On Friday January 15, 2010 two officers from the U.S. Department of Justice interviewed me at my home about a law enforcement matter. On this blog, My Daily Struggles, I had quoted a federal official who had said about a public matter: "This case has been screaming for attention for years!"
The DOJ was concerned about my quote of the word "screaming." Apparently they thought -- or claimed to think -- that my use of the word screaming denoted anger or rage, and that that anger or rage constituted a veiled threat against the official in question.
The word screaming can be associated with different affective states, however. The context of the word screaming will tend to indicate which affect is implied.
The word screaming can be associated with the affect of rage or anger. The phrase "a screaming rage" denotes that the screamer is extremely angry, an affective state that might be associated with violent behavior.
However, the word screaming can also be associated with the affects of despair or desperation in a situation in which the screamer is not enraged (and potentially violent), but rather finds himself in a precarious situation. This meaning of the word screaming can be associated with a phrase such as "I yelled to her from the window but she couldn't hear me." Imagine a person finds himself in a burning building and screams for help to a woman on the street from the window of the building engulfed in flame. Would the associated affect be rage (associated with the potential for violence) or desperation (associated with a plea for attention and help)?
Let us look at the phrase: "This case has been screaming for attention for years." Doesn't the context indicate that someone (the subject of the "case") is in a desperate situation and that the word screaming denotes a plea for help associated with the affect of desperation? It is a stretch of semantics to see the word screaming in this context as being associated with rage and violence.
Which brings me back to a question I have raised on several occasions. Why did the blog post that (originally) used the word screaming cause the U.S. Department of Justice to have a conniption fit? Why did the Justice Department misread the word "screaming" in this context to suggest that I might be violent rather than to suggest that I felt I was in need of help? Was the DOJ's misreading the product of poor verbal skills or a deliberate falsification to justify a DOJ threat investigation that was in reality a politically-motivated misadventure?
Here is the blog post in question. It was originally titled: "This case has been screaming for attention for years."