Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Politics is the continuation of war by other means

Another example of Garbhan Downey's tendency to leaven Runyonesque nostalgia with the lurking possibility of violence in his story collection Off Broadway:

"`They're all found and surrender immediately – as does Teddy Badteeth. And they are all cuffed. Indeed, there is no shooting at all until Davey the Fuseman tries to bolt for it and is shot in the arm. Though it's nothing life-threatening and he's able to walk back into the room.'

"`But the gendarmes then line all four of the Boys up against the wall, and without any comment, the sergeant pulls out his revolver and shoots Jimmy, Teddy and Davey in the head. Dead as green meat. My father, Dom, who is fourth in line, is shaking and crying as he makes his Act of Contrition. But the sergeant, who, incidentally, is no connection whatsoever to Two Tuts, then re-holsters his gun and tells Dad to go home – and let that be a lesson to him.'

"`It's a move as old as war itself: always leave one alive to tell the tale.'"
The stories in Off Broadway are narrated as recollections. The recollections are often of the violent days of the Troubles, and they are narrated by and among characters who move in other circles: criminal, political, legal, journalistic. The slow bleeding of the recent past into the present is a constant dynamic of these stories, and before I start sounding like a sociologist, I'll shut up and say that they're a lot of fun to read.
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A story called "First to Score" has Harry the Hurler, former chief executive of the Boys in Derry, getting it into his head to form a soccer team. It's the longest and funniest tale in the book, and it, plus Downey's frequent concern with politics, brought up a question that I've been thinking about at work: What sports metaphors do political commentators outside North America use?

The question arose last week as I copy-edited a story about that night's presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain. A political operative, assessing McCain's chances, told a reporter that McCain needed to land a knockout punch in the homestretch of the campaign.

What made the two-sport cliché-mongering especially delicious is that it came in a story about the debate's having to compete for attention with that night's baseball playoff game. Baseball, quite naturally, was invoked in the headline, which gave the story three sports metaphor/clichés – or should I say a hat trick.

© Peter Rozovsky 2008

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18 Comments:

Blogger Linkmeister said...

During that debate McCain needed a home run but found it a sticky wicket indeed, swinging and missing instead.

Hey, I'm tryin'!

October 21, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

He needed an ace, but he rolled a gutter ball.

October 21, 2008  
Blogger Gerard Brennan said...

I have a copy of this. Gotta read it soon so I can make with the constructive comments.

gb

October 21, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Until you do, feel free to make with the random thoughts and babble, or even with comments based on the Downey you have read -- Yours Confidentially if I'm not mistaken.

October 21, 2008  
Anonymous marco said...

Obviously here in Italy soccer metaphors abound,to the point that nobody even pays attention anymore-expecially since Milan Ac President Silvio Berlusconi "entered the field".

October 21, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Soccer would be the obvious source for sports metaphors in Italian political journalism. What would be a typical example? Reach for the nearest newspaper if you need your memory refreshed.

When political figures are reprimanded by a court or other official authority, will newspapers write that they were handed a yellow card?

October 21, 2008  
Anonymous marco said...

My newspapers avoids soccer metaphors,though it's famous for often irreverent wordplays,like the headline Pastore Tedesco* when Ratzinger became Pope

Political figures reprimanded?
In Italy?
But,yes yellow card and red card.
You could also find phrases like:

L'opposizione fa catenaccio/The opposition does catenaccio ( plays in defence,trying to stop the flow of the game)

La trattativa va ai tempi supplementari/The negotiation goes into overtime

A candidate enters the field/the fray

Plus countless references to team spirit,team play,fair play,attack, counter-attack...




*Pastore Tedesco=German Pastor or German Sheperd Dog.

October 21, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I must admit that my question about political figures being reprimanded was a bit of a tease. I expected exactly the reply you gave. I think Berlusconi is the only Italian political figure to face legal trouble in the last couple of years, though somehow I have read little about these cases in recent months.

Fare catenaccio and tempi supplementari are exactly the sorts of expressions I had in mind when I made this post. Pastore Tedesco is a delicious. I write headlines for a living, and I would be proud to have written a headline like that one, though my paper would never permit such a headline.

October 21, 2008  
Anonymous marco said...

To be honest the judges do their part;the Prodi Government f.i. fell
b/c the wife of Justice Minister Mastella (of the small catholic party udeur) was arrested on charges of bribery.
Mastella then whitdrew his party from the Government alliance b/c he felt his allies did not show enough support.
But with several Appeal degrees,the unordinately long times,periods of prescription and Berlusconi changing the laws retroactively the chances for actual convictions are slim.
And,like in the us,there's the always popular cry of "activist judges":
Mastella alleged it was a personal vendetta against one of the staunchest defenders of family values in Parliament from a lobby of pro-homosexual communists.

