In response to a Fox News reporter’s question whether it was time for the Biden administration to change its strategy on COVID 19, VP Harris, in evident frustration, replied:
“It is time for us to do what we are doing and that time is every day. Every day it is time for us to agree that there are things and tools that are available to us to slow this thing down.”
Analysts, critics and defenders both, immediately piled on, with the former accusing Harris of nonsense and meaningless circularity for saying, in essence, that it is always (everyday) time to be doing what she is doing and that it is never time to be doing something other than what she is doing.”
Her defenders replied that the so-called circularity kerfuffle was much ado about nothing, a comedic retort intended to ridicule the question about whether what she was doing was what she ought to be doing, implying as it did unwarranted criticism of a possible administration action or the lack of some possible action.
Wikipedia helpfully weighed in on Harris’ side, explaining that there is really no such thing as circularity, since “Taken as a whole, (even) dictionaries are circular because each and every word is defined in terms of words that are also contained within the dictionary.” This argument was immediately refuted by the many critics of “Wokepedia,” who suggested that the authors of this “explanation” need to spend time re-reading the entry under “sophistry.”
Other critics zeroed in on Harris’ second sentence, deriding the idea that slowing down the viral epidemic would be accomplished by “agreeing every day” to the proposition that there are “things and tools” available to do the job. They argue that, even assuming there are “things and tools” useful for this purpose, some action beyond daily agreement would to be needed, for example, actually deploying said “things and tools.”
But Harris supporters quickly rebutted the implied charge of inaction, saying that achieving correct and scientific agreement on things and tools was a necessary preparatory act in this time of bold and insistent misinformation. Vaccination “mandates,” they also argued, were both “things” and “tools” and agreement on them was essential work.
Other, quite unexpected comments have also been circulating on Twitter.
#BenFranklin, one of five authors of the US Declaration of Independence, apparently felt called upon to interrupt his well-deserved eternal rest to remark that the noble tide of erudite and stirring political speech seemed to have quite ebbed, judging by this example of political speech, and now amounted to no more than a trickle, a dribble or mere vapor. Twitter admins promptly banned him back to his eternal rest.
#DouglasAdams of “The Hitchhikers to the Galaxy” fame, counseled those confused by Ms. Harris’ seemingly incoherent speech that it was time to forcefully stick their bright yellow Babel fish in their ears. Although, he admitted, that his own Babel fish appeared to be out of order on this occasion, as the translation of Harris’s words was no more intelligible to him than the original Vogon dialect that Harris often employs when rattled.
British philosopher, #BertrandRussell, in reply to inquiries about his views on whether Harris’ speech was mathematically circular, tartly asked: “Is the set of all sets that are not members of themselves a member of itself? The question answers itself.” After rudely asking who the hell Bertrand Russell was, most Twitter users unloaded on him with alphabetic ripostes like WTF, DUH, or the stupid face emoticon.
The Dutch Circularity Prize committee confessed itself in a tizzy after all the controversy over this year’s Escher prize. “Very few people appreciate and practice circularity as an art form, so we are dumbstruck at the attention our prize has garnered this year. Of course, we were dumbstruck before this, so very little has changed.”
Jen Psaki, besieged by clamoring reporters at her latest White House briefing, wanting to know the official White House position on what one called “circularity-gate,” first praised Ms. Harris’ statement for its brevity and plain diction, but also for pushing back against the patriarchy (aka Steve Doocy of Fox News who had asked her the question). “I will have no more to say on this topic today, but I promise to circle back.”