Archive for June 27th, 2008

..blimey

So perhaps Jim Corr is himself a “false flag” operation.

Is Manuel Estímulo. He hits the nail on the hand.

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Dear Leader

GWB:

I remember meeting a mother of a child who was abducted by the North Koreans right here in the Oval Office.

Not a bit of wonder they were on the US list of rogue states for so long if they managed to pull off stunts like that.

Snow Job

Telegraph main story:

Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela ‘supplies half of Britain’s cocaine

Intended message: Hugo Chávez is the biggest drug dealer in Britain.

The information comes from a single source:

“Venezuela is a magnet for drug trafficking right now. It’s a huge problem,” said a senior member of another Latin American government. “Venezuela is a Bermuda Triangle for drugs.”

Who wants to bet a big bag of drugs that I am right to say that the ‘another Latin American government’ is one whose current president was once described by US intelligence as a “close personal friend of Pablo Escobar” who was “dedicated to collaboration with the Medellín [drug] cartel at high government levels”?

I wouldn’t be surprised if this was followed up by revelations from e-mails found on the FARC laptop that Hugo Chávez planned to give Amy Winehouse emphysema.

Paddywhacked

I had a bit of a blast from the past yesterday at a meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to unveil -or perhaps, given the enthusiasm of the presenter, unleash- a new mantra/mission statement/motto thingy. You know the sort of thing: a phrase that is supposed to provide internal and external clarity of purpose to an organisation. For instance – Nokia: Connecting People. Now I can’t reveal the specific phrase in question, because there are probably web applications set up to monitor the use of the phrase and alert the organisation in question. In short I can’t tell you, because I will get a figurative cap in my ass for it. Unfortunately for you then, the next paragraphs will have the flavour of ‘you had to be there when he told that funny joke which I can’t recall right now’, but bear with me.

What happened was this. The phrase was unleashed, and those of us assembled were asked to free-associate with it, to masticate the words in the jaws of our brains, and to come up with what the phrase signified for us. Much as I would like to make the claim for myself that I was being consciously subversive when I was the first person to put my hand up with an answer, I was not. No: it was a reflex action from schooldays, a habit borne not out of a desire to please the teacher as such, but of the fact that I find dazed silences hard to bear. In the particular case of meetings such as these, it is also because I feel sorry for the individual who has to marshal enthusiasm for the exercise, when everyone -deep down- knows, (or at least this is what I like to think, since I have some faith in human nature) that what is being discussed is arrant nonsense with scarce relation to wider reality.

Hand aloft, I gave my interpretation of the phrase, elaborating a meaning to the phrase that was almost the precise opposite of its intended meaning. Again, I regret the lack of specifics, but imagine a short snappy phrase that says something like ‘we strive to be great at doing great things for people’, but you can interpret it to mean ‘we strive to shaft people in a manner most excellent’.

People laughed. The presenter -who also laughed, but I could sense his discomfort- said, yes, you’re right. And would you believe.. I’ve been going round the world presenting this, and you’re the first person to notice that.

And then he said ‘I guess it must be the Paddy effect’.

The Paddy effect. I realised once he said this that I’d caused the whole point of his trip to unravel. I imagine he felt like a conductor whose symphony had been ruined by a bout of uncontrollable farting from the audience at the beginning. Any further free-association and elaboration on the meaning of the phrase -which I now realised was intended to result in the air being punched with enthusiasm and maybe some sort of collective hug- had been prefigured by the explicit realisation that, in fact, what we were talking about was also a load of crap.

Still. The Paddy effect. That wasn’t very nice, was it? About half the people in the room were Irish, and the meeting was in Ireland, so I didn’t think there was any need to pass any remarks about it other than ‘I doubt a ‘Paddy effect’ comes into it, because it’s written there in plain English and everyone else here understands what I mean’.

Like the catchphrase, though, there are different ways of interpreting the remark. My initial thoughts were that he was slightly humiliated, so he decided to return the humiliation to the source of it: the ‘Paddy’. But then I thought that maybe he thought that there is nothing wrong with referring to Irish people as ‘Paddies’: in Dublin, for instance, there is a tourist bus service called ‘Paddywagon Tours’, and the Irish edition of the Sun (it may have been in the English version as well) produced the headline ‘Paddy Power’ to describe the outcome of the Irish Lisbon Treaty referendum. The common phrase ‘Plastic Paddy’, used to describe someone who makes a show of ersatz Irishness, might be interpreted to mean that there are authentic Paddies out there. Maybe he thought that Irish people like to be called Paddies.

To my ears it sounded pretty anachronistic. I spent a few years in England about a decade ago, and I can only recall being called ‘Paddy’ once. It sounded anachronistic then, too. Perhaps that isn’t saying much, though: I doubt many French people in England get called Frogs to their face, but it appears in the Sun fairly regularly. And if you were to ask your average English Family Fortunes contestant to give a derogatory term for an Irish person, I’m pretty sure ‘Paddy’ would be top of the list (followed by Mick, maybe Leprechaun, and then it’d have to be universal insults prefaced by Irish – Irish bastard, and so on).

Of course, part of the reason some English people feel they can use the word ‘Paddy’ is familiarity. It is the fact of the closeness between Irish and English people -in terms of language as well as physical features- that enables an English person to say ‘the Paddy effect’ where he or she would never say ‘the Paki effect’ or ‘the Dago effect’. But it seems odd, given the history of the term, to think that the act of an English person calling an Irish person ‘Paddy’ could ever be an expression of fraternal affection: it always seems to exist as a means of marking a difference. It says ‘I will represent you as I please (my cuddly subordinate)’.

Isn’t that right, Paddies?


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