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Scathing Online Schoolmarm has had to occasion to caution you about your comparisons, and – given the now-notorious Tom Perkins letter to the Wall Street Journal - she sees she’ll need to do that again.

Before we quote from the Perkins epistle, let’s review some SOS rules for making comparisons by considering two pieces of writing she’s recently cited on this blog.


Example I: Shall I Compare Thee to a Pus Pocket?

The UNC academic fraud scandal is like a pesky staph infection that just won’t go away for university officials — nor should it. As reporters at the Raleigh News and Observer continue to dig, they uncover more and more dirty little secrets. The latest problems swirl around a pus pocket called the Academic Support Program.

SOS grants points here for an admirable extension of the staph comparison (writing like this often, er, amplifies into mixed metaphors); but she immediately takes the points back when she finds herself, at the end of the paragraph, throwing up. In an effort to find an image worthy of his disgust, this writer burrowed a little too deeply in the bacillus. Ick.

Example II: Ronald Pol Pot McDonald

We all live in a murderous world, as the events in Norway have shown, with 97 dead. Though that is nothing compared to what happens in McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried [Chicken] every day.

This is Morrissey putting Crispy McNuggets in historical perspective. I think we can all agree that there is a difference of scale and value between eating meat and slaughtering children. The comparison therefore accomplishes only two things: It puts the fanaticism of Morrissey in extreme and repellent relief; and it reveals his hopeless narcissism.

Okay, so here’s the world according to Perkins:

… I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its “one percent,” namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the “rich.”

Let’s pause there, before attempting to assimilate the comparison between anti-rich sentiments in America and slaughtering Jews. Can you make sense of the sentence? All those tos:

to the parallels
to its war
to the progressive war

Me no get it. Can we rewrite?

I would call attention to the parallels between the Nazi war on the Jews and the progressives’ war on America’s rich.

Something like that? Note that SOS has taken out tons of words – you want to simplify, especially in your opening sentence. You also want to remove quotation marks around words when the marks deny that you’re referring to something you are indeed actually referring to. The “rich”? The quote unquote rich? Does Perkins mean that the Occupy people and the like are in fact attacking a group of people who are not rich? Perkins himself is a billionaire. Does that make him “rich” or rich?

SOS has not been able to clarify whether Perkins believes that the German Jews were all rich – this is something the sentence seems to imply, or at least to have room for…

Okay, next:

From the Occupy movement to the demonization of the rich embedded in virtually every word of our local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, I perceive a rising tide of hatred of the successful one percent. There is outraged public reaction to the Google buses carrying technology workers from the city to the peninsula high-tech companies which employ them. We have outrage over the rising real-estate prices which these “techno geeks” can pay. We have, for example, libelous and cruel attacks in the Chronicle on our number-one celebrity, the author Danielle Steel, alleging that she is a “snob” despite the millions she has spent on our city’s homeless and mentally ill over the past decades.

“Rising tide” is a cliche; “virtually every word” is hyperbole. (You call this demonization of the rich? )

This is a very dangerous drift in our American thinking. Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendent “progressive” radicalism unthinkable now?

Ends with a challenging, scary, question… But are you hyperventilating, or laughing?

Right. Because, like Morrissey, this is a human being some of whose views are so extraordinarily grotesque that we do not need to take them seriously.

If you are chained to extraordinarily grotesque views and you still wish to urge them on other people via prose, take this further counsel from SOS: Don’t try for comparisons at all. Go in some other direction.

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UPDATE: Il miglior fabbro.

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Update: Tom Perkins.

For a man convicted of involuntary manslaughter with his yacht, life imitates art.

“Civilization’s going to pieces,” broke out Tom violently. “I’ve gotten to be a terrible pessimist about things.”

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They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.

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One Response to “Waterford Kristallnacht”

  1. Alan Allport Says:

    First they came for my 289-foot yacht, and you did not speak out – because you did not have a 289-foot yacht.

    Then they came for my 5,500-square-foot apartment on the 60th floor of the Millennium Tower, and you did not speak out – because you did not have a 5,500-square-foot apartment on the 60th floor of the Millennium Tower.

    Then they came for my 5,000-pound square glass table that resembles an ice cube, and you did not speak out – because you did not have a 5,000-pound square glass table that resembles an ice cube.

    Gee, why do you even bother getting up in the morning?

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