From top: Leo Varadkar and Frances Fitzgerald; Tony Groves
Ebonics: American Black English regarded as a language in its own right rather than as a dialect of standard English.
I wrote a paper many, many moons ago on Ebonics. I guess these days this would be called cultural appropriation, but at the time I thought I was, as the cool kids say, woke.
The study of how language, and the evolution of language, influences our daily lives has always fascinated me. Whether it was the birth of Gangsta Rap or the recent death of the 140 character tweet, words and how they are structured affect our world view.
When the Irish Independent’s Political Correspondent, Philip Ryan tweeted “Sinn Fein will also have the proud distinction of collapsing governments on both side of the border” I felt like simultaneously applauding and deriding him.
As short and simple tweets go, it was a trolling masterpiece. It appeals to those who already see Sinn Fêin as the biggest threat to our (status quo) democracy and it infuriates those who see the mainstream media as a propaganda unit for the government.
When the Minister of State Michael D’Arcy (the man Jonathan Sugarman exposed as not knowing his brief as part of the Finance Committee) spoke of the current political pissing contest he decided that, rather than focus on the campaign to destroy Maurice McCabe, he’d blame Sinn Féin.
The Shinners you see, according to Minister D’Arcy (I shudder typing that) are carrying out “political terrorism” and engaging in “slash and burn politics”. These comments were made on RTÉ Radio 1 and went unchallenged.
On Friday evening, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, went on RTÉ News and addressed the nation in what I can only describe as a twitter rant worthy of the hard right defenders of George Hook, Kevin Myers et al.
Before you go getting upset that I’m being emotive about emotive language remember, this is the Taoiseach who mistakenly repeats the line that “communication is a virtue” and is spending millions of Euros on crafting his words carefully for his audience.
He began by saying that he doesn’t “want to see Frances Fitzgerald decapitated” and then went on to say that calls for her “execution” and her “public hanging” were inappropriate. He even added that he wouldn’t “throw her under the bus”.
None of these blatant smears that the Taoiseach used to deflect from what are serious concerns about the Tánaiste’s ability to do her job were challenged.
Verbal mud, worthy of a cowardly anonymous keyboard warrior, was thrown on political discourse and allowed to dirty up our representative democracy.
It is now the case that the comments section vitriol of the trolls is broadcast on the main evening news. I suppose we should just accept this dumbing down of debate, especially since the purveyors are our best and our brightest?
The hyperbolic lynch mob is now the establishment. They are the trolls now. They’ve culturally appropriated troll speak and debate and accountability are secondary to running down the opposition.
Maybe communications is a virtue. Maybe it’s that virtues are no longer virtuous. Maybe we should give up on trying to speak truth to power. I don’t know.
My paper on Ebonics was laughed at by the English Department. They said it wasn’t to be taken seriously. But Gangsta Rap became Hip-Hop and Hip-Hop now pervades every layer of society. In the same way I suppose the trolls are having their very own coming out party on the Six One News.
I should be worried. But Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta.
Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld.