Wednesday , April 17 2024
...if you don’t know something baffle them with bull shit...

Meaningless Words

I’ve ranted about the wanton devastation of the English language that occurs on the internet. Words being truncated far beyond accepted contractions, and so on. But there are far worse offenders lurking else where.

“This session is aimed at altering your general thought process when implementing national security and corporate investigative and intelligence techniques. Attendees will be challenged to think above and beyond their own perceptions and taught to embrace a mindset that will allow them to deter possible threats more efficiently and effectively.”

Lifted straight from the pamphlet of someone named Tyrine Fairman who gives lectures on how to conduct yourself on public transit due to potential terrorist threats. These are not sessions geared towards special agents working for the government, but to the general public.

What purpose is served using language like that? Does he, or whoever he had write it, think that it makes him sound more impressive? Or is he simply trying to disguise the fact that he’s not saying anything original? I’m not sure because I can’t seem to work up the energy to try and understand what it means.

What kind of people refer to introductions as “an identity affirmation exercise”? Usually the people who run those oh-so-popular team building workshops that the corporate world used to be (and maybe still is, for all I know) so keen on.

You know the ones, middle management types are taken out and dropped in the bush or some other isolated location. Once there, they go through a program of workshops ranging from the embarrassing to the ridiculous, all with the aim of increasing productivity back at the home office. The usual result was more likely to be resentment at being deprived of a weekend, or simply from having to do the damn thing in the first place.

It’s Friday evening after a hard week at the office and instead of sitting at home in relaxing, you’re standing in the foyer of some hotel with a bunch of people you sort of know listening to this:

“What is about to be engaged with here is essentially a paradigmatic prospective assemblage intended to render a dynamic orchestration of employee energistics across multiple vertices.(pause for breath)Through a system of non-apparent motive vehicles, we will seek to initiate from within the disintegrated participatory constituents an innovated focus-drive generating a core-gravity that will channel exertory critical impulses along complementary and bi-reflexive vortals”..

There are actually three words in there that Microsoft’s dictionary couldn’t recognize. Now to be fair, the above is from a novel by one of my favorite Scottish authors, Christopher Brookmyre, called Be My Enemy. But any of you who have had any involvement with these human resource types will recognize that it’s not too far removed from reality.

Is there a purpose served by this bizarre manipulation of language, aside from confusing the hell out of anyone listening? The only thing I can come up with is that it is a type of mass hypnosis. Everyone listening, or reading, this stuff is tuning out and shutting down, making themselves susceptible to suggestion. How else could you explain a group of middle management types hopping up and down like bunnies while singing rhymes about their fears and ambitions? I just made that up, but I’m willing to bet something similar has been experienced by participants.

I don’t know how many of you have had the opportunity, or misfortune, to hang out with a group of new age types. Unfortunately there have been occasions where I have been forced into those very circumstances. You can’t be involved in the practice of complementary medicine and not swing the proverbial cat without hitting one.

I have yet to figure out which is worse; their oversimplification of the answers to all of life’s problems, or their means of expressing it. What exactly is the “healing effect of the white light of love and goodness”? Or “go to the light?” Are they telling me to stand in the middle of a dark highway and walk into somebody’s high beams?

I can’t tell you the number of times I have wanted to grab one of these people by the shoulder with one hand and slap them across the face with the other in a attempt to bring them back to reality. They pick and choose little bits of any and everybody’s religion without any comprehension of what it really means and spout it like it’s some amazing secret that has been revealed only to the chosen few.

The resulting babble is not only incomprehensible but downright insulting to anyone whose beliefs they are co-opting that week. I think a lot of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus (to name just a few) would have trouble recognizing their own religions after these people have gotten through with them.

But it’s when you enter the field of politics that you meet the real pros. The spin doctors, the media relations people, the speech writers, and the politicians themselves. Never have so many people conspired to say so little with so many words. Abraham Lincoln’s famous quote about “fooling the people some of the time, but never all of the time” says nothing about making them not care about what you’re saying.

Nobody’s trying to fool anybody anymore because there is no point. Information is so readily available that the chance of hiding anything from anyone is next to impossible. The trick today is to make sure that either no one cares, or to be so incomprehensible and obviously contradictory that it just becomes too much work to argue.

These people learned the lesson that every high school student that didn’t study for an exam lived by: if you don’t know something, baffle them with bull shit so well that they don’t even have to think about it.

It’s an art form whose first real proponent was John Ziegler, Richard Nixon’s Press Secretary during the Watergate years, and it has evolved beyond anything he would recognize. He, at least, would have the decency to say on occasion that he had been “misinformed” about something when he was caught in a lie or contradicting himself from one week to another.

Today’s people seem to count on nobody being able to remember what they said last week, and are amazed when somebody has the audacity to bring it to their attention. I have actually heard someone say “That was then, this is now” as a justification for reversing themselves. As if a statement’s truth rests on circumstances not fact!

The really scary thing for me is how many of us seem willing to accept this conduct from everybody. Is it because they wear expensive suits, use big words and stand behind a podium with a symbol on it? Unlike the guys who run those human resource events and who could jeopardized your employment, the only reason the person up on that stage has power is because we gave it to them, either directly or indirectly. If we hadn’t voted for his or her boss, he wouldn’t be standing there blithering on about nothing.

I made a conscious choice not to hang out with new age types anymore because they were driving me so crazy. We can make a conscious choice not to accept that kind of behavior from anyone.

It’s easy. Just don’t vote for anyone who refuses to speak English that everybody can understand. Eventually they might get the picture. There are too many ways in which miscommunication already causes damage in this world. We don’t need it from our political leaders anymore than we’d want it from our husband or wife.

Edited: LH

About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of three books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion" and "Introduction to Greek Mythology For Kids". Aside from Blogcritics he contributes to and his work has appeared in the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and has been translated into numerous languages in multiple publications.

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