The Contrarian: Oh, Word?

The Contrarian: Oh, Word?

—by , September 21, 2011

Thank goodness for Jon Stewart. Besides having provided stoners political jump-on points since 1999 (note: Commenting on the enthusiastic audience response to the topic of capital punishment at the Republican Presidential debate two Wednesdays ago, Stephen Colbert, Stewart’s ‘bitter blood rival,’ joked, “It’s like saying ‘pot’ to the audience of ‘The Daily Show”), the now-seminal satirist often manages to present minute details in the news and media in a manner that implicates the need to write a dissertation on them.

While the Emmy Award-winning “fake-news” program has always displayed a valiant effort to start conversations in funny places, it does well to quietly call into question why we do not more readily make our own comically suspended connections.

President Barack Obama’s publicly anticipated address on jobs creation, made to a joint session of Congress Sept. 8 (notwithstanding the scheduling hullabaloo), has had a week and a half to marinade with those who listened to the speech, semi-vicariously listened to the speech, has a friend of a friend who heard about some sort of speech that is supposed to hand them a job and a check for 100K, and/or watched Jon Stewart’s reaction bit to what he cited as the pinnacle of the entire speech, the introduction of a bill titled the “American Jobs Act.”

The delivery of this marinade was, as Megan Fox in Jennifer’s Body would alluringly coo, “extra salty.” Stewart pointed out the refreshing return of “Campaign-Obama,” the impassioned, pointed politician who went all “Yes We Can!” on our asses a few years ago and used the phrase “pass this jobs bill” either verbatim or in some variation at a rate of at least once every three sentences during most of this speech, the latter a little gift to journalists everywhere.

As riveting as Stewart claimed to find the tone and content of the speech, he took issue with the title for the proposed bill, joking, “What– ‘Employment Ideas TBD’ already taken?” and further suggesting that more punchy titles might include the “Make It Rain Act” and the “Remember Me? I F*cking Killed Bin Laden Employment Act Of 2011.”

The branding of the “American Jobs Act” might be as sparse as the resume of a recent college grad, but consider this: Thus far, Obama and his administration have been quite careful about language and the phrases and sound bites they very consciously provide to the media and, thus, the public.

It is quite possible that the simple title attached to the proposal, aptly presented during the kickoff of the 2012 election season, is a calculated combo of words strung together to be easily digestible, and perhaps, that much more believable. Besides targeting the support of the obvious voter demographics, he directly appeals to women, racial and ethic minorities, and young people by creating a sometimes-audacious image of accessibility and realness by using relaxed language when he can get away with it.

For example, in an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer in 2010, Obama commented on his speaking to experts in several fields as being a part of his response to the devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, using language that was an apt reflection of the sentiments of a concerned public. With a straight face, Obama said, “I don’t sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar. We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answer, so I know whose ass to kick.”

Using accessible, conversational language as a tool is a practice that could have been one of the most significant reasons he won the Presidency in 2008. For a bill that means to address the nation’s very large problem of a suffering economy and the need for jobs to have any sort of believability, it needs to resonate with several groups: People who have jobs, people who need jobs, people who no longer work (read: Retired) but may soon need a job, people who don’t work but soon will (read: Young people and college grads), people who work too much and need a break, etc.

The immediacy of the way “American Jobs Act” rolls off the tongue connotes the direct address of the problem of unemployment in America, which hit a rate of 9.1 percent in August of 2011, rather than 200 pages of systematic restructuring that means to achieve increased jobs creations as an inevitable result. Further, the simple title imposes a big-picture perspective for those citizens who might take on a “Why should I care? It doesn’t affect me” attitude.

The same senior citizens who complain about having to pay into education because it “doesn’t affect them” might view the simple idea that the nation’s security depends on the creation of jobs (jobs they may or may no longer be concerned with) as being more than another unfair suck on those citizens who have paid their dues. The young people who are not yet of voting age might write to their congressperson in support of the bill for the purpose of securing their futures (face it; our young people are on Facebook and Tweeting from their cell phones and the precarious economic situation is not lost on them).

It is fitting that the “Jobs Act” is clarified as being “American”; its passing might get us to care about each other again.


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