Political Writing: Raging Against the Semantic Machine

Y’know, I just haven’t been able to muster much enthusiasm for all the political rhetoric this season, even after (especially after) the DNC and RNC. It’s all “Sarah” this and “Biden” that, people having Obasms everyone – and in public, mind you. And to me, it just sounds like the teachers in the Charlie Brown television specials – “Wah-wah-wah-wah-wah.”

But I have found a new hero, and his name is Leonard Pitts, Jr. A Pulitzer Prize winning syndicated columnist for The Miami Herald, he wrote an absolute pip of a column the other day on gobbledygook and intellectual dishonesty. Pitts rails against Mitt Romney’s speech given at the RNC in St. Paul on Sept. 3, in which Romney threw out the challenge to “throw out the big-government liberals.”  According to Pitts, this is pure gobbledygook, and he responds with his own:

I mean, baffle gab on the freak flake. Really.

That is my new favorite line ever. Seriously. Say it five times and tell me that you don’t feel better.

Anyway, Pitts defines intellectual dishonesty as arguing “that which you know to be untrue” and substituting ideology for intellect “to the degree that you’ll do violence to language and logic rather than cross the party line.” Now, I’m not certain I buy Pitts’ railing against the Republicans only; to me, it seems more a bipartisan effort, with each party throwing stones at the other’s glass houses. But what I love about the column is the passion and Pitts’ dedication to calling out intellectual dishonesty. He writes that people admire the words, not daring to pull them apart to see if the message holds. But not him:

Unfortunately, some of us are too plodding and earthbound, too blind to the seduction of art, too stubbornly wedded to some vestigial notion that intellectual honesty matters, to walk past a steaming pile of bovine excreta without calling it a steaming pile of bovine excreta.

By the way, “steaming pile of bovine excreta” is my second favorite new line.

Go read the column in its entirety, and then come back here and let’s have some discussion about intellectual honesty and politics. Do you think it’s possible for politicians – particularly in a campaign year – to break free of the ideological talking points and say something true?

Baffle grab on the freak flake.

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3 Responses to “Political Writing: Raging Against the Semantic Machine”

  1. Betty Olson Says:

    ALL of the political rhetoric is nausea-inducing and the so-called ‘pundits’ simply add to the misery. I took great comfort in Pitts’ column……’Baffle grab on the freak flake’ is consoling………”steaming pile of bovine excreta” is AWESOME………but my personal favorite (and how could you have failed to mention it?????) is “Piffle crack eat monkey snow. Really.” Now there’s a phrase that sums up the situation for me!

  2. toddiedowns Says:

    Yes, I found the “piffle crack” line to be amusing, yet not anywhere near as profound as “baffle grab.”

  3. Judy C Says:

    I had just about lost my mind after seeing the McCain sex-ed advert when @olevia linked me to your post. My new mantra is I mean, baffle gab on the freak flake. Really.”

    It just might keep me sane.

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