July 27, 2017

A lefty buzzword has become Scaramucci's "favorite" word, and the Columbia Journalism Review endeavors to explain it to us.

Do you know the word? Had you noticed Scaramucci relying excessively on any particular word )or words)?

The word is "binary."

Now, when I first saw — in "The meaning behind Scaramucci’s favorite word" — that the word was "binary," I thought it must be that Scaramucci is using it to destablize a question. Some interviewer tries to pin him down, and he distances himself from the question by calling it "binary." Actually, the issue is complex and multifaceted. And then he can explain why and work his way toward something he is willing to say.

But, no. Scaramucci uses the word like this:
“Tomorrow I’m going to have a staff meeting,” he said on the CBS program Face the Nation. “And it’s going to be a very binary thing.…If they want to stay on the staff, they’re going to stop leaking.” A few seconds later, he said, “But if you’re going to keep leaking, I’m going to fire everybody. It’s just very binary.”
He's not using the word to inject complexity. He's the one imposing the clarity. Either you're with us or you're against us. 

I associate the word with the left because, as Columbia Journalism Review puts it:
[R]ecently, “binary” has been applied to gender, with the traditional view being that biological sex is binary, only male or female. Many people, though, identify themselves as “nonbinary,” meaning they don’t think of themselves as either male or female, or as only male or female, and the concept of the “gender binary” is often questioned.
Searching this blog's archive, I'm seeing the word used in various things I've quoted. For example, in March 2015, I quoted a Slate writer who said:
Dividing the world into males and female is such a big part of the culture that it can seem impossible, and perhaps even aggravating, to try to think outside those categories. This is not only a problem for squares stuck in a binary way of thinking — many of the terms associated with genderqueerness end up referring back to masculinity or femininity in some way, which is a bit tricky if the ideal is to move beyond the gender binary entirely.
But just a couple weeks ago, "binary" came up in the context of good and evil. I quoted the Wikipedia entry for "Goofus and Gallant":
Philosopher Theodore Sider used the characters [Goofus and Gallant] in an argument against the notion of a binary Heaven or Hell conception of the afterlife. Sider conceived of Goofus and Gallant as near-equals, with Gallant only marginally better than Goofus, in arguing that sending the former to Heaven and the latter to Hell is antithetical to God's justice.
So the word has been used, I observe, to disparage those who see things simplistically in black and white. Sophisticated people are not stuck in a binary way of thinking.

And now, here comes Scaramucci. He may have put some sophisticated thought into what he's doing, but as he delivers the message, he's out-and-proud binary. Very binary.

***

Scaramucci used "very" with "binary" both times in that quote at the top of the post. If you're the kind of usage stickler who frowns at "very unique," you should see the problem with "very binary." You shouldn't say "very unique," because "unique" already means only one. There's no way to be more one than some other one. The same goes for "binary." It means exactly two. Just as there's no way to be more one than one, there's no way to be more two than two.

But I see the argument on the other side. When we speak of people who have a binary way of thinking, we mean that they have a tendency to think in terms of opposites that seem clearly distinct to them. The strength of the tendency can vary. Scaramucci would like us to think that he is a binary thinker of the most intense sort. I'm the kind of person who imagines that he probably has nonbinary reasons for wanting us to think that's how he operates. There's some 3-dimensional chess in there, won't you agree?

44 comments:

Henry said...

Clearly, not a Gemini.

David said...

I think we sometimes call this black and white, no grey. Sometimes that is a weakness, sometimes a strength. Often it is a ruse and method of manipulation.

On the issue of leaks, it's really a question of whether misconduct has consequences. There is a huge constituency in Washington to have leaks remain inconsequential, especially the "good" leaks.

Hagar said...

Again, he is from New York, and it apparently not only in the movies that they talk that way.

And, as far as the White House staff goes, they are supposed to be "with us."

Henry said...

Scaramucci has been involved in some interesting stories.

