And He’s Back. @RCArmitage

If governments have more power when there’s fear, then wouldn’t “enemies of the state” – as defined by government, be more vulnerable, not less? Or, does he mean “enemies of the state” ironically?

Or, maybe once again, I just don’t understand @RCARmitage.

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38 thoughts on “And He’s Back. @RCArmitage

      • You are over-analyzing everything he writes, which causes you to miss the point. He is absolutely right about the harm that bullying does. And he is very clear about the fact that fear-mongering governments only empower their adversaries, both internally and externally.

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        • Again with the over-anlayzing? I never said, nor did anyone here, write that there is not harm in bullying. And if you think his comment on government was clear, I salute you. What is over-analyzing, in your view? How is it different from analyzing? This ought to be discussed. A man writes words. His meaning is not clear to everyone. People discuss what it means. How is this over analyzing? I think it’s far preferable to reading in vague words to mean what you think or want him to mean.

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          • This is such a well-informed blog that I often forget its name and purpose. It’s clear that you choose to assume the role of an antagonist, and that you will find fault much of the time. That is your right as a blogger and it’s fine if others follow your lead. In this instance I felt you had taken this too far and I chose to disagree, as RA’s tweets made perfect sense to me. I probably won’t do this again!

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        • Case in point — his tweet includes no statement about the harm caused by bullying. it is solely a statement about what bullies do. Or perhaps you are referring to something else?

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        • I don’t think talking about politics per se delegitimates his brand, but he has to be intelligible. The flood of tweets that follow his borders on unbearable as it is, but it becomes worse if it’s impossible to divine what he might have meant to say. I’ve just gotten two PMs that people are turning off tweet notifications for this reason (i.e., if I need to reach them, I need to use another mechanism). In the end it’s disruptive.

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        • If you find a person whose tweets are always crystal clear to everybody who reads them and they all get the same meaning from it I will salute you. I think that is impossible.

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          • @Kate I probably could find such a tweep, but it would be in the most literal sense of your challenge and not what I think you were getting at – i.e., some promo tweet by some entity that cannot be read any other way except, watch this – see this, follow this, etc. I also know some tweeps purposely make their tweets mysterious, open to interpretation. So, to get back to the discussion at hand here, initiated by @Betty – there is certainly room for discussion and analysis about what @RCArmitage actually meant to say and why he may or may not have said it clearly.

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        • yes, I would say there are at least three distinct opinions about what he meant by this tweet emerging the replies (that I have noticed)

          1. Governments (and other instances of power) are the problem b/c they seek to divide citizens (for their own gain) — we need less government

          2. Political parties or specific candidates seek to divide citizens in political campaigns (so that they can be elected) — with mixed success / citizens can stand up against this process

          3. People are too blind to / dependent on the gifts of government to really understand what is going on in the world (a variation on one that assigns responsibility to the citizen end)

          The problem is that none of those readings explains his second sentence in light of the first. Perhaps someone would like to? Otherwise I’m in line with Perry’s reading.

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          • Wow, thanks for the summery. As always you can describe points more clever than I ever could. My line of thought is more simple I think. I’ll try to explain how I understood it, don’t know if that helps.
            If, i.e. a state is constantly reminding his citizen that the next terrorist attack is imminent, thus keeping it in a state of fear, this is often used by the state to successfully introduce more surveillance or other measures that give the state more power over its citizens. On the other side the citizens are encouraged to be more vigilant towards suspicious behavior/persons which can lead to stereotyping certain ethnic groups, thereby creating tension between different groups and leading to a division in society. This division is what terrorist groups (enemies of the state) are aiming for.

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            • Thanks. Years of listening and redirecting class discussion.

              What you write is a reading and it may be legitimate (see my attempts below). But it’s not what he said. Like me, like everyone, you are inserting additional information into the tweet to make it say that. That’s fine — we all do that all the time. However, the tweet is unintelligible without your or my or someone’s additional extrapolation. This problem occurs because the connection of the clauses is unclear. Its consequence is that people disagree about what he meant.

              Personally, I don’t see where you get to surveillance from this tweet. I’m not saying he’s never been interested in it — it’s probably a contextual factor for this statement — but it’s not mentioned in this tweet. In fact, a literal reading suggests he’s saying the opposite, not that state surveillance mechanisms thrive on fear (unless you think government = surveillance, which I think is a questionable assumption), but rather that ‘enemies of the state’ thrive on division. It would be entirely possible to read this tweet as an argument for more, rather than less, surveillance (even if I don’t think he’s saying that).

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              • Thanks for the lecture, made me feel small for a moment, but I got over it.

                I’m not approaching texts like you do. I don’t do a literal reading. I take them far simpler and my brain ads little bits and pieces to make sense of RA says. Sometimes it succeeds and sometimes not. And frankly I’m not that interested into further analyzing the topic of that tweet.

                I originally wrote my comment “It does (make sense) to me” because I thought your comment “this tweet did not make sense” was actually missing a “to me” and not because I wanted to discuss the tweet.
                Why are these two little words important in my opinion? You are a clever person (that is how I perceive you) and I think through your blog and your comments here you have a certain gravitas in the RA fandom. Your comment came across to me as you stating a fact and this can make persons – like me – question themselves, even when they thought they got the meaning of what RA wrote. For people who had that moment of self-doubt I wanted to give some counterbalance.

