February 5, 2010

Fallout from Rahm "F***ing Retarded" Emanuel's Incivility

Hatched by Dafydd

First, read this.

Am I missing something? Or does the word "retarded" simply mean slowed, impeded, held back?

What is "crude," "demeaning," or "name calling" about the word? It seems purely diagnostic.

I understand that Sarah Palin has a child with Down syndrome, and she might be sensitive about Trig being teased or bullied. Still and all, words mean what they mean; you cannot make mental retardation go away by demanding nobody speak its name.

Who's with me on this?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 5, 2010, at the time of 7:26 AM

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The following hissed in response by: RRRoark

I agree about words meaning what they mean, but given that, should not the apology be made to the people he called "f****** retarded" instead of the people for whom it would be a clinical description? (I could probably make a reasonable case for them being diagnosed as falling under that description, but not for the reaso he thinks.)

Possibly you could consider he apology he made as denigrated the retarded by comparing them to Democretins?

The above hissed in response by: RRRoark [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 5, 2010 8:17 AM

The following hissed in response by: Mastermind2much

I can't agree because the problem isn't what he said, if it was people would be complaining about the work f***ing. Palin is offended and she said something about it, good for her. Limbaugh is quoting Emanual, using satire to show the double standard. If he (Emanual) had said macaca would he have been fired?

The above hissed in response by: Mastermind2much [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 5, 2010 12:41 PM

The following hissed in response by: adagioforstrings

I also thought Limbaugh's observation that after Rahm called the Kos Kids & Huff & Puffers fing retards, Rahm had to call the Special Olympics in order to apologize for the comparison.

The above hissed in response by: adagioforstrings [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 5, 2010 1:33 PM

The following hissed in response by: snochasr

The word has two meanings. Rahmbo was using it in a context that was derogatory towards those about whom he used it, and there is probably no need to apologize to them (though he has, I believe) since it's probably accurate though extremely crude. Sarah Palin has a legitimate beef, too, because "r___" was used in a derogatory way, without considering that those to whom the legitimate clinical term applied would be hurt by hearing it used as a derogative, as if that was something "bad" to be.

We really ought to be cautious with terms like "idiot" and "moron," too, because those are specific clinical terms for the same general condition as retardation, and also used as derogatory slang. Of course, one would believe that the common slang usage has become so common that it ceases to offend those to whom the clinical term properly applies, and many people are even unaware of the clinical definition, so any usage would not be deliberately offensive applied to someone else.

The most interesting part of this, as noted, is that it goes largely unnoticed that he used the generally offensive term "f**" as a modifier, but caused a storm with a word that doesn't commonly give offense.

The above hissed in response by: snochasr [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 5, 2010 2:36 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dick E

As the father of a mentally retarded daughter, perhaps I can offer some perspective.

Note that I refer to her as mentally retarded. Some people avoid this terminology, preferring instead something like “developmentally delayed.” Of course, neither term is really accurate (at least with respect to our daughter). Her mental faculties are neither retarded nor delayed: They are permanently, irreparably less than normal. She is who she is -- a happy, vivacious young woman whose mental ability is about equal to that of a normal three-year-old.

So what’s the controversy? First, it’s the use of the word retard as a noun, when it is pronounced RE-tard. The only time the word is pronounced this way is when it is used as a pejorative. (See Dictionary.com) It started as a schoolyard taunt, and it has morphed into a generic insult concerning someone’s mental ability. Rush seems to expand the meaning from just lack of mental ability to also include mental illness (hence “kook” and “loony tunes”). Of course, people who are mentally retarded are usually not crazy (yeah, another pejorative).

Retard has become the mental health equivalent of the N-word. Sometimes black people refer to one another using the N-word. Maybe it’s a kind of self-deprecation. But woe unto a non-black who uses that word.

On the other hand, no one uses the word retard to refer in a friendly way to a mentally retarded person. It is not, and never has been, a clinical term -- unlike moron, imbecile and idiot, which were once used by psychologists but are now obsolete. (If you want to call someone stupid, go ahead and call them a moron, an imbecile or an idiot. Those words are sufficiently removed from clinical usage that I doubt many would be offended -- other than the object of your abuse, of course.)

Bottom line: If you refer to my daughter as a retard, you can expect to be rewarded with a knuckle sandwich lecture on sensitivity.

Second, there’s the use of “retarded” as an insult, the way Rahm Emanuel did. As you say, Dafydd, “words mean what they mean.” In this case, Emanuel did not mean to say that someone was “slowed, impeded, [or ]held back.” He was calling them stupid. That is one of the definitions of retarded, albeit a slang one. (Again, see Dictionary.com)

Should people be offended by this slang usage? I’m not, but I can understand why other people are. And it’s not because they think they can “make mental retardation go away by demanding nobody speak its name.” Any more than blacks think they can make their blackness go away by reviling the N-word.

Does Sarah Palin avoid referring to Trig as mentally retarded? I don’t know; I haven’t checked. But she’s obviously made no secret of Trig’s condition. Not using a particular term to describe it would hardly insulate him from teasing or bullying. Sarah’s a politician. She knows that many people today (especially educators and social workers) avoid using those words. Why? First there’s the imprecision I discussed above: Is it proper to refer to a permanent disability as retardation? Second, there’s the growing (mis)use of retard/retarded as pejoratives.

