Word of the Day: Futilitarian

Word of the Day

Today’s word of the day, courtesy of Merriam-Webster, though indirectly, is futilitarian. Futilitarian can be either an adjective or a noun (though as a noun it may be considered a substantive adjective), and it’s what is called a portmanteau word. A portmanteau word is “one formed by combining two words into a single (and often deprecating and/or ironically humorous) term that denotes a new concept, or one for which a satisfactory term was heretofore unavailable,” according to Daily Writing Tips (https://www.dailywritingtips.com/25-favorite-portmanteau-words/#:~:text=25%20Favorite%20Portmanteau%20Words%201%20Affluenza%20%28affluence%2Finfluenza%29%3A%20anxiety,hype%20gives%20way%20to%20reality.%20More%20items…%20). Some other examples of portmanteau words are affluenza (combining affluence with influenza), netocracy (combining internet and aristocracy), and screenager (combining screen and teenager and accurately describing probably 99% of American teens). A portmanteau is a “a case or bag to carry clothing in while traveling, especially a leather trunk or suitcase that opens into two halves” (https://www.dictionary.com/browse/portmanteau?s=t).

Futilitarian was coined by the British poet Robert Southey back in 1827. It combines the word futile, meaning “serving no useful purpose; completely ineffective” (https://www.merriam-webster.com/word-of-the-day) with the philosophical stance called Utilitarianism, “a theory that the aim of action should be the largest possible balance of pleasure over pain or the greatest happiness of the greatest number” (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/utilitarianism). Southey coined the word in a letter to the dramatist Henry Taylor: “If the Utilitarians would reason and write like you, they would no longer deserve to be called Futilitarians” (Southey, Robert, and Charles Cuthbert Southey. The Life And Correspondence of Robert Southey. New York: Harper, 1855).

Recently in the news we have learned of an accusation that the son of one our presidential candidates has been accused of selling access to his father back when his father was Vice-President of the USA. It’s kind of a long story, but to try to put it in a nutshell, Hunter Bide received an appointment to the board of a Ukrainian energy company called Burisma despite his having no experience or expertise in energy. This gig paid young Biden in the neighborhood of $50,000/month, more than a lot of people make in a year. And what did he do for Burisma? That’s really hard to say.

The company, Burisma, was being investigated for corruption until Joe Biden, Hunter’s father and the Vice-President of the USA at that time, threatened to withhold a billion dollars in loan guarantees if the government of Ukraine did not fire the prosecutor who was investigating Burisma. We know that because a video of Biden bragging about what he did is available on-line (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oesl2RXpfPQ). But Joe Biden has defended himself against accusations of collusion with Burisma with statements pointing out that he had nothing to do with, and never even spoke to his son about, Hunter’s activities overseas.

But now we have learned that a laptop computer which Hunter Biden had dropped off at a repair shop has been in the hands of the FBI for the last year while they investigated claims that Hunter Biden was in touch with Ukrainian officials who thanked Biden for getting them a meeting with his father. In addition, emails have come to light showing that Hunter Biden was communicating with Chinese officials about payments to himself and his family, including “the big guy,” to the tune of millions of dollars.

You may not have heard much about this issue if you get your news primarily from social media. Why? Because Facebook and Twitter have both decided that this news is not safe for you to hear.

Personally, I am supporting neither the Republican nor the Democrat candidate for president this year, but I also believe in fair play. I think excluding legitimate candidates from presidential debates is wrong. I think having the state pay for some political parties’ nominations processes but not others is wrong. And I think providing unbalanced coverage to some parties or candidates is just wrong.

Likewise, if media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, which consider themselves and have protection from liability as if they are a platform rather than a publisher, act like a publisher of information rather than a mere platform, which is what they are doing by censoring some information and not others, then that’s wrong, too. The First Amendment protection of freedom of the press brings with it a responsibility to be fair. Of course, technically censorship is done only by governments, but I think when the press is granted special protections by the government, they become an arm of the government.

On the other hand, seeking fairness from today’s media is probably a futilitarian effort.

The picture is from https://picclick.com/Censored-Joe-Hunter-Biden-Donald-Trump-Ny-Post-Newspaper-10-15-20-Secret-Emails-303728443686.html.

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