“It Is What It Is:” anti-conservative code for “I don’t want to discuss it”
–Richard E. Vatz
Kathleen Parker of The Washington Post is the first major journalist (I believe) to at least hint at the infernality of the phrase “It is what it is:” “this annoying expression.”
Annoying? Yes, but much more pernicious.
The proliferation of this substance-empty-but-responsibility-aversive phrase should mightily displease every serious issue analyst, regardless of the field. I cannot descriptively restrict the population using this expression because, according to the Vatzian Inane Phrase Scale (VIPS), every human being born before 2006 uses the phrase prolifically.
As I have told every one of my Persuasion classes for the past 2 -3 years, only credulous people think the phrase is anything but a strategic way to say “I don’t want to talk about that.”
“Your income taxes seem to neglect your tips. Why”
“It is what it is.”
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would have perhaps escaped unscathed if she had said “It is what it is” instead of “What difference does it make” in response to Sen. Ron Johnson’s (R-Wisc.) question regarding why the Administration wouldn’t acknowledge more quickly that the Benghazi violence was not due to an anti-Muslim video.
One way to infer whether a phrase is meaningful is to see what its antithesis implies. In this case that would be “It is not what it is.”
That sentence has the inanity of the original and is nonsensical to boot.
Next time a politician under pressure says “It is what it is,” one hopes that an enterprising reporter will say, “Come on; you can say something more meaningful than that?” In addition if the issue is public policy by anyone, the public ought to reflexively groan in contempt.
Professor Vatz teaches Persuasion at Towson University and is the author of The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion(Kendall Hunt, 2013)