"bait and switch"
Arnold M. Zwicky
zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Sun Jan 23 19:03:18 UTC 2005
Buried in the flap about SpongeBob SquarePants, which hit the papers on
Thursday (1/20/05), is the following from Paul Batura, assistant to
James C. Dobson at Focus on the Family: "We see the video as an
insidious means by which the organization [the We Are Family
Foundation] is manipulating and potentially brainwashing kids. It's a
classic bait and switch."
(from the NYT, p. A12)
Most of the flap has concerned Dobson's claim that the music video,
starring cartoon characters and created to teach elementary school
children about multiculturalism, promotes homosexuality. According to
Nile Rodgers, the founder of the foundation, nothing in the video or
its accompanying materials refers to sexual orientation, nor does the
video mention the "tolerance pledge" (borrowed from the Southern
Poverty Law Center) that appears on the foundation's web site; the
pledge counsels tolerance for "sexual identity", among a variety of
The Focus on the Family position seems to be that the video is
"pro-homosexual" (Dobson's word) because it will lead its young viewers
to the website and so to a mention of respect for "sexual identity"
(not further explained), a mention that transparently (to Dobson's way
of thinking) furthers the homosexual agenda; or perhaps that counseling
tolerance in general terms is covert advocacy of homosexuality and
therefore reprehensible. But that dubious reasoning isn't what I'm
interested in here. My interest is in the expression "bait and switch"
as applied the association between the video and the homosexual agenda.
This is a *big* extension of the meaning of the expression.
Your classic bait and switch is, in the words of AHD4, "a sales tactic
in which a bargain-priced item is used to attract customers who are
then encouraged to purchase a more expensive similar item." Batura's
use preserves the component of deception, the assertion that one thing
is offered (but not specifically for sale) and another provided (but in
addition to, rather than instead of, the first), and the presupposition
that the thing provided is in some way unsatisfactory (but morally
offensive rather than expensive). You can get from AHD4 to Batura, but
it's a long trip.
I'd guess that Batura settled on "bait and switch" as a vivid
alternative to "deception" or "hidden agenda", without thinking through
the details. Are there other occurrences of such extended uses of this
arnold (zwicky at csli.stanford.edu)
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