The Misinterpretation of Metaphors

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Back in March Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords made a statement responding to Sarah Palin's anti-healthcare reform campaign, saying, "we're on Sarah Palin's targeted list. But the thing is the way that she has it depicted has the cross hairs of a gun site over our district." Could metaphors in that statement have had an effect on who Jared Loughner targeted in Arizona over the weekend?

Our guest James Geary, a journalist and author of the upcoming book, "I Is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How It Shapes the Way We See the World," says that metaphors in political rhetoric and imagery have a profound and largely non-conscious effect on us.


James Geary

Produced by:

David J Fazekas

Comments [2]

Anne Carson (Canadian poet, essayist) offers a compelling look at metaphor in her "Essay on What I Think About Most" (which is actually a poem). According to Aristotle, she says, "...metaphor causes the mind to experience itself // in the act of making a mistake." Metaphor is a "juxtaposition of *what is* and *what is not* the case." First catching on the "wrongness" of the words (e.g., "My brother is a tornado," to quote one of my 5th grade writers), the mind takes a moment discover the meaning elucidated by the mixture of contexts (boys are not storms, but how would my house look if a tornado "lived" there?). This bit of mental work makes the mind all the more invested in the metaphor's access to the truth.

A metaphor, by virtue of required mental investment, creates a relationship between the concept and the person doing the comprehending. Powerful, emotional, compelling. To be used with care.

Jan. 12 2011 09:16 AM
AudioAstrology from Planet Earth

I was stunned at this morning's misguided conversation about metaphor in today's political rhetoric.

Is it a metaphor when Sarah Palin, Bill Kristol, Jonah Goldberg & KT McFarland, call for the assassination of Julian Assange?

Is it a metaphor when Bill O'Reilly calls for the decapitation of Dana Millbank or states Dr Tiller was a "baby killer" and refers to his practice as a "death-mill, which is exactly what it is"?

Is it a metaphor when Fox News contributor Liz Trotta wishes for and laughs about the assassination of Osama and Obama?

Is it a metaphor when Glenn Beck calls for the death of Fareed Zakaria, the burning of Rep Dennis Kucinich and the murder of Michael Moore?

Is it a metaphor when Mike Huckabee makes a joke to the NRA about a gun shooting President Obama?

Is it a metaphor when Andrew Breitbart refers to President Obama as ""suicide-bomber-in-chief" or calls for "Capital punishment for Dr James Hansen. Climategate is high treason."?

Is it a metaphor when Bob Beckel calls for "illegally killing Assange" and states ""A dead man can't leak stuff. This guy's a traitor, he's treasonous, and he has broken every law of the United States. And I'm not for the death penalty, so...there's only one way to do it: illegally shoot the son of a bitch."

Is it a metaphor when Tucker Carlson calls for execution of Michael Vick?

Maybe the metaphorical rhetoric you should investigate is "[job-]killing health care" or "job-killing regulation" or "death panels"?

I agree with this video: "Fox News Is Calling for More Death."


Jan. 12 2011 08:47 AM

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