So why do I still call my daughter mentally retarded? Because it is universally understood, and because I have yet to encounter a reasonable alternative that is descriptive but is neither a tongue twister nor blandly euphemistic.

Am I missing something? Or does the word "retarded" simply mean slowed, impeded, held back?

A. Yes (See above) B. No (See above)

The above hissed in response by: Dick E [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 5, 2010 10:28 PM

The following hissed in response by: Jaded

I am with you on this BUT am so enjoying Rahm the tool Emmanuel having to answer for his non-PC speaking. The LEFTISTS have created this WAR OF WORDS and so as Alinsky would say "make them live up to it".

The above hissed in response by: Jaded [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2010 3:07 AM

The following hissed in response by: Chris Hunt

Rush seems to be a product of his generation (which would be close to mine) in his use of the word, which is strictly pejorative. It mirrors the use of the word "gay" as a pejorative. I use both of these words freely to describe things I don't like.

Oddly enough, these terms are not meant (for those of us who grew up using all kinds of insults freely and without guilt, including ethnic slurs) as comparisons to those whom they would presumably describe.

Rush probably went to far when he described the people that Emanuel was slurring the same way, and in fact embellishing the original slur. It was crude and unseemly. Rahm seems to be comfortable with this type of language, as I am (for good or ill) and I suspect he will laugh off the opprobrium.

The above hissed in response by: Chris Hunt [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2010 6:14 AM

The following hissed in response by: Ken Hahn

Personally, if people of limited mental ability want to be offended by being compared to Democrats, I can understand. I would be offended if compared to a Democrat.

The above hissed in response by: Ken Hahn [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2010 12:00 PM

The following hissed in response by: missionmom

I don't really think the point of the whole R word campaign is to make the word retardation go away. My daughter has a diagnosis of mental retardation. She's not a retard. She's not f..king retarded. If you think about how often this word is used in a pejorative way you start to see how dehumanizing it is. I'm not trying to take away your right to say it. Just asking why you would knowing who you hurt. The sad truth is that unless you have a family member with special needs you just don't get what we are saying.

The above hissed in response by: missionmom [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2010 3:24 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


I'm part of the problem here; I wrote quickly without clearly delineating what I was talking about.

I'm unconcerned that Rahm Emanuel uses the word as a pejorative: He's a jackass, so it fails to surprise us when he commits jackassery.

I question why people recoil from using the word "retarded" or "retardation" for people who actually have that disability; why they think it crude, demeaning name-calling, even when used properly.

Here's another example: I'm Jewish (by that I mean to say I'm of Jewish heritage and culture, despite being completely secular). I have a friend who was married to an immigrant; she once referred to me as a Jew, and her husband forcefully corrected her: "No, no -- Dafydd isn't a Jew! That's offensive. Don't say Jew, say he's a Jewish person!"

I found that perfectly silly. Of course I'm a Jew; every "Jewish person" is a Jew. And this may come as a shock to some, but Jews don't consider the word "Jew" to be an insult.

(Though it can certainly be said in an offensive tone of voice, just as some bullying high-school drop-out can say "college boy" in an offensive tone of voice.)

But I have heard people flounder trying to find a work-around for saying their little neice (granddaughter, sister, nephew, brother), who they of course love, is mentally retarded.

Mind, I'm only talking about people using the term for the actual condition it technically describes, or one similar enough that lay people would conflate the two (as in the Trig Palin case). Given that it seems a reasonably accurate description, I'm annoyed that so many shy away from the word.

Yes, the word is also used as an insult; but any word that is used to label those with the condition will fairly shortly begin to be used as an insult: If we start calling such people "differently mentaled," then kids on the playground will start calling each other differently mentaled.

I want people to reclaim their words from the fools of the world. There is nothing wrong with the word retarded, just as there is nothing wrong with exploit, discriminate, black, white, Redman tobacco, Indian motorcycles, niggardly, gay -- in both the happy and the homosexual sense -- Capitalism, socialism, Jew, Moslem (even when spelt that way), he/him/his, or Man (capitalized to mean mankind).

I hate it when people are reluctant to use the proper word because they believe it will offend someone, or else because they have some voo-doo idea that if you don't talk or even think about something, it will cease to exist.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2010 9:36 PM

The following hissed in response by: snochasr

That is a very good explanation, and I agree that words have meanings and we shouldn't be creating new words just to obfuscate the meanings the old ones have. That just makes communication more difficult, not better. But I think you need to go further, with the understanding that communication is a two-way process, and that you can use a word harmlessly when you speak it yet it may be perceived as harmful by those who hear it nonetheless. If I were mentally retarded, for instance, I might recognize the truth of the phrase you spoke, but it would be hurtful to me to hear it nonetheless. There are those, of course, who are going to be offended by my word choice regardless of its definition, my proper use of it or my intentions when using it. Those niggardly blighters should be roundly and rightly rightly ignored.

The above hissed in response by: snochasr [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 7, 2010 6:54 AM

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