Several members of America’s free press were no longer free as of Friday. The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and other notable newspapers were thrown into Trumptweet Prison, arrested and jailed for publishing true stories and using anonymous sources. The use of anonymous sources is, of course, standard in the traditional press, and reporters themselves have been jailed from time to time for refusing to reveal their sources.
The Four Horsemen of the American Apocalypse – Trump, Bannon, Miller and Pence – also announced the end of the American Experiment.
“We didn’t know it would be as easy as it was to disrupt and shut down America. We owe a lot of credit to the Republican party which made it possible, and to a lot of Democrats as well. Nobody seemed interested in trying to shut us down. Talk about a cakewalk. What a bunch of Losers!”
Apocalypse spokesman, whine-king Sean Spicer, added that there’s still work to be done to make the collapse of America complete.
“The Horsemen are not finished yet. They expect to have the public schools, Social Security, and the courts in chaos before the end of the summer. They also have a travel ban in the works that will prevent any disenchanted natural born citizen of the United States from moving to some other country to escape the new Trumptweet system under the Four Horsemen. It’s sweet.”
In other news…slow fade to gray and then complete silence.
I’m happy to report that despite the current tenor of the American political scene, humor abounds. And that’s a good thing. If Will Rogers were still around, he’d agree.
I ran onto a couple of stories today about the “Wanted” posters going up in places where various Congressbirds (as Will might have called them) have chosen not to hold Town Hall meetings. One has to wonder about these Congressional misfits, but at the same time laugh at the ingenuity of the posters asking that the missing be returned to their constituents.
Will Rogers had a lot to say about politics. He mostly picked on the Republicans, but not always. “I’m not a member of any organized party–I’m a Democrat.”
Rogers was a humorist rather than a comedian. His humor was never strident or harsh, the kind of humor that elicits a knowing chuckle rather than a belly laugh or a four-letter response shouted in agreement. A lot of it came out while he did his rope-twirling act and was a nonchalant and gentle, but powerful poke at the craziness of politicians and, as often as not, the people who voted for them.
Here, to leaven the D.C. smugness, shenanigans and news reporting of the day, are some of Will’s thoughts on politics. I leave you to it.
“There’s no trick to being a humorist when you have the entire government working for you.”
“A politician is not as narrow-minded as he forces himself to be.”
“The taxpayers are sending congressmen on expensive trips abroad. It might be worth it except they keep coming back!”
“A president just can’t make much showing against congress. They lay awake nights, thinking up things to be against the president on.”
“A fool and his money are soon elected.”
“Senators are a never-ending source of amusement, amazement, and discouragement.”
“Funny thing about being a U.S. senator, the only thing the law says you have to be is 30 years old. Not another single requirement. They just figure that a man that old got nobody to blame but himself if he gets caught in there.”
“The man with the best job in the country is the vice-president. All he has to do is get up every morning and say, ‘How is the president?’ ”
“We always want the best man to win an election. Unfortunately, he never runs.”
“I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.”
“I read where they are going to limit debate in the Senate. It used to be that a man could talk all day, but now, as soon as he tells all he knows, he has to sit down. Most of these birds will just be getting up and nodding now. Why, some of them won’t be able to answer roll call.”
“Congress is so strange; a man gets up to speak and says nothing, nobody listens, and then everybody disagrees.”
“America has the best politicians money can buy.”
“The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets.”
“When you straddle a thing it takes a long time to explain it.”
“This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer.”
“It looks to me like any man that wants to be President in times like these lacks something.”
“All I know is just what I read in the papers, and that’s an alibi for my ignorance.”
“Diplomacy is the art of saying “Nice doggie” until you can find a rock.”
“About all I can say for the United States Senate is that it opens with a prayer and closes with an investigation.”
Will Rogers lived in a different time, a different century. Amazing how on the mark his observations are in this new millennium. Just goes to show ya.
After much thought, I’ve realized that comparing the Trump administration to the dystopian novel 1984 could be way off the mark. Oh, there are similarities, to be sure, like the Ministry of Truth, but I think there’s a better handbook for what’s going on in Washington,D.C. (and Mar-a-Lago)…
I suggest a re-read of Alice in Wonderland.
