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It’s the symbolism, stupid

Posted November 18th, 2010 in Uncategorized by Jeff Bentoff

Linguist Geoffrey Nunberg believes symbols often defeat facts. Nunberg says it’s human nature.

His explanation comes in a recent interiview about why apparent federal boondoggles, even when barely affecting budget deficits, get all the attention. And why the real drivers behind budget deficits get ignored.

Nunberg said that Walter Lippmann observed that “symbols assemble emotions after they’ve been detached from ideas.”

“A phrase like ‘trim the fat’ has a symbolic resonance that some more accurate and precise description might not, just because people don’t really want to know,” Nunberg said.

Hear or read the interview from NPR’s “On The Media” to understand why “just the facts, ma’am,” ain’t necessarily enough.

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