Speaking Truth About Speaking Truth To Power
Attempting to defend her much-publicized attack on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice due to Rice's lack of children Thursday, Barbara Boxer invoked one of the hoariest clichés in the political lexicon:
Asked if her exchange with Rice was, as some suggest, a personal attack, Boxer insisted it was not.As Allahpundit writes in response:
What bugs me is the self-congratulation. If one of the most powerful pols from the most powerful state in the most powerful country on earth can assume the mantle of “speaking truth to power,” then what’s left of “power”? Is that just a synonym for “Bush” now?The phrase “speaking truth to power” sounds like something Marx or Nietzsche would have written (Nietzsche had his "Will To Power", after all) in the 19th century, but it's actually much more recent; it dates back to a 1955 Quaker pamphlet concerning the Cold War written by Milton Mayer. As Quaker historian H. Larry Ingle wrote here:
The phrase "speaking truth to power" goes back to 1955, when the American Friends Service Committee published Speak Truth to Power, a pamphlet ii at proposed a new approach to the Cold War. Its title, which came to Friend Milton Mayer toward the end of the week in summer 1954 when the composing committee finished work on the document, has become almost a cliche; it has become common far beyond Quaker circles, often used by people who have no idea of its origins. (One current example: Anita Hill entitled her memoir of her sensational charges of sexual harassment against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, Speaking Truth to Power.)This document sheds further light on its 20th century development (scroll to the bottom of page 14):
Let me recall the origin of the phrase. According to Steve Cary, the phrase just came to Milton Mayer one day, as he was thinking about the pamphlet. Everyone on the drafting committee liked it and asked where it came from.Senator Kerry frequently claims that “dissent is the highest form of patriotism” was an aphorism written by Thomas Jefferson, instead of its actual origin as sophistry coined in the mid-1960s by an anti-World War II pacifist. Likewise, it’s fascinating to watch this simple phrase become a cliché that’s spread astoundingly far from its original--and apparently little-known--origin.
Update: Assuming deliberate satiric use of the above phrase in question is exempted, this seems a more than fair consequence if it continues to be used in the future.
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Ed Driscoll knows small business, financial planning, career counseling, home theater, technology, markets, double-breasted suits, and blue hats. But what he really likes to do is produce the "Blog Week In Review"--Pajamas Media ad, 7/06
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