Theres plenty of BS to go around
By Tom Purcell
Heres something we can do with less of in 2012: BS.
Its all over television, in magazines and in newspapers and even in our serious papers, such as The New York Times. It is spouted by politicians and pitched by product spokesmen.
Modern life is manufacturing an unprecedented amount of it.
BS is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about, writes Harry Frankfurt, philosopher emeritus at Princeton University, who authored On Bull (Expletive).
Thanks to cable television, there are numerous opportunities for people to yap about all kinds of things they know nothing about.
Nowadays, our news folks are almost as bad. It used to be that the press existed to catch folks in the act of BS-ing. But our press has been shoveling out a fair share of its own.
Didnt the run-up to the last presidential election show that some of our objective journalists were in the tank for Obama all along?
Republicans have produced a lot of BS, too. During the Bush years, they used words such as fiscal responsibility and limited government, while they wasted more dough and expanded government faster than you can say Were broke.
Then again, maybe its not the BS that bothers us so much. Maybe it is that BS is being so practiced so poorly.
The truth is, BS has a long, proud history in America. During our early years, the tall tale was an accepted form of BS. Exaggeration lent more credence and color to stories, and yarn-spinning became a celebrated part of American culture.
From our beginning, weve had our share of snake-oil salesmen and flimflam artists. These scoundrels werent judged on the rightness or wrongness of their scams so much as the skill with which they practiced their craft.
The sorry truth is that we want to be lied to in America. Whereas the truth can be painful, costly and time-consuming, were suckers for a skillfully told yarn that puts us at ease and helps us sleep better at night.
In America, we want our tax cuts and increased spending. We want our politicians to limit spending and build a new bridge in our backyard. We want free health care and fatter Social Security checks, and we want somebody else to pay for them.
But our politicians and the press are doing a horrible job these days spinning their mistruths. I think it is because they are lazy.
I remember the good old days when news shows, such as Dateline, went to elaborate lengths to pull one over on us. They rigged up a truck with explosives, then blew it up on-screen.
Some time ago, cigarette companies said smoking wasnt bad for us and we believed them. Lyndon Baines Johnson said he was going to end poverty, and we believed that, too.
Im really missing Bill Clintons presidency. He could twist and contort any mistruth into the prettiest and most convincing words. We knew he wasnt telling the truth but we didnt care. We loved the way he didnt tell it.
As for President Obama, he cant possibly believe some of that stuff he is saying that his health plan will reduce costs or that he has a strategy to reign in runaway spending or does he?
Heck, I dont know who or what to believe anymore, and I sense millions of others feel just as I do.
If our press and political leaders have any hope of restoring their credibility, one thing is for certain.
They better come up with a better line of BS.
Tom Purcell is a freelance writer is humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. His column is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Email Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.