by Turd Ferguson, TF Metals Report:
Some of you clearly recall the year 1969 where Ted Kennedy drove off a bridge with a woman in his car. (No, this article really is not about politics, but describes how the media shapes the public’s thoughts and views). Accounts of the Chappaquiddick event paint a sordid picture. It was clear to anyone that Kennedy was partying with single women while his wife was absent, drinking, flirting and left the party with a woman for reasons that evidence suggests were not altogether innocent. It was likely he was drunk. It was likely that he was speeding away from the sheriffs’ deputy who saw the car parked by a cemetery a few minutes earlier and came over to ask if they needed help. His actions—driving off a bridge—caused her death. But somehow, he managed to hold onto his office. He sidestepped punishment, stayed in office, and got away with a heinous crime.
Who did what and with what effect? Agent –action—results. Agents make a choice, they act, and then we see a result. And we determine responsibility in the construction of a story by assigning one of the players as the “agent.” Kenneth Burke wrote over 400 pages to explain this, though he really nailed it by the first page. Very simple grammar right? We learned it in “grammar-school.” Surely nobody could fool us simply by manipulating grammar… right?
A speech critic and colleague of mine, David Ling, explained how Kennedy pulled it off: Within Kennedy’s speech to the people of Massachusetts, Kennedy was able to ascribe the tragic result to the “scene” of the crime, AND to the mysterious “Kennedy curse” that had afflicted his family. Kennedy was at the wrong place at the wrong time—and this evil “curse” that had taken the lives of his two brothers … well he mentions it and leave it to the imagination. Though he repeatedly takes responsibility in the speech, his underlying argument was that a dark night, a wrong turn, a poorly designed bridge, and a curse conspired to commit the crime against him (and Mary Jo, of course).
The sheeple of Massachusetts bought it.
So, when analyzing the reasons that an action has occurred, as we do every day when we try to understand our stock charts, we must look very closely at grammar and the narrative structure of the stories told that explain it. And I see a simple, purposeful, clever strategy as I look at headlines each day about stocks bonds, currencies, etc., and especially describing movements in the price of gold. The writers of headlines and articles conceal the real agent, and point to another as they ascribe a reason for the action.
Consider these headlines from March 31, 2017:
U.S. Stocks Climb With Dollar as Treasuries Slip link
And my favorite, with a tagline:
Gold Hits One Month High As Investors Retreat from Global Reflation Trade–Gold prices jumped to a one month high as the precious metal extended its rally since the Fed rate hike earlier this month amid a collapse in the dollar link
You have seen thousands of headlines that conform to this grammatical form. What I hope you notice in each headline is the noun and the verb. Who is doing what?
In each case, it is the commodity, or the stock that is doing the action! Stocks climb. Treasuries slip. Gold hits, gold jumps, gold extends, gold crashes. All on its own volition? Think about it. Who would have known gold could do all these things?
Stocks, the dollar, gold –none of these things are alive, none have a will, and none are able to perform an action. They simply have a moment to moment value to people—people whose buying and selling influence price, and can be influenced by others. All are inanimate objects that are affected by actual agents who do have a will, are alive, and can act! But we never hear who those agents are… except for here on this blog and other alternative media like it.
But reading the mainstream news each day, we learn how wrong we are. We are told that gold indeed does have a will and performs actions. It simply moves, it rises, it skyrockets, it crashes, it dips, it falls. It even goes to the moon. I think someone is lying and concealing.
Actually, gold doesn’t do anything except sit there in a vault, in your safe, or at the bottom of your pond.
Well, just like Kennedy (and his speechwriter), by subtly shifting the grammatical structure of a sentence or headline, media propagandists indeed make an inanimate object appear to have a will and perform actions. How mysterious it all is… when gold rises or falls. No wonder you have to be a “wizard” to understand the markets.
Of course we don’t believe gold has a will or the power to act as we read the headlines, but the real agent remains concealed and most people never ask whodunnit. We have been passively absorbing the grammar of these headlines since we started following stocks & commodities. The result is that each morning when I awake I wonder, “What did gold do last night?” what is gold gonna do today? Will gold move higher, lower, or run flat? My best friend calls me each week and asks, “Where is gold heading?”And each time I use these grammatical constructions in my own mind, the actual agents who are deciding, acting and affecting the price of gold can continue their work in the dark.
Grammar matters! As rhetorician, I am becoming persuaded that grammar can be the most powerful sophistic persuasive force that we experience each day. It highlights and conceals all at the same time. One can lie through choices in grammar in a way that few others detect. Subtle, sneaky, and completely dishonest.
We have learned some things reading Craig’s articles here on this blog.
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