The following dialog was recorded in eastern Idaho recently…
Zeke: It shore is peaceful out here in the mountains a’huntin’ deer with these sweet assault rifles. It almost let’s you forget what the government is tryin’ to do to us.
Zeb: Yeah. You know what’s been buggin’ me a lot lately? More’n em tryin’ to take away our guns. They’ve takin’ away our WORDS! Now you gotta say “the N word.” What kinda’ stupid crap way is that to talk? But you gotta do it or you get shunned by people, and your kids pick it up and get in trouble at school.
Zeke: Damn it to hell. Be careful about sayin’t that! Don’t you know that the NSA has satellites all over ever’where listening to ever’thing you say? That can trigger them computers to start detailing you. Abbreviations don’t cut it. Now you gotta use “code words.”
Zeb: What, you mean like secret codes’n substituting letters’n, stuff?
Zeke: Nah. You just use one word fer another. Like instead of that thing you were tryin’ to say, use “Muslim.” See you cain’t be a racist no more, but you can still hate Muslims.
Zeb: But that sorry Obama ain’t no damned Muslim. He’s a damned Communist atheist libtard.
Zeke: It don’t matter. It’s just a code word. See the Jews that run everything hate Muslims too, so you can get away with using Muslim. And a’course you don’t say “Jew” neither. You say “international financier” or “New World Order.” You can’t say “White people should run stuff,” but you can say “we support the founders of our country” because the founders were all white! See?
Zeb: I think I get it. I can say “Obama is a usurper” instead of “only white people can be President”, and not sound racist. I can say he was born in Kenya instead instead of him being a nigge* DAMMIT, I mean a Muslim. It’ll take some practice before I get the hang of it, but I see how’ta do it. Hell, makin’ up your own code words is sorta like sawing off your own shotgun! Well Zeke, I think this is the place on the trail where we part company. Have a nice day!
At this point Zeke takes his rifle and puts 14 rounds into Zeb, “have a nice day” being a code word for one of the vilest of all insults in his group: “your mother carries a sissy gun.”
Our fanciful dialog points to one of the problems with code words, knowing when someone is using a code word and when they’re not. In practice things regarded as code words are much more subtle than the rather obvious examples I used in my fictional dialog. For an example that went right over my head, see the Portland Public Schools article in the Learn More section below. If one is not careful one can fall into conspiracy thinking by “finding” patterns in text, connecting dots that don’t belong together. By taking what someone says, and changing the words according to a code, an irresponsible investigator can basically make anyone say anything, and what is the value of that?
There is a chicken and egg problem. We might say, so-and-so is a racist, so when they use such-and-such words, they are code words for racism. So how do we know that so-and-so is racist? Just look at the code words they use!
Exactly what does Michele Bachmann really mean when she says discussing economic policy:
Do we really want to tie our fortunes to Venezuela or Zimbabwe?
Some have called these racist code words. When she says “take back our country” is this code for Christian hegemony? Alan Dershowitz is quoted as saying, “whenever I hear the words ‘real American’, that sounds to me like a code word for racism, a code word for bigotry, a code word for anti-Semitism.”
A further problem with code word analysis is that even if the person who initiates a statement intends to use code words, that doesn’t mean that some who repeats the statement (or paraphrases it) understands that code words are being used.
In statistics, we talk about Type I and Type II errors. With a hypothesis like “that statement uses racist code words” a Type I error (“false positive’), would be identifying code words that aren’t there. A Type II error (‘false negative”) would be miss racist code words that are there. I’m always biased towards the Type II error, reserving judgment until the probabilities of error become small.
Still, code words are real and one has to be on the lookout for them.
What are some of your favorite examples of Obama conspiracy code words?