic public square by angry feminists ready to deliver punishment for seizing their word and re-purposing it.
     I understand their argument: you're watering down a horror to give oomph to the commonplace. I wince whenever any random bad thing is described as a "holocaust," and Michelle Obama's push against obesity becomes a genocide of fat people.
     But I don't fall ravening upon them. It's a free country, sort of. People are allowed to use language. I think the delicacy over what the newspaper requires me to call "the N-word" is an insult to black people and an affront to history that we'll look back on someday and cringe, the way we view Victorians putting skirts on piano legs.
     Yet how could that argument stand up against somebody's pain? Somebody looking to offload that pain, and what better recipient than a person who seems insensitive? I don't want to be that guy. And yet. If I say I'm crazy for the Bulls, people coping with the mental illnesses of their loved ones will complain they're being insulted. Best to tread carefully. When it comes to those trying to share their anger, as with people handing out fliers, I sympathize with their plight too much not to just take it with a silent nod and keep walking.

CORRECTION: In Wednesday's column on the fall of Saigon I giddily reported that Lyndon Johnson was the only president not to seek a second term, somehow overlooking James Buchanan, Rutherford B. Hayes, Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman and maybe others, the way this week is going. I did fact check, or thought I did, but bobbled that in a manner too involved to be worth recounting. Nor did I realize it was Eisenhower who first sent advisers to Vietnam, in 1955. I regret these errors.

53 comments:

  1. Isn't there a distinction to be drawn here? When someone uses an over-the-top term on something trivial, it's understood no real comparison is meant and that "rape" as a standalone term means the same thing. But when someone uses something over-the-top for something serious ("genocide" for police brutality/killings), something does feel lost - that we don't have a unique term for a real genocide.

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  2. I think you're underestimating the ability of some people to seize on what they consider slights or lapses. They consider it empowering.

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  3. Advocate of the Anti-ChristMay 1, 2015 at 5:39 AM

    But police killings ARE genocide of black people.

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    1. Go read the definition of "genocide." I think you're skipping over the word "large." Unless you're trying to be satirical, and failing.

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    2. AC you are full of it-go join some Satanic cult , if you haven't already,then go hide under a rock, try not to go kill animals for a sacrifice, you are a troll and baiter

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  4. ADv. of the AC-you are an idiot if you think that is a genocide these days. What do you call killing of cops then? or do you realize that some of those blacks are actually criminals???

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  5. No worries about the errors , Neil, look at the 97% you get write. We would all error if writing so much.

    Yes, those angry feminists go overboard with some of that and true the word genocide and holocaust is often over used or poorly used.

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    1. oops, meant get right not get write

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  6. At least you admit to errors & correct them, unlike DNA Chicago which is a compendium of errors never corrected.

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  7. Information rape. It's just perfect and I will use it. Although you are right, someone will be offended. Some say there's nothing funny about rape but Amy Schumer's Football Town Nights sketch was so good. And I will always laugh at the "You said rape twice" scene in Blazing Saddles.

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    1. I'm not sure it's perfect, or even apt, since the information is freely given for something in return. But I agree about Blazing Saddles.

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    2. I agree with Coey. Independent of the sensitivities with regard to the word, it's a willing exchange on the part of the consumer, so rape is a poor analogy. I'm not gonna call you a sap, like you requested, ; ) but I'd say a free pop with your salad in exchange for signing up on a website and handing over your info is a Sucker Lunch.

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  8. Today's column brings to mind an episode from my seminary days: a couple of guys were goofing off after lights out and things escalated past the point of polite banter. Finally, one of the guys getting the worst of it called another a "black nigger," who replied, "Well, Joe, if I'm a black nigger, you're a white nigger." The whole dormitory laughed at Joe's expense of course. But what the quick-witted classmate was doing, probably without knowing it, was stripping the racial element off the word "nigger," leaving it with only the derogatory elements, the opposite of what African Americans are doing when they call each other "nigger." They are stripping off the derogatory elements and adopting the racist word in defiance of racists, a process that didn't start with "yankee" and hasn't ended with "redneck." John McWhorter explained recently on NPR how something similar is happening with the word "thug," which has completely different connotations depending on who's using it.

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  9. Tate, what made you not go into the priesthood then, if I may ask.

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  10. For a historical precedent, all you many Alexander Pope fans will instantly recall his re-purposing (nice word, more often heard in Britain than here) 'rape' from a major to a mild pejorative in his 1712 poem "The Rape of the Lock." The offense in that instance involved the surreptitious purloining of a lock of hair.

