Interrogative Intonation …

A little over a year ago I wrote a post on the popularity of the ellipse ( . . . ) in online communication after I began to notice how frequently I had been employing the mark myself. After laying out a rough and ready taxonomy of uses, I wrapped up with the following conclusion:

“It was the mark of a thought that refused to assert itself …. The ellipsis gives expression to a habit of ironic detachment and preemptive indifference.  And here is where I found the point of contact with larger cultural trends.  The mood of ironic detachment that has settled over so many of us was manifesting itself in three simple dots.  With those dots we were evading conviction, giving off an apathetic vibe, and guarding ourselves from seeming unfashionably earnest.”

Today, via Peter Leithart, I came across the following from John Milbank:

“People who fondly imagine themselves the subjects of their ‘own’ choices entirely will, in reality, be the most manipulated subjects, and the most incapable of being influenced by goodness and beauty. This is why, in the affluent Anglo-Saxon West today, there is so much pervasively monotonous ugliness and tawdriness that belies its wealth, as well as why there are so many people adopting (literally) the sing-song accent of self-righteous complacency and vacuous uniformity, with its rising lilt of a feigned questioning at the end of every phrase. This intonation implies that any overassertion is a polite infringement of the freedom of the other, and yet at the same time its merely rhetorical interrogation suggests that the personal preference it conveys is unchallengeable, since it belongs within the total set of formally correct exchange transactions. Pure liberty is pure power – whose other name is evil.”

I thought at the time I had perhaps overanalyzed. I now feel better about that.

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