For starters, here are some quotations taken in no particular order right out of the book. Recognize anything here?
“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
“ ‘I don’t think…’ then you shouldn’t talk, said the Hatter.”
“We’re all mad here.”
“I’m afraid I can’t explain myself, sir. Because I am not myself, you see?”
“I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night. Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is ‘Who in the world am I?’ Ah, that’s the great puzzle!”
“Off with their heads!”
“It is better to be feared than loved.”
“Well, I never heard it before, but it sounds uncommon nonsense.”
“It would be so nice if something made sense for a change.”
“Speak English!’ said the Eaglet. ‘I don’t know the meaning of half those long words, and I don’t believe you do either!”
“The more there is of mine, the less there is of yours.”
“Keep your temper, said the Caterpillar.”
“Alice thought to herself, “I don’t see how he can ever finish, if he doesn’t begin.”
“This piece of rudeness was more than Alice could bear: she got up in great disgust, and walked off.”
“It was this last argument that had everyone looking so nervous and uncomfortable.”
“How cheerfully he seems to grin, How neatly spread his claws, And welcome little fishes in With gently smiling jaws!”
“ ‘…important—unimportant—unimportant—important—’ as if he were trying which word sounded best.”
“I didn’t write it and they can’t prove that I did; there’s no name signed at the end.”
“Please, Ma’am, is this New Zealand or Australia?”
and finally, Donald Trump from a recent speech:
“Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.”
As I looked again at this old favorite, I could not help seeing the D.C. mess as resembling anything so much as the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party (and I don’t think this is the one the Republicans had in mind).
We’ve definitely fallen down the rabbit hole.
In the world of linguistics, and especially in socio-linguistics which includes “discourse analysis,” there are a number of markers that serve up juicy bits of non-verbal or meta-linguistic information. For anyone interested in “it ain’t what you say, it’s the way that you say it” Donald Trump offers buckets and buckets of information about himself every single day.
He has a couple of particular phrases he uses that give a capsule look at the man’s manipulative nature.
This morning he was quoted as saying “California in many ways is out of control, as you know.” It’s that “as you know” phrase that’s the key, and Trump uses it over and over again in his press conferences, public statements, arguments – “as you know.”
Well, for those of us who live in California, the claim that we’re out of control is news to us. No, Mr. Trump, we don’t know.
It’s a marker for “You know I’m telling the truth and you either agree with me or you’re a… (liar, idiot, loser, etc. ). It’s an attempt – sometimes successful – to silence the opposition, none of whom want to look like a liar, idiot or loser.
Another one of Trump’s signature phrases is “which by the way” as in “…Guantanamo Bay—which, by the way, we are keeping open!” In this case, the phrase is used to do one of two things – either make a claim even bigger than it is or to make a claim/lie look like the truth. There’s a snarky edge to it as well, just as there is with “as you know,” since “which by the way” comes off as a toss-off phrase, an afterthought, something the speaker knows that you don’t but would have if you weren’t so simple, and almost always something big.
Think about all the times you’ve heard anyone say “oh by the way.” Years ago, I realized that nothing good EVER follows those words. “Oh, by the way, your car won’t be ready until next week.” “Oh, by the way, that leak in the bathroom means we have to knock down a wall.” “Oh, by the way, the bank called…”
Your experience may vary, but I’ve never heard anyone say, “Oh, by the way, you got the job.” Or “Oh, by the way, we’re going to publish your novel.”
Analyzing language is an interesting game, but not for the faint of heart. Words can be wonderful and those of us with poetry in our DNA know this well. But they can also, in the wrong mouths and coming from the wrong brains, scare the bejesus out of us. Like when I hear politicos refer to Trump’s words or actions on certain matters as “disturbing.”
Disturbing? Disturbing? How about friggin’ off-the-chart Mad King George nuts?
Every now and then I Google myself to see what fresh “facts” about myself have been posted by some so-called information site. It’s an exercise in silliness on my part because I never try to contact any of the websites to correct anything. And sometimes it’s kind of fascinating.