    It might be harmless, but still. I would be careful with the word because I think it can be hurtful beyond the ranks of angry feminists. As a young executive many years ago, I passed on a quip that suggested rape, if inevitable, could be enjoyable. My rather motherly secretary took me aside and explained that all the women in the room, even if they had laughed, were made uncomfortable. Those were the days when most of the women in the office were in the typing pool or occupied low level jobs. The same joke now would get me disciplined. Or fired. And rightly so..

    Tom Evans

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    1. Must you quote literature in everything, Tom? Yes, we get it, but you are showing off.

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    2. typing pool? wow, you are old, Tom

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    3. Sheesh, Anonymous, Tom Evans made a precisely on-point reference that added an interesting element to the discussion. I think it was a fine comment, though I'm not as familiar with Mr. Pope as most here are, ahem. If you don't like literary references, that's fine, but that's your problem, not his or the rest of ours.

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    4. but it's constant

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    5. don't be pompous, Jack

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    6. Don't be annoying, Anon

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    7. don't be anal, b.s., or sarcastic or p.c., Jack can take care of himself

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    8. I've become inured to the fact that some find displays of erudition offensive. Even Pope, in one of his heroic couplets referred to:

      "The boastful blockhead, ignorantly read,
      With loads of learned lumber in his head."

      But I shall persist, unless Neil asks me not to, because it amuses me to do so. And because I am indeed old enough to have earned the right to bore younger generations.

      TE

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    9. Well put, Mr. Evans.

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  11. VIctorians put skirts on piano legs??

    C'mon, you just make that up, right?

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    1. No, it's often treated as common knowledge, though Snopes and other myth debunkers say the evidence of it actually occurring is slight, and it might be a joke that got out of control.

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  12. What a travesty of those cops in Baltimore up on murder or manslaughter charges, just to quell the streets and get it quiet. Don't blame the police union for saying conflict of interest there with states attny, married to councilman and the expensive lawyer (that will be free in this case) defending Grey's family, was a contributor to her campaign.

    Maybe all the cops should quit and let Al Sharpton and the gangs police things. He was there whispering in mayors ear.

    The mayor also a disgrace to say stand down on stopping the looting at first. The coroner didn't say there was proof that his injury occurred from mishandling then something changes overnight.

    I guess they better find those cops guilty or they'll be more riots. I feel for them and their families.

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    1. Yeah, and they're both black, too! And women!

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    2. even one of the cops charged is a lady, if I recall the name right

      now these people can be in danger too, decent people with decent families

      some of you can bullshit, but many will agree in part, though quietly in the name of pc
      bet gray had some kids he didn't bother much with or their moms

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    3. "bet gray had some kids he didn't bother much with or their moms"

      And what, exactly, does that have to do with the Baltimore police breaking his neck?

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    4. The evidence didn't show they broke his neck. Why did the coroner change mind a day later? I'm just speaking of his probably character.

      BS, you are arrogant enough to think that I'm some racist or jump to conclusions. I voted 2x for Pres. Obama and hate how the REpubs rip into him and obstruct. I like my hardworking A-A neighbors or educated pals of AA extraction who also don't care for the hood mentality and live in the suburbs.I don't live in any lily white suburbs either. Bet you jumped to a few conclusions.

      This is not what the Civil Rights movement was about or for. Nor would leaders of the era condone this.

      I heard Cong. Bobby Rush today with a newsclip on news radio. I'm amazed a Cong. who was a Black Panther thug can get elected when he sounds like an 8th grade graduate with his poor English.

      So shove your smugness, you know where, Mr. holier than thou. Gotta love those libs, maybe not you, who claim to care but live in all white or mostly white, fancy suburbs.

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    5. Al Sharpton and Jesse type are in it for publicity for the most part, imo.

      Unlike Dr. King or Ralph Abernathy, etc I feel for what blacks had to go through in the old south.

      Don't you see , BS how some are shooting themselves in foot today, and the left and the aclu and lawyers enable them.

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    6. A little touchy there, aren't we? All I asked is what Gray's marital status and/or relationship with his kids had to do with the Baltimore cops breaking his neck.

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    7. Are you certain they broke his neck? Who is really touchy? The coroner didn't say that at first. Was he fighting them and got hurt in the scuffle. Did he get hurt in the van on his own?

