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Affect-Laden Speech

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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: February 21, 2006
Latest Update: March 10, 2006

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Index of Topics on Site Affect-Laden Speech

Greg wrote in Message No. 11069:

Don't you dare call me a racist. I judge a man based on what he does with what he is given. Because of his place of authority, Jesse Jackson has a great deal of power. If he abuses that power in the name of helping blacks when he really just helps himself and his friends, then I will take him to task on it.

jeanne responded in Message No. 11076

OK, Greg. Now you understand what Susan and I are saying when we demand respect for the other. Although Jason didn't say "You are a racist" the way he said "you racists" was effectively the use of a pejorative label. It doesn't feel good, does it? It certainly doesn't encourage illocutionary discourse. So now you understand my reason for putting my foot down about the use of affect-laden pejorative language.

As I said in my lecture yesterday, we sometimes don't know what is going to appear as an affect-laden pejorative to another. So we have to be sensitive enough to pick that up through good faith listening.

Greg, I picked up somewhere in this thread that you cited Wikipedia. Good. That's giving us material that we can move to ta technical level and take some of the affect-laden labelling out of the discourse.

I don't know Bill O'Riley (sp?) and I don't know any of the details of the alleged corruption, etc, being cited. But may I quote myself from this very thread?

Jeanne Curran wrote:

Randy, I didn't know about that. [don't recall what "that" was. Use the Up thread to find the thread messages] These issues are so complex that we may never be able to discern THE TRUTH. But the existence of this information out on the Internet gives us some sense of what people are thinking and why they are concerned.

May we preserve awareness, each of us, of the complexities of preserving peace,

love and peace, jeanne

Jason, apologize. Racist is too broad a label for you to be able to call someone a racist when you barely know of his existence. How do any of us know Greg? How do we know what made him say whatever led you to think of him as racist? That is what illocutionary discourse is for, to stop us from jumping to such unjustifiable conclusions without examining the evidence for them in the light of our academic training. Besides, it's pejorative and you know that.

I'm much more interested in how Greg has balanced Jesse Jackson's accomplishments against his errors that resulted what we are calling "corruption." Greg, since you are appalled by Jackson's mis-steps, how do you feel about the mis-steps of the right? How are you actually weighing the achievements against the mis-steps? Pretty hard to do, isn't it? Admitting that, and sharing the measures you are using is called transparency and humility. Good values, both.

love and peace, jeanne

Jason had written earlier in Message No. 11030:

"Did you cite Bill O'Reilly? Even the saintly Dr. Martin Luther King made mistakes, you racist love to tear a man down by the few errors he made. What about his accomplishments?"

Greg had written earlier in Message No.11026:

"Jesse Jackson is a fraud. He fostered a child out of wedlock, and paid for her house, move, and support out of his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition funds. He shakes down companies for payments to "minority suppliers" who are his friends and family. When he organized a boycott of Budweiser, he ended it after a dealership worth over $25 million was sold to his sons for an undisclosed amount. There was also a report that he demanded money form all the black-owned businesses in the area to support the boycott. (sources: Wikipedia, The No Spin Zone by Bill O'Reilly)"

Jason had written earlier in Message No. 11021:

"Jesse Jackson has been a crusader for human rights around the globe for all of his adult life. Yes, he has made mistakes, but his works shone brightly throughout his career. Louis Farrakahn is a complete shame -- his bigotry disguised as religion has stained any good works. How many times will Black Americans excuse his racism and torch other Blacks who simply don't agree with them? Bottom line is, Farrahkan is a bully of the worst kind --either you're with him, or you're an Uncle Tom. I'm proud to say he does not represent me or my ideals, Jesse Jackson already has that covered."

Please notice that Jason is calling Farrakahn a racist, too, Greg. You and Jason need to agree on some kind of measure of what racism is if you're going to use the term in illocutionary discourse. No, Jason, you don't have to apologize to Farrakahn - but you should give us details or sources to explain your conclusion, so we are free to decide if we agree with your conclusions.

Discussion Questions

  1. What' the unstated theoretical assumption behind our not wanting you to use pejorative labels in illocutionary discourse?

    Look at the affect level rising in the dialog above.

  2. What's one plausible theoretical source for understanding this affect label?

    Consider Hall's Affect Levels in Learning.

  3. Let's take a look at Greg and Jason both saying "I won't apologize." How could we explain that?

    Let me try. I suspect that both of them feel as though apologizing means that they're sorry for what they said, and neither one is. Jason still thinks Greg is exhibiting racist behavior, and Greg still thinks Jesse Jackson is a fraud. So they can't, in honesty, apologize. But I'm not really asking them to apologize because they think they were wrong. I'm asking them to apologize for having used affect-laden terms that made them each see red. They are welcome to maintain their respective positions. But I don't want them to resort to labelling and label calling instead of presenting evidence for each of their positions so that we can use their sources to help us make up our own minds on the issue.

    They're not likely to change each others' minds, but each of them might convince some of us, and I would hope that would be by giving sources, and discussing what those sources mean to each of us.

    So could we have a code word "apology" that goes like: "Oops. Sorry. I was passionate and moved into instrumental discourse. That created affect and obscured our discussion. Let's get back to illocutionary discourse." I'd be delighted to accept that for an apology on behalf of everybody on transform_dom. That's what matters. Make yourselves a copy of that somewhere. And just paste it on your next message when jeanne yelps: apologize.

    References: Links that will lead us to more in-depth reading.

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