Confessions of an Unrepentant Labelizer


In an earlier posting entitled "Who
are the Deaniacs?
we reported and expanded on a discussion begun at the Thursday Berkman
Blogger’s Meetings on just how to refer to the wellspring of enthusiastic
support discovered early in the Dean campaign. In order to describe the
demographic, in order to discuss and consider where it will go and who
it will support after the political demise of Dr. Dean, we need to label

Or do we? In response to our posting a relative flood of comments came
in from Dean supporters (in the meager microcosm of the Dowbrigade, a
half-dozen comments is a virtual flood) castigating us for needing to put a label
on something in order to delineate and intellectually dominate it.

Well, we get your deconstructionist drift, but beg to differ.  The
Dowbrigade teaches English for a living, and practically worships the
language, when well used. And what is language, after all, but a system
of labeling things, creating words for things, ideas, forces? There is
something magical and powerful in the naming of an object, and those
entrusted with the naming have a raw terrible power to define our reality.

We not only may, but we MUST consciously participate in the process
of affixing labels to the things that matter most in our worlds. Decrying
the process of labeling will not stop the labels from being affixed and
used, just cede labeling rights to the media monopoly. Without simple
labels for complex concepts, we cannot talk about ideas, and without
talking about ideas we have zero chance of figuring a way out of the
mess we’re in.

The role of political punditry back through Thomas Paine to Titus Livius
is in conceptualizing the spirit of an age into words which can cause
them to resonate, in an almost viral way, in the popular consciousness,
beyond the physical reach of their protagonists or intellectual authors.
Memes are just coordinated conjunctions of labels. So careful what you
call me, pard, cuz there’s more in a name than meets the eye.


  1. Mike Walsh

    February 3, 2004 @ 12:00 am


    mmm.. so you were “Dean Spammed” by “Deaniacs” re your use of the word “Deaniac.”

    Based on my extensive exit poll interviews conducted in Grantham, NH last week, the “Dean Spam” phenomenon caused a lot of folks to vote for someone other than Dean.

  2. Dennis Moser

    February 3, 2004 @ 10:36 am


    Hm. The categorical imperative in all its glory…

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