Classic downplaying is the strategy of making something look less important or significant. You can do this with euphemisms, so you can call a pay cut "salary compression," or you can call the victims of indiscriminate use of lethal force "collateral damage." Another strategy is to employ the terms of regular use, but use scare quotes around the terms. This method of downplaying at once both acknowledges that some use the term to describe the case, but it also registers your objection to it. No reasons are given, but it's a clear wink to one's preferred audience, a kind of code to let them know that it's a larger cultural battle in the works. But also note that scarequoting just communicates this challenge to the naming, but not its grounds or even what the alternatives are. It is a particularly weak and lazy form of criticism, one that effectively relies on the audience to supply their own arguments.
In the wake of the leaked Katie Couric tape, with Couric laughing at Sara Palin's kids names, Douglas MacKinnon re-opens the case that Sara Palin was treated unfairly by the media in '08. He thinks her performances in the Gibson interview (when she couldn't define the Bush Doctrine) and Couric interview (when, she couldn't name a single news magazine) were because of the treachery of the liberals who ran the interviews. But the real fault lays with the McCain campaign for not protecting her from these ambushes. That's weird, as it seems that these questions were hardly surprises and could have easily been turned into cases for Palin to showcase her knowledge of politics and foreign affairs, had she done any homework. Regardless, MacKinnon has the perfect downplayer setup for his case in his opening paragraph:
As the video popped-up this week of far-left, ultra wealthy, and privileged CBS “News” anchor Katie Couric going after then Governor Sarah Palin while mocking the names of her children, it reminded me all over again how much Palin is owed an apology from the “leadership” of the McCain campaign.
That paragraph without the scare quotes still gets the point across — McCain's campaign advisers should have known that liberals would try to take down their witless VP candidate, and they should have stayed with only Sean Hannity and Greta Van Sustren interviewing her. But with the addition, really, of no more words but a few extra marks (eight little apostrophes), MacKinnon communicates so much more and expresses (and encourages) real hostility to his opponents.
Here, let me show you. I'll re-write my last paragraph with the addition of scare quotes.
That paragraph without the scare quotes still gets the "point" across — McCain's campaign advisers should have known that liberals would try to take down their witless VP candidate, and they should have stayed with only Sean Hannity and Greta Van Sustren "interviewing" her. But with the addition, really, of no more words but a few extra marks (eight little apostrophes), MacKinnon "communicates" so much more and expresses (and encourages) real hostility to his opponents.
See? It's easy to sound much more outraged by and better informed than your opponents with just a few scare quotes. No wonder a lazy mind like MacKinnon uses them so… liberally.
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