An Interesting Press Release

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This press release ("At the Flick of a Switch"), from the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, is apparently for real. Here's a direct quote:

Since the page was taken down a few hours after I posted this, the content can be found here. This is exactly what was on the Judiciary Committee website earlier, shorn of the header and footer and sidebars giving lot of juicy Judiciary Committee links.

Among the striking things about this document is its take on gender identity.

The message is clearly partisan, and so represents the views of the Republican majority of the committee. If my count is correct, of these 24 representatives, just one is female — the list is Bob Goodlatte, Virginia, Chairman; Jim Sensenbrenner, Wisconsin; Lamar S. Smith, Texas; Steve Chabot, Ohio; Darrell Issa, California; Randy Forbes, Virginia; Steve King, Iowa; Trent Franks, Arizona; Louie Gohmert, Texas; Jim Jordan, Ohio; Ted Poe, Texas; Jason Chaffetz, Utah; Tom Marino, Pennsylvania; Trey Gowdy, South Carolina; Mark Amodei, Nevada; Raúl Labrador, Idaho; Blake Farenthold, Texas; Doug Collins, Georgia; Ron DeSantis, Florida; Mimi Walters, California; Ken Buck, Colorado; John Ratcliffe, Texas; Dave Trott, Michigan; Mike Bishop, Michigan.

But the affective and attitudinal content of the message is expressed — or at least underlined — by means of 10 animated gifs, in eight of which the expressive protagonist is female. An effort by Bob Goodlatte and the other male representatives to explore their feminine sides? Good for them, if so; though it's interesting that this is what they've found there so far.

Also, Wikipedia tells us that

Goodlatte is the co-chairman of the bipartisan Congressional Internet Caucus, Chairman of the House Republican High-Technology Working Group, and Co-Chairman of the Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus. […]

Goodlatte is an original sponsor of the Stop Online Piracy Act, H.R. 3261, introduced in the House's, Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet Subcommittee, which he Chairs.

I could be wrong, but I have a feeling that these gifs were not licensed by authorized representatives of the personalities involved, and thus their use represents implicit support for open-access mash-up culture.

Seriously, this press release was no doubt put together by a couple of sub-millennial staffers. But somebody cleared it for release, and it hasn't been taken down yet. So maybe this style will become the new normal in DC.



  1. Dee said,

    March 22, 2016 @ 9:35 pm

    I clicked on it to see what prompted Language Log to post a Jennifer Lawrence reaction gif and .. it literally is a quote from the (lying) press release. I'm so confused and infuriated – it's an insult at all levels to the American public.

  2. Jason said,

    March 22, 2016 @ 9:47 pm

    Oh. My. God. Totes flabbergasted.

  3. Beth said,

    March 22, 2016 @ 10:08 pm

    Who is this idiot, and why is he allowed to be on the Public payroll?

  4. Rob said,

    March 22, 2016 @ 11:09 pm

    I am like so

  5. Rob said,

    March 22, 2016 @ 11:11 pm

    . . . so [rolling my eyes emoji].
    LL, why are you not supporting emojis?

  6. david donnell said,

    March 23, 2016 @ 12:30 am

    Nice fluff, Mark…. Now could we get back to the serious Asian Language Log posts?

  7. AntC said,

    March 23, 2016 @ 12:34 am

    What's the constitutional position of a Committee titled "House of Representatives …"? Is it supposed to articulate the agreed position of the whole House?

    This Press release is explicitly partisan: "… Republicans in the House … are doing …".

    We in the cricket-playing democracies have strict rules that the resources and authority of parliamentary committees cannot be used for partisan purposes.

  8. Avi Rappoport said,

    March 23, 2016 @ 1:37 am

    If I was Jennifer Lawrence, I'd sue for misuse of image in support of political lies.

    235,413 deportations in 2015

  9. Phil Woodford said,

    March 23, 2016 @ 4:21 am

    Never let the intern loose on the press releases.

  10. Dan Schmidt said,

    March 23, 2016 @ 6:42 am

    I feel like the chairman Bob Goodlatte missed his calling as a barista.

  11. D.O. said,

    March 23, 2016 @ 7:03 am

    From linguistic point of view, item 6 on the list is somewhat interesting. The articulation in the gif is so clear, it can be used in teaching English sounds to language learners.

  12. Jon W said,

    March 23, 2016 @ 7:40 am

    This particular press release isn't new; it's been up for about a year now. House Republicans seem to think that the listacle-with-gifs thing is how to reach The Youth. Other examples:

    It seems to date to 2013, when NRCC decided that its problem was that it wasn’t enough like Buzzfeed.

  13. Thorin said,

    March 23, 2016 @ 8:32 am

    How dare the Judiciary Committee tarnish and misuse The Office in this way.

  14. Thomas Shaw said,

    March 23, 2016 @ 8:46 am

    The women in the gifs are shown reacting to what is being told to them, not as "expressive protagonists". I don't think they show the "feminine sides" of the authors/narrators — they simply show gender roles (as perceived by the author, consciously or not) associated with the uninformed audience reacting to what they are told by a presumably male superior guiding figure.