                You see, not only RA needs to think about how and what he writes. It’s a tricky business communicating only with written words.

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              • Hmm, that wasn’t what I intended, but I can’t control your feelings about what you read. Just like Richard Armitage is not responsible for all the things that people say to him in response to his tweets, I can’t control how people feel about what I say. How you feel is your responsibility and you are the only one who controls it. If I have “gravitas” (doubtful), that might be because people give it to me.

                There seems to be a mood in the U.S. that pure opinion about meaning is somehow inviolate, and it puzzles me. “To me” is a statement that tends to confuse analysis, because language is not something unique to the individual. For instance, speaking from a purely logical perspective, premises can be true or false, but they cannot be “true for me but not for you.” “True,” in order to be meaningful as a category, has to have a meaning that we share. In practical terms, though, we all use the same words (in English) and we negotiate about those meanings as we speak to each other. Interpretively, while it’s true that statements can be understood to mean different things, these meanings fall along a spectrum of more or less likely based on whichever interpretive method one chooses. It is typically important to understand what something says literally, because usually literal readings exclude certain figurative ones (“Governments create fear” typically can’t be interpreted to mean “I like chocolate ice cream”). “Pay the bill by Friday” can mean ‘before Friday” or “on Friday” but it can’t mean “first thing Saturday.” The literal reading is not often the most important reading — sometimes, as with this tweet, it’s impossible to assign a literal meaning to a statement — but it’s an important one to consider.

                Unless you think that when Armitage speaks, he is simply saying whatever anyone thinks he is saying and all readings are equally legitimate. If you believe that, then of course discussion is pointless. But in that case, my reading is as legitimate as anyone’s.

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              • I think part of the point Servetus and I are making is that the reader has to read, add, extrapolate, make-up, a lot, to come to the conclusion that Kate and others did. One example in sentence 1 is that he never actually said it was one’s own government that thrust fear on its citizens. He didn’t say who or what did. He just said governments have more power when fear is thrust . . . The fear could come from other sources. In fact, if that’s what he meant to say in sentence 1, then I think Kate said it much better than he did.

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  1. FWIW, if I were trying to find a non-literal reading of this tweet that made sense given the shape of the text, it would be either

    (a) When citizens are made more fearful (thrust implies, against their will or by means of pushing), governments become more powerful. They create notions of “enemies of the state” that thrive under these circumstances [need to toss out “division” to make this reading work]

    (b) Governments gain power by making citizens more fearful. This enhanced fear legitimates notions of ‘enemies of the state’ that are in turned used by people so designated to divide citizens. [incorporates “division” but I have to contort both sentences to make it intelligible.]

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  2. Apparently I can’t reply too Servetus comment from 3:46pm directly, so I do it here and it will be my final comment because I need to go to bed.

    I’m sure you didn’t want to make me feel bad, but it happend and I always like to state what affects me, because to me communication is always a two-way street. As long as I care about your feelings I might not control them but I make in difference in my way of communicating to you in order to not hurt your feelings. Am I not then at least trying to influence your feelings?

    I won’t comment on everything you said, my brain is to tired to function for that. I am not from the U.S. nor a native english speaker by the way, but you probably already noticed that.

    You say ‘ “To me” is a statement that tends to confuse analysis, because language is not something unique to the individual.’ that might be true (seems to be your field of expertise so I’ll I trust you on that), but the thing is when I am reading a tweet from RA I am not doing an analysis. I just take it in. I have my interpretation of what he says and I am interested in what other people might have got from his words. I don’t want to decide if he is right / correct in his assumptions, how could I, when I – in most cases – don’t know that myself? But his tweets give me an idea about what kind of a person he is and I don’t need to know the exact meaning of his words, to get that idea.

    You said I am responsible for my feelings and I am the only one who controls them and not you. Earlier you said “…, but he has to be intelligible”. Why has he to change something, so that other people react in a different way to his tweets, a way that is not as “disruptive” (to whom in what way?)?

    And yes your reading is of course as legitimate as any other, but then I never said it wasn’t – I just wanted to state that there is at least on other opinion out there.

    So what I get from what you wrote: your original comment came after analyzing the language of his tweet trying find what it literally said, which made you come to the conclusion that it didn’t make sense. My comment “it does to me” was not based on such an analysis, I just took the tweet in, let my brain run with it and wrote down my opinion – the tweet makes sense to me. And even if I knew how to, I would not now conduct such an analysis, because there is no need for me to do so. This is not an order by the way, I don’t say there shouldn’t be or is not a need for you or anybody else. I am saying I don’t have the need.

