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Friday, September 28, 2012

REALLY INSIDE BASEBALL

Just about everyone, including me, has had something to say about Mitt Romney's "47%" statement to a bunch of fatcat donors, but there is one tiny point that struck me especially hard, and has not been commented on at all.  To get the full flavor of this, it is not enough to read the transcript of the remarks, devastating though they are.  One must actually listen to the intonation of Romney's voice at each point in the recording.

A "tell" is what serious poker players call that unconscious and revelatory bit of behavior that can be used to tell whether a bettor is bluffing -- see John Malkovich and Matt Damon in the great all night poker game in Rounders [Malkovich's tell is that he separates the two halves of an Oreo cookie and licks the filling off one of them.  Malkovich, always a treat, is spectacular as Teddy KGB.]  More broadly, a tell is any bit of behavior that gives us a window into someone's true beliefs or point of view.

The moment of revelation for me comes during the passage in which Romney says "All right, there are 47% who are with him, who are dependent upon the government, who believe that, that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it."

You cannot tell this from the transcript, but as Romney says "who believe that they are entitled to healthcare ..." his voice rises sharply on the word "entitled."  There is incredulity in his voice, a sense of personal affront.  The tone of his voice clearly communicates something like this:  "Can you believe it?  They have the colossal nerve to think that they are entitled to food, or healthcare, etc."  This is the voice of a noble whose robe has just been brushed by the dirty foot of a commoner.  It is the voice of an aristocrat in whose presence a serf has not tugged his forelock or doffed his cap.  It is not anger, exactly.  Rather it is an expression of disbelief that one of the lower orders could so completely violate the natural order of things as to presume to think that he has any entitlement at all to anything.

Google the remarks and listen to them again, and you will, I think, hear what I mean.

4 comments:

formerly a wage slave said...

I heard this too. But it seems to me that in the USA the word "entitlement" is often used in this way---always with a negative connotation, if not with exactly the tone you mention. IN other words, my impression of the way that people talk in the USA is that "entitlement" never means what someone genuinely deserves or has earned. So, I do not think, e.g., that my elderly father would be happy if I told him that the Veteran's Bill was an "entitlement"......

formerly a wage slave said...

I should perhaps have said "the education he received from the GI Bill"....

formerly a wage slave said...

And, what's more, the way things are going I wouldn't be surprised to hear in a few years that weekends are an "entitlement", or that getting paid at all is an "entitlement"....

Will said...

I think you are exactly right. Romney is now trying to walk away from that statement, bucking the advice of the Hard Right for the first time all campaign. But if you listen to his delivery, he sounds like he really means it. He can imply that he was just acting, but if so it was better acting than we normally get from him.