      Why don't you go move into the hood and find out? You'll last a day at best.

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    8. And it's okay to add on to the comments, as I did. I'm not under your restrictions, Bitter the bossy.

      You picked your handle right, you are bitter indeed.

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    9. BS, get into law school if you can, don't try to play lawyer here.

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    10. The Maryland AG, who I presume has been to law school, charged those cops with breaking his neck. Go to "the hood" yourself and tell whoever will listen that he got "hurt in the van on his own." I don't think you'd last an hour.

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    11. Anonymous May 1, 2015 at 12:51 PM:
      You remind me of an incident I witnessed years ago across the street from the Pacific Garden Mission. Police were arresting a white fellow, on a D&D. They cuffed him, and placed him in a paddy wagon. Just as they were closing the door, he leans out and hocks the biggest loogie you ever saw square in the cops face. After 25 years, it still makes me nauseous to think about it. Well the driver stomped on the gas going east on Balbo, and when he got to Wabash slammed on the brakes. By that time he was 40 yards away, and at that distance I could hear a muffled thump. You may think such extrajudicial behavior is justified, I believe there is no place for such antics in our criminal justice system. Because the cops maintain a no snitch code, they all have to pay the consequences of the driver's action. The only question we may never know the answer to, is what if anything, in the cops minds, did Freddie Grey do to deserve such a rough ride.

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    12. Bernie, that doesn't mean same thing happened in Baltimore. And what should the police do? Put up with loogies, verbal abuse, getting shot at and hit and smile??

      Bitter scribe perhaps you should be cops in the hood and see. No, there aren't cops in my family.
      I've heard tof emergency room docs who get attacked from hood types they are trying to help.

      Or fireman that get shot at while putting out fires, then are told they have to take sensitivity training. It's pc gone too far and it's bull.
      Bitter Scribe, the AG of Baltimore who is probably a reverse racist? the one who did you know was given a pol. donation in her last campaign, by the expensive though now free lawyer that is representing Greys family. No wonder there are conflict of interest charges.

      When the Chicago police are sued they should take it to court and not settle otherwise to many see it as a way to make easy money.

      Are there nasty, racist cops that cover things up, sure. But there are also some that cry wolf too on the thug side.

      And why didn't Sharpton make references to the injured police? I guess only reverse racism is okay.

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    13. Scribe you are a panderer. A white, extreme liberal who feels guilty cause he didn't have to go to a run down public school, in a bad area.

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  13. I think some people on here are o/c

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  14. Re your correction-- I think the "maybe others" should include teddy Roosevelt

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  15. Check sports page-so that Asswipe Ricketts was slurring Italians was he? see ST sports section-guess he forgot about Maddon-what can you expect from a spoiled Republican, billionaire who wants tax payers to pay for his stadium needs.

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  16. did you see the editorial in the ST about giving illegal immig. kids more coll. schol. and funds



    ridiculous and enabling/ encouraging illegal immig.

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  17. Whatever happened to demonstrations of SNCC and SCLC style?

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  18. Or were charges made to placate the rioters? I guess those cops better be found guilty or else...more rioting.

    The police union should order a strike. Let the AG protect people, same with the mayor there.

    Bs, I suppose you think looting and beating up cops is justified. Did you know the rioters tried to burn one of the store owners? he sounds like he has an Arabic name

    just like with Rodney King, Koreans were picked on for working 16hrs a day in those stores-nothing was handed to them- while some groups, not all in said groups, feel they are entitled even if not working

    I get a kick when some say bring more jobs there? Who? the stores or bus. owners would be beaten , shot and mugged and why work for 10 bucks an hour when selling drugs pays more?

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  19. Bitter Scribe Boy, you aren't as smart as you think, nor do you know everything after all.

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  20. The AG prosecutor said our time is now. Well that sounds like an agenda and biased. It's political. Maybe the cops better start buckling the prisoners in these vans and secure them.

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  21. Frankly, TE, I doubt it's just one person who is tired of your lit. ref.

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    1. Perhaps. Others may be tired of dozens of off-topic one-liners from assorted anonymice, yet everybody gets to have their say. Misquoting a certain late-20th century philosopher here -- "Can't we all just get along?" ; )

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    2. you may be right

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  22. 3 of the 6 cops were black, one being a female

    how is that racism?

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Thanks for commenting. As soon as I vet your remarks, they'll be posted, assuming they aren't, you know, mean and crazy.