Thursday, October 25, 2012

Oh, gracious!

Apparently in an interview in the new issue of Rolling Stone, President Obama called Mitt Romney a "bullshitter."

The exact passage is this:


I was reminded of this incident when our interview with the president ended. As we left the Oval Office, executive editor Eric Bates told Obama that he had asked his six-year-old if there was anything she wanted him to say to the president. After a thoughtful pause, she said, "Tell him: You can do it."
Obama grinned. "That's the only advice I need," he said. "I do very well, by the way, in that demographic. Ages six to 12? I'm a killer."
"Thought about lowering the voting age?" Bates joked.
"You know, kids have good instincts," Obama offered. "They look at the other guy and say, 'Well, that's a bullshitter, I can tell.'"


So essentially, Obama doesn't call Romney a bullshitter by name. It's kind of a bank shot, and an off-the-cuff, post-interview comment, at that. But in an interview about the election, it's obvious who he's talking about, if it's anyone in particular.

I'm all in favor of this. "Bullshit" cuts across the high bar necessary to prove the term "liar." A politician can say a half a dozen true things, but by omitting many other facts of reality, those details, while each individually true, when mixed with a few unverifiable assertions, can become a steaming stew of bullshit. Not a single "lie" in the recipe, but it's still not anything you want to swallow.

I've long said that politicians should be freer with the B word (and the somehow more rustic H word, horseshit). It wouldn't elevate our discourse in terms of politeness...but being willing to label a talking point bullshit gives the audience a euphemism they instinctively understand -- with a touch of shock to the language to get them to pay attention. (Probably too much shock, at first -- the national conversation will be all about the word than the claim itself, which is self-defeating. At first, anyway.)

Perfume makers use a base of civet underlying a scents' pleasant overtones, because biologically or nostrils open to the odor -- it smells foul, and dangerous. It awakens our senses, and lets us smell the more delicate scents more fully. Maybe we need to hear the word bullshit now and then, just to get us to open our noses.

Rob


1 comment:

Laura Beliczyńska said...
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