Friday, August 13, 2010

Building A Better Politics

Apparently the dear Dr. Laura had a fit of stupidity while taking an on-air call during her radio show. Some might say she's a racist for repeatedly and intentionally saying the word 'nigger' whilst talking to a black woman about the racist comments of her white husband's friends. I'm taking a TNC approach to this one. Dr. Laura isn't a racist. She's just ignorant.
What we have here is another instance of someone mistaking authorial intent as the beginning and end of how a word is understood. I'm waving my Wittgenstein stick here as I subscribe to his 'meaning as use' theory of language. Since language is a public act words gain meaning through the interaction of at least two people. Dr. Laura could have meant whatever she liked when saying 'nigger'. Doesn't mean a damn thing because that's not how that language game is played. Had she premised her usage of the word on it's regularity in the speech of black men she might have a defensible position. Actually, no not really. All Dr. Laura did was attempt to excuse her usage by citing its usage in a completely different language game.
Stupidity and ignorance reign once again with Dr. Laura. Because she didn't know, or refused to acknowledge, that authorial intent only plays a small role in defining a word she stumbled right into a classic ignorant white person trap. It doesn't matter much that she apologized. The words were spoken. No matter what she intended, the meaning of the word 'nigger' doesn't suddenly change to suit her needs. The word has a meaning that invokes a whole different language game than the one she was playing. With a different game come different rules. Dr. Laura was ignorant of this and ignorance isn't much of a defense.
Thus Dr. Laura was wrong and remains ignorant of exactly why she was wrong. Thus she needs a beating with the Wittgenstein stick.