  15. jaap said,

    March 23, 2016 @ 10:38 am

    It seems to have been taken down – I get a 404 error when I click the link.

  16. Neil Dolinger said,

    March 23, 2016 @ 11:41 am

    "It seems to have been taken down – I get a 404 error when I click the link."

    Me too. I guess someone's attorney's caught wind and asked the sponsors to remove it. The earlier links that Jon W. gave are still active though. Maybe Roy Scheider and Taylor Swift's people (and whoever represents the shark community) haven't learned about these yet. Or are supporters?

  17. Neil Dolinger said,

    March 23, 2016 @ 11:44 am

    "House Republicans seem to think that the listacle-with-gifs thing is how to reach The Youth."

    As if!

  18. Guy said,

    March 23, 2016 @ 11:51 am


    I'm a little confused about how that rule works. If there's a bill that one party doesn't want to get a vote but another one does, wouldn't any action taken for against that bill by the committee be a partisan purpose? Or do parliamentary committees do something different from what Congressional committees do so that the name is misleading?

  19. empty said,

    March 23, 2016 @ 12:11 pm

    I can't even. (Did I use that correctly?)

  20. SamC said,

    March 23, 2016 @ 12:41 pm

    Definitely some millennial staffers involved – and I'm guessing young women or a young woman put it together, since they chose gifs from Pitch Perfect, Little Mermaid, Britney Spears… and maybe Bring it On is in there? And I'm not surprised it's been taken down, since I'm guessing most men on that committee would see this as more juvenile because of that feminine energy. (/humble opinion)
    The cached version of the page is available:

  21. Lazar said,

    March 23, 2016 @ 12:49 pm

    The cached version has got more switches than I remembered.

  22. KeithB said,

    March 23, 2016 @ 1:32 pm

    The House of Representatives is Majority-Partisan. The majority party controls everything, and the only thing the minority party can do really is freely talk on the floor.

    The Senate is a little different, but not much. The Minority party can use the filibuster, but otherwise, Majority rules.

  23. Paul said,

    March 23, 2016 @ 1:42 pm

    It appears to be back up. I'm not getting a 404.

  24. Jon W said,

    March 23, 2016 @ 2:12 pm

    I noticed the same thing when the page was first posted a year ago — it would 404, and then it would reappear. So I think that's a technical glitch, and not related to people taking the page down or putting it back up again.

  25. Martha said,

    March 23, 2016 @ 3:20 pm

    Is anyone else weirded out by "flick of a switch"? I "flip" switches, not "flick" them. (I've found that the COCA has 42 "flick of a switch" and 44 "flip of a switch" but 14 "flick a switch" and 49 "flip a switch." Google Ngram says that "flick of a switch" is more common than "flip of a switch" but that "flick a switch" is less common than "flip a switch.") "Flick of the wrist" yes, but "flip of a switch." (For me anyway.)

    D.O.: I'm terrible at reading lips, but it looks to me like she's saying "No why" in gif 6, so it doesn't seem to me to be a good example. (Although, she may actually be saying something closer to "no why," given the exaggerated way they speak in those Californians sketches the gif came from.)

  26. AntC said,

    March 23, 2016 @ 6:06 pm

    @Guy (and I'm aware this isn't Constitutional Convention Log)

    What struck me was the anti-Obama rhetoric and the pro-Republican party. Yes parliamentary committees are dominated by the majority party (if there is one), but:
    a) the Prime Minister is head of that party, so there's not open warfare between branches of government; so policy initiatives from a committee have the nod from the PM;
    b) parliamentary rules are that public money (including parliamentary resourcing) cannot be used to promote a particular Party.

    I agree there's a fine line between committee activism and partisan promotion. But reasonably often, politicians are pinged for mis-using government resources for Party purposes. For example using a Ministerial limo to transport them to an electoral rally; using an MP's credit card to pay for a meal at a restaurant which included electoral staff (even if it also included parliamentary staff).

  27. MikeA said,

    March 24, 2016 @ 4:57 pm

    @Neil Dolinger
    — whoever represents the shark community —

    Mostly Republicans. At least I'm pretty sure Mr. Wonderful is.

  28. andyb said,

    March 25, 2016 @ 11:56 pm

    "I could be wrong, but I have a feeling that these gifs were not licensed by authorized representatives of the personalities involved…"

    Most of the clips seem to be from movies and TV shows, not personal appearances. Which means it's the copyright holders of those movies and TV shows who'd have to authorize them, not the personalities. And I suspect that, say, Sony or Disney/ABC may be willing to (retroactively) authorize use by one of their best congressional allies.

    In fact, it's probably better not to push on this too hard, unless you want the MPAA to come up with a policy that mash-ups are officially acceptable if used for political purposes they approve of, but piracy if used for political purposes they disapprove of…

  29. James Wimberley said,

    March 26, 2016 @ 4:04 am

    The new broken-link page uses an icon of unequal scales that counts as a perfect Freudian slip.

  30. Alex H said,

    March 31, 2016 @ 6:53 pm

    I can actually hear the woman in the gif you've included above say (very faintly) the word 'what' when I look at it.

    Anyone else experience that?

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