Last week, a former Illinois congressman named Joe Walsh tweeted the following:
Because a musket is a gun, and Walsh said he was going to grab it if his preferred candidate didn't win, a lot of people with basic reading comprehension skills asked if he really meant that there should be a violent revolution because a former reality television personality who wants to ban Muslim people from entering the country lost a presidential election.
One of those people was MSNBC host Craig Melvin.
"You can understand why a lot of folks have a problem with that, especially considering the current political climate that we're in, especially considering the numerous reports of Trump supporters who at rallies have called for revolution, in some cases armed revolution," Melvin asked on Tuesday.
"I said musket, if I'd of said gun that's one thing," Walsh replied.
Then Melvin: "A musket is a gun."
Walsh again: "OK fine, then take me literally."
He said this because the hot new trend among men in power is to never take anyone literally or be taken literally.
Let's explore this together.
On Monday, Peter Thiel—the billionaire Trump supporter who said in 2009 that women getting the right to vote was bad for democracy—explained to an audience at the National Press Club that the problem with the media is that they take the Republican nominee literally when he explains his policy proposals in consistent language over and over again throughout a 1.5 yearlong campaign.
“I think a lot of voters who vote for Trump take Trump seriously but not literally," Thiel said. "So when they hear things like the Muslim comment or the wall comment their question is not, ‘Are you going to build a wall like the Great Wall of China?’ or, you know, ‘How exactly are you going to enforce these tests?’ What they hear is we’re going to have a saner, more sensible immigration policy.”
So when Trump's campaign, in December of last year, released the following statement…
…what Thiel read, because he did not take him literally, was:
Trump himself is also a fan of not being taken literally.
When The Washington Post published audio of him bragging about sexually assaulting and groping women, he defended himself by saying those were "just words." (More than a dozen women have publicly disagreed.)
Trump also did not want people to interpret his words as meaning anything after an interview on MSNBC with Chris Matthews when he said that women who might have abortions in the event the procedure was criminalized should face "some form of punishment."
"If Congress were to pass legislation making abortion illegal and the federal courts upheld this legislation, or any state were permitted to ban abortion under state and federal law, the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman," Trump said in a statement after making his initial comment. "The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb. My position has not changed—like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions."
There would have been a change in position if you took Trump literally when he said he wanted to punish women who have abortions.
But I, along with trendwatching men like Peter Thiel and Joe Walsh, do not take anyone literally, and would hope to never be taken literally myself.
Words are meaningless, especially when they are spoken by men in power. Very cool.