I have a three-point plan: Get shock collars. Strap them onto the candidates. Attempt, through vigorous zapping, to train them away from some of the emptiest forms of blather they are heaping upon us.
The season of malarkey is in full flower, and it will only bloom more intensely between now and Election Day. It is a pageant of baloney, a peacock’s tail of every shimmering shade of the false, the not-quite-true, the overstated, the understated, the empty, the twisted – and the rotely repeated. Oh, the repeated. It is as though there is a bank of empty phrases handed out by lottery, and candidates are forbidden from saying anything original.
I’m not talking about lies. We can fact-check and argue those. But the domination of seemingly minor, vacuous language – words and phrasings that can be re-applied to nearly any argument – produces a clamor of contradictory noise. The party that voted to cut education goes after the other side for … cutting education. The gang that wants to raise taxes goes after the other side for … raising taxes.
It reminds me of the excellent definition of B.S. in Harry Frankfurt’s “On (B.S.)”: “Someone who lies and someone who tells the truth are playing on opposite sides, so to speak, in the same game. Each responds to the facts as he understands them, although the response of the one is guided by the authority of the truth, while the response of the other defies that authority and refuses to meet its demands. The (B.S.-er) ignores these demands altogether. He does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, (B.S.) is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are.”
So, my three-point proposal. Modest. Sensible. Possibly a ton of fun. Here’s what would make me go to the button.
“Job creators”: Holy mother-loving cow. If one more politician says this – and I’m including “job creation,” “creating jobs,” “job,” “create” or any form of either word, including in translation – I will press that button for an hour.
“Job creators” has achieved a Zen perfection of political speech: utter ubiquity matched with utter meaninglessness. If somehow you have come to believe that this is the only way to refer to business owners and wealthy investors, let me suggest some alternatives: Business owners. Wealthy investors. Inheritors.
“The other Washington”: Should we really expect our members of Congress to hang around Spokane all the time, chatting us up at the farmers market and shaking hands at Chamber breakfasts? Rich Cowan has tried to hit Cathy McMorris Rodgers with this wiffle bat, but he’s only about the 8 billionth challenger to do that to an incumbent. Jay Inslee and Rob McKenna are currently engaged in an even sillier back-and-forth: whether it’s worse to be from the other Washington or from Olympia. Either way, at election time, capitals are evil and everywhere else is a warm bath of virtue.
“Look at this picture of my family” (variants: I own a business, I have children, I went to this or that local school …): McMorris Rodgers starts every other sentence with this: “As someone who grew up on a farm in Eastern Washington …” Michael Baumgartner makes as much hay as possible out of his limited years living in Pullman and as a G-Prep student. Jay Inslee is, you may have heard, a fifth-generation Washingtonian, and if you’re wondering what his parents did for a living, why, here you go …
We get it. You’re people. Human beings, in a way. You’ve coached teams and held jobs and had high school teachers who shared poignant lifelong lessons. It’s nice. And yet … all this insistence on displaying your credentials as members of the human race is starting to make us suspect that maybe you’re not actually members of the human race. Methinks thou dost protest too much.
“Is that not the very definition of slavery?”: The three-point plan will require a special wavelength and extra batteries for Matt Shea. When he goes creeping into his opponents’ driveway – the kind of thing that might make Shea reach for his unlicensed gun, were the situation reversed – it’ll be time for a shock. When he claims to be the victim of hateful leftist media homosexual EPA-protected pygmy rabbits who are persecuting him for being a freedom-loving Christian, it’ll be time for a shock. When he claims to have witnesses who said certain things in sworn statements that are exonerative regarding his criminal behavior, and then fails to produce any evidence of that, it’ll be time for a shock. When he opportunistically compares himself with Holocaust victims – Holocaust victims! – over the vandalism of a campaign sign, it’ll be time for shock upon shock upon shock.
As it will be when he says things like this: “How long will we continue to beg like dogs only to be satisfied with a few scraps from the king’s table? When have we had enough? When we have no guns? When there’s an IRS agent stationed in every neighborhood in our country? When the piercing gaze of Big Sister penetrates our homes to tell us what we should eat or maybe what we should drive or how long we should keep our lights on? Is that not the very definition of slavery?”
Could somebody get Matt the very definition of slavery? The carbon footprint for his shock collar is going to be enormous. It’s a good thing global warming’s a hoax.