Sunday, September 12, 2010

Desperate but not serious

I would like someone to do an analysis of how the word "desperate" is used for Latin American politics.  José Cárdenas at Foreign Policy's Shadow Government sees Fidel Castro's appearance as an act of a desperation.  As usual, his argument is not compelling.

It made me think, though, of how often I've seen the word "desperate" used, usually when a political situation turns in a direction someone does not like.  They rationalize it as meaning that the "bad guys" are "desperate" because they're feeling pinched by the "good guys."  It's a sort of cognitive dissonance, where you want something to fail so badly that you use your opponent's success as a way to claim failure.

Some recent examples:

The FARC is desperate.

The Juárez cartel is desperate.

Narcotraffickers use submarines because they are desperate.

The Zetas are in Central America because they are desperate.

Fidel Castro has been desperate for years (maybe forever?)

Alvaro Uribe was desperate, at least according to Hugo Chávez.

Oh yeah, and the Venezuelan opposition is desperate too.

Though for José Cárdenas, of course Chávez is also desperate.

And these were examples I managed to pluck out quickly.  There are countless more.


Ian Keenan 9:08 AM  

great blog, Greg..

There's also a headline narrative of 'chastened' like the labor movement in country X is 'chastened' and other terms that relate to that part of life, and headlines saying the ideological opposition is child-like. And as you say, it goes both ways. Always a tipoff that you shouldn't take the editorial seriously.

Julián Arévalo 12:28 PM  

Very interesting. Curiously nobody says that the Chilean miners are desperate when they very likely are. Just another example of how wrong the word is used.

mike a,  9:20 PM  

Greg I can't believe you left out the Adam Ant reference.....

leftside 2:08 PM  

As I said in your more recent Castro post, a "desperate" regime would not feel secure enough to announce the lay off 1/2 - 1 million people. This is a Government that knows it has the support of the people - but also knows it must begin the process of economic change.

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