This morning, for instance, I learned via an alt-fact site that I am a “known associate” of a contractor in Connecticut who I’ve never heard of but with whom I share a last name. That’s apparently all it takes for relationship these days. This particular site also lists as my address one I left behind four moves ago.
There just ain’t no algorithm for people like me with gypsy in their souls – or DNA.
When I was still teaching college level writing, I advised my students not to rely solely on the Internet for facts. Lord knows I’d double that advice now.
Critic Roger Ebert once said that, “Doing research on the Web is like using a library assembled piecemeal by pack rats and vandalized nightly. ”
I can only hope that Roger Ebert really said that sometime. I’ve found misquoted wisdoms all over the place. The only reason I know some of them are misquoted is because I have the originals, the books in my library. I’m never sure if words get changed for convenience or because somebody just heard it wrong somewhere like the child who sang a favorite hymn about Gladly, the cross-eyed bear.
On the other hand, I once ran across a quote ostensibly from Will Rogers about an event that happened long after that great man was dead.
I do know that once something is misquoted on the Internet, it’s copied again and again – wrong – onto other sites by people too lazy to check anything.
A few days ago I expanded my Google search to my grandparents and learned that my grandmother, bless her long-departed heart, had only two children instead of the six I know she had including my father. Another site says she had four children (possibly the missing four from the first site), but I’m certain she never lived in one of the towns listed.
The point here is that fake news didn’t start with Mister Golden Hair or his Right Hand Man. It didn’t start with conspiracy theorists or fakey-jake “journalists.” It didn’t even start with mean-spirited or just plain ignorant back-fence gossips who have now been given a better platform for making shinola up via (un)social media.
Personally when I read the paper in hand or online, I never stop at any headline with the words “may,” “might,” or “could” no matter what the subject from Congress to cancer because these are all speculative and posted to (a) raise fears or (b) distract readers without any evidence.
Hey, I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck, friends. I know that it means if a guy tells me he “might” call for a date, or if a potential employer tells me there “could” be an opening sometime soon. In the communication biz we call those weasel words. And weasel words are NEVER meant to inform. So if eating grapenuts “may” cause cancer, please pass the grapenuts. I need a lot more evidence than “maybe.”
Sometimes in my wildest dreams, I wonder: Did the guys on the tom-toms sending messages across the miles all those years ago ever get rowdy and decide to change the beat to spread fake news? Wouldn’t surprise me a bit. Especially if it would raise their ratings or make them rich.
In today’s news comes a report that around 900 State Department officials signed an internal “dissent memo” regarding Richie Rich’s immigration ban. The response from Sean Spicer (not the Right Hand Man) in his best whiny voice is that career diplomats should “get with the program or they can go.”
In other words, career diplomats who actually know something about diplomacy should get the hell out because it offends Richie when anyone disagrees with him. Does anybody but me hear music from The Godfather in the background? Is it a coincidence that Richie’s middle name is Don?
We here at GGMissM, Inc. continue to be boggled by the new D.C. “Theatre of the Absurd.”
We’ve known many CEOs in our day and can’t recall a single one of them who’d utter the words “You’re fired!” to any knowledgeable employee who disagreed with a policy or questioned a decision.
The CEOs in our experience welcomed thoughtful feedback on policies and decisions, knew it was in their best interests to take advantage of the pool of talent and brains around them in order to avoid stepping in a pile of Shinola along the way. The CEOs didn’t always follow through on suggestions from employees, but they were open to them, and sure as hell didn’t fire somebody just because he or she had a different opinion.
In his wonderful little book, Leadership Is an Art, the best book on leadership we know and one we used all the time in our consulting days, Max DuPree, CEO of the Herman Miller company (founded by his father) counseled that although not everyone in the company has a vote on management policies, everyone has a voice. Wise words from a genuinely successful business man unlike Richie Rich, the cockamamie shyster whose bankruptcies speak volumes.
Richie and his Right Hand Man are having one of the vilest bromances we’ve seen – two theoretically adult males who have bonded their childishly mean spirits over arrogance, vindictiveness and revenge. The others nearest and dearest like Spicer and Blondielocks are unlikely to last a year with these two. But then, Richie and RHM may not last a year either. Hope springs eternal…and Karma’s calling you, boys. Karma’s calling.