Friday, September 14, 2007

Suspending Disbelief

When Hillary Clinton and Charlie Rose on Yahoo's Democratic Mashup don't understand the usage of the phrase "to suspend disbelief" then you know our country and the media are in trouble.

Wikipedia describes "suspension of disbelief" as "an aesthetic theory intended to characterize people's relationships (sic) to art. It was coined by the poet and aesthetic philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1817 to refer to what he called "dramatic truth". It refers to the alleged willingness of a reader or viewer to accept as true the premises of a work of fiction, even if they are fantastic, impossible, or otherwise contradictory to "reality". gives an even clearer definition of the concept.

When asked by Rose what she meant by "suspending disbelief" with regard to Bush's/Petraeus's veracity she answered:

"No, what I said was meant to convey my very strong feeling that no matter how flat the pancake, there's always two sides. The problem is that what the administration's report intended to do was was to take anecdotal evidence and actually gild the lily once again, making it seem as though there had been much more progress than I think you can actually justify."


Then Rose asked Senator Biden what he thought of Hillary's "suspending belief" with regard to Bush's truthfulness. Biden didn't blink an eye and went on to answer.

You know a lot of people have trouble with the phrase and I should know because I teach literature and my students make the exact same mistake that Rose did.

Maybe you think this isn't important in the face of the Iraq War and troop reductions and what Democrats want versus what Bush wants, but it's these little things that stick in my craw and make me think "How the hell can you solve life's BIG problems when you can't understand the small things like syntax and grammar and basic philosophical concepts?"

Last word:

Superman has always required a willing "suspension of disbelief." Ordinarily it would be difficult to believe that just putting on a pair of horn-rimmed glasses keeps Lois Lane and Jimmie Olsen from recognizing Clark Kent as Superman. So audiences willingly suspend that disbelief to enjoy the story of the superhero.


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