Somebody pointed out to me in email that my repeating the characterization of me as “airing dirty laundry” looks like an example of something that politicians (and persuasive communicators in general) are warned against: publicizing the attacks against you. It’s an good point, especially since attempts to combat or defuse the attacks often reinforce them — think of Tricky Nixon saying “I am not a crook”.
On the other hand, it’s often very important to talk about the language your critics and opponents [or others for that matter] use; and there’s usually no way to do that without repeating their language. In a situation like this, I try to explicitly use quotes, to highlight that “airing dirty laundry” is a phrase that has some meta-level significance. Links to a web page with a definition or discussion of the term are also useful — bear in mind, though, that they call further visual attention to the phrase.
This does require awareness of the convention from readers, and making the effort to apply it. Most people are pretty familiar with the idea of visibly quoting something to be able to discuss it when talking — you often see people making stylized quotation marks with their fingers to show this. While folks may not have seen it in online discourse, it’s a straightforward extension — and one that people ware used to thinking about abstraction already understand. And while there’s always a risk that people reading quickly will misunderstand, noticing this convention becomes second nature, so I think given the target audiences of this blog it’s a reasonable tradeoff,
Or so it seems to me that this stage. My position may well evolve … I’m curious what others have to say.
jon, “asking for feedback”