One of the more dispiriting assaults on the written word in recent years was the advent of the "content farm," Web sites that spat out low-cost, high-volume copy written solely to manipulate Google's search algorithms to maximize "uniques" (i.e., readers) and thereby boost ad rates. Even journalism sites like the Huffington Post resorted to this trick ("What Time Does The Super Bowl Start?"). Eventually Google lost patience with the content-farm bait-and-switch earlier this year and changed its algorithms, and there are some signs that content farms are dying out.
Or maybe they're just migrating to politics. How else to make sense of Mitt Romney's Dec. 7 speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition?
Most commentary about the Republican Jewish Coalition meeting focused on the various candidates' determination to out-pander one another (Newt Gingrich will move the U.S.'s Israel embassy to Jerusalem; Rick Santorum will move it to Mecca; Michele Bachmann, to Vatican City; etc.). Certainly Mitt was an eager participant:
"[I]n three years, [Obama] has not found it in his interest to visit Israel, our ally, our friend..."
"He’s insulted its Prime Minister."
"I would not meet with Ahmadinejad."
But then Romney veered into a bizarre and incoherent discussion of the "entitlement society" favored by Obama versus the "merit-based society" favored by all decent Americans. The purpose, as best I can make out, wasn't so much to craft an argument as to utter the maximum number of Republican-friendly words, phrases, insults, hot buttons, and cliches in the shortest amount of time:
"A merit-based, opportunity society gathers and creates a citizenry that pioneers [?], that invents, that builds and creates."
"I don't think he [Obama] understands America."
"In an entitlement society, everyone receives the same or similar rewards, regardless of education, effort and willingness to take risk."
"Entitlement societies are praised in academic circles, far removed from the reality of a competitive world."
"Risk-taking disappears, innovation withers, and small business is replaced by large, government enterprises."
"President Obama has adopted an appeasement strategy."
"Like others among the Washington elite..."
"concessions to Russia..."
"...a government so intrusive that it can command free people and free enterprises according to its bureaucratic will."
"Will we remain the leader of the free world, or become a follower in a more dangerous world?"
"...his resort to class warfare and demagoguery [!]"
"America has been a shining city on a hill. That light is dimming."
Even Romney can't possibly take seriously his argument, which essentially is that Obama has turned the United States into a communist country. But even to call this speech ad hominem would credit it with a human component that it doesn't really possess. This speech reads like it was generated by a computer for the purpose of search engine optimization. I'm not saying that the literal intent was to drive Web traffic (though I wouldn't rule that out). I'm saying that a mechanistic form of expression pioneered on the Web has somehow come to influence Romney's rhetorical style. It makes me wonder whether Romney's next major address will be titled "God Money X Factor Final Four Obama Oscars Tax Cut Freedom Lady Gaga Nude!"