He's a huge Mets fan:

Anthony Scaramucci, Tony Lauto and an anonymous third business partner, all of them huge Mets fans, came to an agreement in principle Thursday to buy the jersey, The Post has learned. The jersey will sell for $365,000, making it the most expensive modern-day jersey.

Scaramucci and Lauto worked hard to set up the deal so the jersey can spend time at Citi Field, as well as the 9/11 Memorial Museum and the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

“We had too many friends die in those buildings to let that jersey go anywhere else,’’ Scaramucci, founder of Skybridge Capital, told The Post. “Tony and I wanted to make sure that jersey stays in New York.

“We talked to Mike, he’s happy. We talked to [Mike’s father] Vince [Piazza], he’s happy.’’

Ken B said...

This is hopeless. He's talking about leakers. He says two choices, stop or get fired. He emphasizes those are the only choices. It's not about anything else.

Fabi said...

Henry -- I would say clearly a Gemini. Twins - two - binary.

Fernandinande said...

[R]ecently, “binary” has been applied to gender,

I hope "They" are not planning on ruining another perfectly good word.

David Begley said...

Wall Street word.

traditionalguy said...

Orwell is back worse than ever. The State Religion demands that we accept 2+2=5. That is the beginning of submission to mind control.

Little Anthony demands clarity of categories, beginning with 2+2=4. What hath God wrought.

glenn said...

I kinda like this guy. CNN runs a phony story about him he doesn't wring his hands and complain on Twitter. He sends lawyers with demand letters saying apologize or ill Gawkerize you. Result? CNN apologizes, fires three "reporters" including a name guy.

Laslo Spatula said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laslo Spatula said...

"There's some 3-dimensional chess in there, won't you agree?"

There is GOOD 3-dimensional chess and there is BAD 3-dimensional chess. Very binary.

I am Laslo.

Fernandinande said...

traditionalguy said...
beginning with 2+2=4.


10+10=100? That's crazy talk!

madAsHell said...

This is just push back for the "intersectionality" word that Chelsea keeps pushing.

Bob Ellison said...

There are 10 types of people in the world: those who know binary, and those who don't.

Drago said...

When it comes to Laslo's postings its all very binary.

You either think Laslo's postings are great or you think Laslo's postings are fantastic.

rhhardin said...

You can count in binary too.

This sentence has one thousand one hundred eleven a's, one b, ten c's, one hundred thousand ten d's, one million one thousand one hundred eleven e's, one f, one g, eleven thousand one h's, one hundred ten i's, one j, one k, one thousand one hundred one l's, eleven m's, one million one thousand one hundred one n's, one hundred ten thousand one o's, one p, one q, one thousand eleven r's, eleven thousand one hundred eleven s's, ten thousand one hundred ten t's, ten thousand one hundred eleven u's, one thousand one v's, one w, one x, one y, and one z.

Drago said...

I fully expect a 10,000 word posting by a certain commentator explaining how the use of "binary" by Scaramucci represents the dumbest use of the word ever in the history of mankind.

Right after praising some MSM-er for a "fantastic" or "magnificent" performance somewhere.

Fernandinande said...

Ten dimensional chess: 10+10 = 10*10

rhhardin said...

Old computer guys use octal. Lights and switches were painted to be grouped in 3s, and you could use regular names for numbers, but it was in octal.

The 8-bit byte spoiled that and they went to base 16. This never really took hold because the number names involving a-f didn't come forth.

whswhs said...

Speaking as a copy editor, I really detest the current use of "binary." It's long established as an adjective, relating to the number two, and more specifically to binary arithmetic, and it has a derivative use as a noun, short for "binary star" or "binary number." But the general concept it is now being used for is already perfectly well conveyed by the long established nouns "duality" (a state of actually having only two options) or "dualism" (a belief that a thing has only two options: for example, Cartesian mind/matter dualism). Substituting "binary" is an unlovely piece of trendy academic jargon whose main appeal seems to be that it's obscure and thus sounds profound.

