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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Rhymes for dummies

There is something about a rhyme that is pleasing to the ear, which is why so many poems and lyrics rhyme. But most people don't invest rhymes with any greater meaning, they just find them a source of mild amusement.

Among the lower IQ's, however, rhymes seem to take on a greater significance. I was reminded of this by the Barbie protester described two posts ago who held the placard saying, "Life in plastic is not fantastic."

For such people, a rhyme scheme not only seems to invest a statement with more significance, but gives it greater credibility as well. If it rhymes, it just seems to somehow make more sense to them. (There's something awfully primitive about this.)

Marching soldiers will often have a bit of doggerel to mark their cadence and keep their spirits up, but it's never a message they take seriously. Marching protesters, on the other hand, seem to take their couplets completely to heart. 

During the Sixties, protesters used to chant, "Hey hey LBJ, how many kids you kill today?" More recently student protesters have chanted, "Hey hey, ho ho, Western Civ has got to go!"

It's almost as if they assumed that since rhyming is clever, the message must be smart. Yet their rhythmic chanting comes across as the opposite of intelligent.

The entire phenomenon is not entirely dissimilar to transcendental meditation, where one repeats the same word over and over again in an attempt to empty one's mind of all thought. It seems more than coincidental that back in the Sixties, the rise of chanting at protests was concurrent with rise of TM.

Of course, there have been such chants before the Sixties. During the 1884 Presidential campaign, Grover Cleveland's opponents used the refrain, "Ma, Ma where’s my Pa?" – a reference to the fact Cleveland had fathered an illegitimate child in 1874. (After Cleveland was elected, his supporters added the line, “Gone to the White House, Ha, Ha, Ha!”)

Jesse Jackson used to relate to his constituency with rhymes. A Jackson sampler:

"Hope not dope." 
''If my mind can conceive it and my heart can believe it, then I can achieve it.''
''It's not my aptitude but my attitude that determines my altitude.''
''My mind is a pearl; I can do anything in the world.''

(It's hard not to hear a somewhat bitter reference to the SAT's in the third quote.)

During the OJ Simpson murder trial, Johnny Cochran famously (infamously?) told the jury, "If the gloves don't fit, you must acquit." He put it in rhyme, because he knew that not only would it stick in the jurors' heads better, it would resonate more deeply with them.

Somehow it's hard to imagine conservatives chanting mindlessly this way:

"Barack Obama, time to confess --
You knew about the IRS!"


"Let the First Amendment be --
Hands off the AP!"


"Fast and Furious, Fast and Furious --
The repercussions are vast
and the denials are curious!"

(This last one admittedly lacks the rhythm a protester needs.)

Or maybe Mitch McConnell could get up on the podium and thunder, Jesse Jackson-style, "Benghazi is not a teachable moment, it's an impeachable moment!"

The only problem is, it's hard to uninhibitedly bellow out such asinine doggerel when you have even the slightest capacity for embarrassment.

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