October 22, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

It appears that Italian politicians are haunted by some of the same demons that haunt American ones.

I hope readers of Italian crime fiction can still rely on Andrea Camilleri to point out Berlusconi's misdeeds.

October 22, 2008  
Anonymous marco said...

Oh,a lot of writers of Italian crime fiction,even very commercially successful ones,are critical of Italian politics,and often engage themselves personally.
I suppose their public considers as fiction even the bits of social critique.
One of the major problems in Italy today is the toxic level of xenophobia and intolerance,due to a mix of Securitarian/Zero Tolerance campaigns,Kafkaesque immigration laws,insufficient housing and welfare policies,etc; Camilleri,Carlotto and Lucarelli have been among the first signataires of a petition against the scapegoating of gypsies.
Carlotto,among other things, campaigned for the victims of asbestos-related cancers in the Monfalcone naval industry,and so on.
And then there's Saviano -it would be nice if you could publicize his case ,say with a post,here's the bilingual petition.

It appears that Italian politicians are haunted by some of the same demons that haunt American ones.

The sad thing is that our very own Neocons are a recent phenomenon-they studied the Teocons,copied their Think-Tanks and adopted their family values/culture wars rhetoric.
In fact there's a strong tendency towards the "Americanization" of Italian Politics-bipartitism,with the "Freedom" Party and the "Democratic" Party,for instance.
And we only take the worse aspects,obviously-in recent months I've read of 4 American writers who cannot pay their health insurance in a difficult moment in their lives-this would have been unthinkable here,but mr.B has recently announced plans for a "market driven" reform of health care...


Ciao,
Marco

October 22, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Good god, I would hope that the current economic downturn would shame politicians out of using the phrase "market-driven," at least temporarily.

Your comment is too full of interesting matter to respond to at once, but I have read about the Saviano case and will read more.

It's fine and good that Berlusconi has vowed to eliminate organized crime in the south, but, given the source, one wonders what he plans to replace it with. Something market-driven, no doubt.

October 22, 2008  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

If ever an enterprise were "market-driven," wouldn't it be La Cosa Nostra?

October 22, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Perhaps, then, any move by Berlusconi against organized crime would be less an eradication than a hostile takeover, a replacement of the old ways with new thinking.

You may be right, though I suspect La Cosa Nostra creates its own markets.

October 22, 2008  
Anonymous marco said...

One of the major aspects of Saviano's book is the description of the diversification of the affairs of Camorra (the neapolitan mafia) and the various linkages between legal and illegal economy;the mafias have long embraced the new ways of thinking.
One wonders how will Berlusconi fight the mafia-after all the army already protects Italian cities from the threat of peddlers and illegal immigrants,while the police will be soon deployed against the students which are protesting the reform of school and university.
A nice declaration of intent, anyway, expecially since the Minister for Infrastructure and Transportation in his previous government said that in the south "The state must learn to live with the mafia".
Of course some people think that Berlusconi and his buddies are experts at that.

October 22, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"One wonders how will Berlusconi fight the mafia-after all the army already protects Italian cities from the threat of peddlers and illegal immigrants, while the police will be soon deployed against the students which are protesting the reform of school and university."

Deploy the Mafia against peddlers and students. It's called creative privatization.

"A nice declaration of intent, anyway, expecially since the Minister for Infrastructure and Transportation in his previous government said that in the south `The state must learn to live with the mafia.'

"Of course some people think that Berlusconi and his buddies are experts at that."


In the U.S., we call that public-sector/private sector initiatives.

October 22, 2008  
Blogger The Clandestine Samurai said...

that is a very thought-provoking question. That book also looks like it would be fun to read. I like that passage up there.

I can't recall any sports metaphors. I was too busy paying attention to the proposals of each candidate, and hoping that Devil McCain does not make it.

But you said outside of North America, right? I think Canada also has fervent political activity going on right now. I'll look into its commentary.

October 23, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The book is lots of fun to read, as is the other book of his that I've read, Running Mates. That book portrays a farcically crooked presidential campaign in which all the situations somehow seem plausible. (You'll find all my posts about Downey here, the ones about Running Mates toward the bottom.)

Canada just reelected its prime minister and his party, but I'm not sure if hockey metaphors figured in the election.

October 23, 2008  

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