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Monday, January 23, 2012
Dueling Pedants: Vulture Capitalist Edition
I realize that vultures actually perform a vitally important role in the ecosystems of which they are a part and that, hence, describing enterprises like Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital -- which swoop in on local communities, engage in leveraged buyouts, shut down plants, ship jobs overseas, sell everything that isn’t bolted down, restructure businesses often deliberately into bankruptcy, sometimes devastating whole communities so that a handful of already filthy rich predators can take the money and run -- as “vulture capitalists” is deploying a metaphor which ecologists know to be, stricto sensu, inapt. However, as a rhetorician (who also happens to teach environmental politics) I must say that what matters at least as much as this particular mismatch is that “vulture capitalist” sounds almost the same as the “venture capitalist” Mitt Romney falsely claims to be, a serendipitous euphony that provides a rare occasion for a lethal and memorable pun, instantly replacing Romney’s self-congratulatory fraud with the image of a very scary skinny predatory bird not exactly dissimilar in appearance from Romney himself and redolent with precisely the associations of gorging on death one would want people to think of when they think of Bain Capital. While one must concede the ecologist their point, I daresay it is not unreasonable to propose they focus on the wholesome project of doing justice to the ecological role of the vulture at some other time than the entirely unrelated moment when pundits and politicians are trying to score quick points against evil assholes who are destroying lives with predatory financial schemes and then expecting to be celebrated for it as job creators? So, I see your Nelly Olson and raise you one Henry Higgins.