Incidentally, gender in English is not binary but ternary: masculine, feminine, and neuter. Though neuter is hardly ever used for human beings, except for babies, and only up until the speaker has asked the all important (and "binary") question "Boy or girl?"

Kate said...

I immediately think of coding for computers. Very binary. Boolean logic. Ones or zeroes. The Mooch is a little old to think in code, but then I'm older than he is and I did.

exiledonmainstreet said...

"Incidentally, gender in English is not binary but ternary: masculine, feminine, and neuter."

Well, that statement brands you as a bigot and hater now that Facebook gives us 58 "gender options."

Ann Althouse said...

"Incidentally, gender in English is not binary but ternary: masculine, feminine, and neuter. Though neuter is hardly ever used for human beings, except for babies, and only up until the speaker has asked the all important (and "binary") question "Boy or girl?""

"LONDON, ENGLAND (AP)—A high court jury awarded entertainer Liberace 8,000 pounds ($22,400) damages Wednesday in a libel suit against the London Daily Mirror. The jurors decided after 3½ hours of deliberation that a story in 1956 by Mirror journalist William N. Connor implied that the pianist was a homosexual. Among the phrases Liberace cited in his suit was Connor’s description of him as “everything he, she or it can want.” He also described the entertainer as “fruit-flavored.” —The Des Moines Register, June 18, 1959"

Bryson, Bill. The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir (p. 106). Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Michael K said...

"Old computer guys use octal. Lights and switches were painted to be grouped in 3s, and you could use regular names for numbers, but it was in octal."

We used decimal (ten digits) on the IBM systems in the 1950s. Four digits for data. Once memory got larger, they went to hexadecimal but I was in medical school by then

Big Mike said...

Either you're with us or you're against us.

At the staff level, that needs to be true. Actually it needs to be "You're with us 100% or you'te gone." That seems to have been understood when the president was Obama, why is it controversial now?

Seeing Red said...

In a non-binary world, they're not leaking but gossiping?

From a certain POV, if you're transgendered and take concrete steps to solve you're non-binary need, aren't the steps you're taking making you become binary?

Richard Dillman said...

Binary is a popular word in literary theory. There are countless studies of the binaries in major literary works. For example, we might find a study of the binaries in "Moby Dick" or "Billy Budd." The early Puritans in this country were deeply invested in binary thinking or
the search for omnipresent dualisms. They learned this approach from the works of one of their favorite logicians and rhetorical
theorists, Peter Ramus, who was about as anti-Aristotlian as possible at the time. His theory of binaries was infuential in the early
American universities like Harvard founded by Puritans.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

"Robust" was the buzzword for a while.

Since you can be successfully sued in Engladn for implying that Liberace is gay I'll just assume their libel laws were "opened up" quite a bit more than ours at some point.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Scaramucci on Hannity seemed to imply that he was going to give some leakers second chances, and also that he knows cabinet members are leaking but has no authority over them.

J2 said...

Scaramucci says "super" a lot as a qualifier. Super ideas. Super qualified. Super patriotic.

Stephen said...

"So the word has been used, I observe, to disparage those who see things simplistically in black and white. Sophisticated people are not stuck in a binary way of thinking."

When conservatives do it, they're simplistic. When progs do it, it's the Hegelian dialectic.

Related: An adjective that seems to have fallen out of favor is "Manichean." Mooch should use it if he wants to get cred from the sophisticates.

Henry said...

Fabi wrote: Henry -- I would say clearly a Gemini. Twins - two - binary.

Ah, but Scarammuci insists on choosing. That's not very Gemini.

For the record he's a Capricorn.

whswhs said...

HoodlumDoodlum: As I understand it, in a UK libel suit, the truth of your statements is not a defense to the charge of libel. So lots of things are "libel" there that are "free speech" in the US.

But suing for that particular libel didn't use to work so well. Oscar Wilde ruined his life by filing a similar suit.