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    • But when you read a tweet from Armitage and conclude what he meant on that basis, what are you doing but analyzing? If you say you do not read tweets literally (okay), then you are necessarily adding information to the text in order to make the tweet make sense to you (analysis / interpretation), as you yourself say you do. This action is particularly important on Twitter because of the frequent lack of additional contextual information. For instance, we are all assuming from these tweets that our Richard Armitage disapproves of the process which he is describing. We are doing that because of things he has said in the past, so it is reasonable (although notice that we are automatically excluding the possibility that he has changed his mind). But this information is not in the tweet itself. If this tweet came from “the other Richard Armitage,” we might even assume with the same text that the tweet meant something quite different, even if not the opposite. When you say, “his tweets give me an idea about what kind of a person he is and I don’t need to know the exact meaning of his words, to get that idea,” I am thus skeptical. That strategy would only work for people with whom we have previous experience and about whose nature we have already formed opinions. If a stranger came up to me on the street and said, “Enemies thrive on the division,” I would have no idea how to interpret that. Everyone’s (this is includes me) interpretation of Armitage’s statements depends on their previous impressions of him. And we don’t all have the same previous impressions. To me what you’re saying is “I am incorporating this tweet into my previous edifice of information to tell me what it means.” That itself is an analytical strategy.

      It sounds to me like you’re espousing something like a “common sense” interpretive strategy, i.e., the tweet means what it is most likely to mean to you. That’s also fine, but even a common sense interpretive strategy involves making assumptions. Since no person conforms to my expectations of him at all times, I have to make accommodations or weight different aspects of speech differently. There is no reading a tweet without interpretation of some kind. The more problematically formulated the tweet, the more interpretive activity required to “understand” it. For instance, many of our questions would be resolved had Armitage included some kind of conjunction at the beginning of the second sentence (“because,” “but,” “and,” “or,” “although,” etc.) that indicated the relationship of the second sentence to the first. As it is we are left to guess and any point at which a reader is guessing invites interpretation / analysis.

      Writers can to some extent try to guard against interpretations of our statements that we would reject — by stating explicitly what we are not saying, for instance, or by thinking about objections to our positions and addressing them. One way that writers can do this is by writing correctly according to established rules of grammar and syntax (which also serve as basic limitations to potential interpretations), and it is advisable for most authors to do this. (I say most because there can be times to transgress these rules on purpose for various reasons — although Armitage doesn’t seem to be doing that in this case.) However, no author can possibly think of all of the possible contexts in which his/her writing can be understood by mass audiences in which every reader has him/herself a different context and set of experiences that affect interpretation.

      Of course an author tries to influence a reader’s reaction; this is a central purpose of speech, to persuade. If I didn’t want to convince readers of anything, I wouldn’t be writing. But I can’t possibly know, for instance, in every single case, exactly what experiences any reader on the Internet has that condition his or her responses to me. (Neither can Armitage.) I can’t possibly know all of the possibly things I could write that might intimidate a reader, and even if I did, I’m not sure what I would change about my writing. And even if I as an author were trying to make you feel bad (which isn’t a strategy I follow with fellow fans, and in fact, it’s one that I only use very rarely in real life, because it’s not very effective), how you responded would still be your responsibility, just as how I react to Armitage is my responsibility (something I stress in my blog posts that examine this question).

      I’m not sure why you would try not to hurt my feelings in making an argument (apart from refraining from personal attack / ad hominem, which is something I do as well, although not because it hurts people’s feelings, but because it distracts from real issues). I don’t make arguments based on how other people might feel about them; I make them because I believe them to be correct, or at least persuasive. Nothing we are discussing in this post touches on any of my feelings.

      I’m also always puzzled by claims that the fact that I state something means “people” don’t know there are other opinions “out there.” Surely this is obvious to anyone who reads around in the fandom. I can assure you that there are probably no fans of Richard Armitage who read my blog and mine alone. The Twitter stream of responses to Armitage, if it does nothing else, confirms that fact, but even those fans who won’t get on Twitter for various reasons seek out multiple sources of information — as is their right and potentially obligation. The fact that I state an opinion doesn’t prevent anyone else from having or stating a different one — just as the fact that Armitage states an opinion doesn’t prevent me from having a different one.

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    • re: “has to be intelligible,” my sentence was, “I don’t think talking about politics per se delegitimates his brand, but he has to be intelligible”, i.e., if he doesn’t want to delegitimate his band he has to be intelligible. Of course he doesn’t have to do anything he doesn’t want to do or anything I say. My point is solely that unintelligible political tweets (and I would argue that if you didn’ tknow much about him, it would be hard to understand what he meant here) delegitimate the brand to an onlooker.

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  3. I found it intelligible. I thought he meant “governments have more power [against the citizens] when they [the citizens] are thrust into a state of fear. Enemies thrive on this division [between state and citizens].” Yes, you have to add a little. It’s a tweet! He has a license to compress the thought. What annoyed me was his singular/plural pronoun confusion.

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    • by now this is water under the bridge 😉 i just don’t move at the speed of social media these days 🙂 But to me enemies of the state is confusing. I agree the state has more power when citizens are fearful but to me that give the state more liberties to label anyone ‘enemy of the state’. Divisive forces will thrive on fear no doubt about it, but also the state if it is an oppressive one. Not sure if that is what he meant but it’s certainly true that politicians and other forces seek power by instilling and fostering fears 😦

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