Category Archives: Politics

Who Stands to Gain?

The Big Lebowski, 1998 – The Dude (Jeff Bridges), Walter Sobchak (John Goodman), and Theodore Donald ‘Donny’ Kerabatsos (Steve Buscemi) referencing “Who Stands to Gain?” by V. I. Lenin, 1913 https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1913/apr/11.htm

by V. I. Lenin, 1913

There is a Latin tag cui prodest? meaning “who stands to gain?” When it is not immediately apparent which political or social groups, forces or alignments advocate certain proposals, measures, etc., one should always ask: “Who stands to gain?”

It is not important who directly advocates a particular policy, since under the present noble system of capitalism any money-bag can always “hire”, buy or enlist any number of lawyers, writers and even parliamentary deputies, professors, parsons and the like to defend any views. We live in an age of commerce, when the bourgeoisie have no scruples about trading in honour or conscience. There are also simpletons who out of stupidity or by force of habit defend views prevalent in certain bourgeois circles.

Yes, indeed! In politics it is not so important who directly advocates particular views. What is important is who stands to gain from these views, proposals, measures.

For instance, “Europe”, the states that call themselves “civilised”, are now engaged in a mad armaments hurdle-race. In thousands of ways, in thousands of newspapers, from thousands of pulpits, they shout and clamour about patriotism, culture, native land, peace, and progress—and all in order to justify new expenditures of tens and hundreds of millions of rubles for all manner of weapons of destruction—for guns, dreadnoughts, etc.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” one feels like saying about all these phrases mouthed by patriots, so-called. “Put no faith in phrase-mongering, it is better to see who stands to gain!”

A short while ago the renowned British firm Armstrong, Whitworth & Co. published its annual balance-sheet. The   firm is engaged mainly in the manufacture of armaments of various kinds. A profit was shown of £ 877,000, about 8 million rubles, and a dividend of 12.5 per cent was declared! About 900,000 rubles were set aside as reserve capital, and so on and so forth.

That’s where the millions and milliards squeezed out of the workers and peasants for armaments go. Dividends of 12.5 per cent mean that capital is doubled in 8 years. And this is in addition to all kinds of fees to directors, etc. Arm strong in Britain, Krupp in Germany, Creusot in France, Cockerill in Belgium—how many of them are there in all the “civilised” countries? And the countless host of contractors?

These are the ones who stand to gain from the whipping up of chauvinism, from the chatter about “patriotism” (cannon patriotism), about the defence of culture (with weapons destructive of culture) and so forth!

Perdue’s Performative

By Zane Wubbena | Last updated May 2, 2019

The Washington Post reported on Jan. 12, 2018 that during a bipartisan immigration meeting on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018, U.S. President Trump said, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”.

Trump was referring to immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and Africa. Although both Democrats and Republicans confirmed this comment, Republican Senator, David Perdue has denied it was said on national television.

Here, I inquire into Senator Perdue’s denial because it has the potential to impinge on public trust and accountability. To do so, I provide a linguistic analysis to the following question:

Did Senator Perdue lie to the American public about Trump’s “shithole countries” comment in his interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week, Sunday, Jan 14th?

The answer is not so straightforward.

Let’s get straight to the point. Technically, Perdue was deceptive while still telling the truth—a conclusion we can call, Perdue’s Performative.

What’s a performative?

According to the social psychologist, Dr. James Pennebaker:

“When people tell the truth, they usually use I-words at high rates. The one big exception is the performative. When people start a sentence with something like ‘I want you to know that…’ or ‘Let me be perfectly clear…’ then anything that follows can’t be judged as false or truthful. Performatives are a delightful way to deceive while technically telling the truth.”

So, what’s Perdue’s Performative?

To understand Perdue’s Performative, let’s take a look at what exactly Senator Perdue said in response to George Stephanopoulos’ question on This Week.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you saying the president did not use the word that’s been so widely reported?

SENATOR PERDUE: I’m telling you, he did not use that word, George. And, I’m telling you, it’s a gross misrepresentation. How many times do you want me to say that?

So, let’s break down Perdue’s response to see if it follows the linguistic structure of a performative, as outlined by Dr. Pennebaker. We’ll focus our attention on his first sentence: “I’m telling you, he did not use that word, George”.

The first step is to identify the premise part of the sentence. A premise is basically a statement or proposition that expresses a judgment from which other things can be inferred. It is the essence of a logical argument.  So, in Perdue’s case, the part of his statement that says “I’m telling you, …” is the premise. Yes, he is telling us, and yes, he is being truthful. If he weren’t, he wouldn’t have said anything at all.

The second step is to deal with what’s being inferred. In the second part of the sentence, Purdue says, “… he did not use that word”. This part of the sentence is false—a claim supported anecdotally by other lawmakers who attended the meeting about immigration policy and who heard Trump make the derogatory comment.

What can we conclude from Perdue’s statement as a whole?

Perdue’s response was deceptive, but he was still telling the truth even though he lied. We can call this deception, Perdue’s Performative.

The identification of Perdue’s Performative is important. The public trusts that policymakers and public officials alike will work for and represent their interests. When public officials are deceptive, as in the case of Perdue’s Performative (what would normally just be called a lie), they jeopardize the integrity of public trust.

By identifying Perdue’s Performative, we have come one step closer to holding a government official accountable for deceptive communication.

*This article was peer-reviewed by Dr. James Pennebaker from the University of Texas at Austin on Wednesday, January 17, 2018.