Ray said...

Duality To me means you can be in both states at the same time. Binary is either on or off currently. Future may add the state of may be with quantum computing.

Richard Dillman said...

The early Puritans approached thinking through things like knowing heat by knowing be cold, knowing dark by knowing light, good by knowing evil, war by knowing peace, etc. This would extend to God versus Satan as well. Is this dualism or binaries?
They had published schema for charting binaries as part of Ramus's theory of logic and thought. Unfortunately, American culture
retains this Puritan thinking pattern in its current penchant for polarities, particularly for discussing political or economic topics.

Earnest Prole said...

The left desires complex, nuanced, loving understanding for things on their side, and binary, black-or-white, yes-or-no judgment for things on the other side. In other words they’re just like the right.

Michael McNeil said...

I like to use the binary system to count on my fingers. As a violinist in orchestra (and also in a choir), I'll oftentimes count out many measures of rest on my fingers. Sometimes out hiking I'll count out the distances walked; as with the legions, a thousand (2-legged, left/right) paces makes a Roman mile — the original “milli-” (or “kilo-”) unit.

Nor do I have to pay much attention to finger counting while doing it. Once trained, and once started up on a particular occasion, my fingers can pretty much be left to do it. Then now and then just look at the registered number and see what it is….

Conventional finger counting can count only up to 5 on one hand — or 10 (ten) using all 10 fingers. Utilizing binary, contrariwise, a single hand can register up to 2^5, or 32 — while two hands can distinguish numbers all the way to 2^10, or 1,024.

Larry J said...

rhhardin said...
Old computer guys use octal. Lights and switches were painted to be grouped in 3s, and you could use regular names for numbers, but it was in octal.

The 8-bit byte spoiled that and they went to base 16. This never really took hold because the number names involving a-f didn't come forth.


Octal is for losers who can't count to F. I once had to validate a series of satellite command databases for three different space systems. Most of those commands were stored in 7 octal digits to store 20 bits of data. Five hex digits would've done the same job. In all, the databases contained over 40,000 commands and every bit had to be perfect. It was the only job I've ever done where nothing short of complete perfection was acceptable. It took over 3 months, which included determining how to validate the commands and to write three separate computer programs (one for each satellite family).

As for the context of this post, there are some issues (such as leaking) that are indeed binary. "Stop leaking or you'll be fired" is binary, as it should be.

Skippy Tisdale said...

If you're the kind of usage stickler who frowns at "very unique," you should see the problem with "very binary." You shouldn't say "very unique," because "unique" already means only one. There's no way to be more one than some other one.

"very unique" makes me cringe every time. However, this...

You shouldn't say "very unique," because "unique" already means only one. There's no way to be more one than some other one.

...is not supportable. Consider pluperfect and penultimate. Can something be better than perfect? Can something surpass the ultimate?

The reason "very unique" makes me cringe is because it is simply bad grammar. Of course at some future date the word verunique might come into usage

Fernandinande said...

penultimate - Can something surpass the ultimate?

Penultimate means "next to last", along the lines of "not quite the ultimate".

SeanF said...

Michael McNeil: Conventional finger counting can count only up to 5 on one hand — or 10 (ten) using all 10 fingers. Utilizing binary, contrariwise, a single hand can register up to 2^5, or 32 — while two hands can distinguish numbers all the way to 2^10, or 1,024.

Be consistent - either conventional can count up to six on a single hand, or binary can only count to 31. :)

Grif4965 said...

Someone has already mentioned this, but "Binary" is very common in financial circles (possibly to the point of overuse), so I'd imagine that that's where he got the word. "That is a binary investment" means that the only outcomes are full payout or nothing.

mikeski said...

Be consistent - either conventional can count up to six on a single hand, or binary can only count to 31. :)

Ah, fencepost errors. :)

(There are one kinds of people in the world; those who index arrays from zero, and those who don't.)