Everyday Semiotics

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hateful names

There's a father in New Jersey who is apparently having a laugh with the media.

Reporters have no doubt descended like locusts upon Heath Campbell of Holland Township, ever since word got out that a supermarket wouldn't make a birthday cake for his son, named Adolph Hitler Campbell.

Ancillary to the furor (or should I say F├╝hrer?) over the cake is Heath Campbell's yarn that Nazism is water under the bridge and how he's not really a bigot.

The Express-Times of Easton, Pa., seems to have the most thorough story so far (NYT hasn't touched it). The paper's reporter got a tour of the homestead, which has a swastika in every room. Heath and his wife, Deborah Campbell, both opine about how the symbol -- like the names of their 3-year-old son and two younger girls, JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell -- doesn't mean what everyone thinks it means.
"It doesn't mean hatred to me," he said. Deborah Campbell said a swastika "doesn't really have a meaning. It's just a symbol."
Indeed the bent cross has its own long semantic chain that certainly doesn't always stand for slaughter. See Wikipedia.

But seriously. Do the Campbells really expect reporters and their readers to believe they named their children after Hitler and Himmler simply because the names were interesting? In diligent fairness, the reporters take down their quotes and call it a day, leaving it to the editorial writers to cut through the bullshit.

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At 7:31 AM, Blogger Ijon Tichy said...

In another context, Robert Niles expressed perfectly what I was trying to get at here:

"The desires for fairness, balance and objectivity are worthy goals in newswriting. But not when they lead to news reports where truth is "balanced" with lies, facts "balanced" with spin and well-informed skepticism "balanced" with mindless cheerleading."



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