(Hereinafter, a verbatim rerun of my 1/12/12 column, an exercise somewhat akin to peeing against the prevailing wind of reality in the USA.)
Americans exposed to the political rhetoric which now pervades the airwaves, print media and cocktail party chitchat might be tempted to suggest that the inmates have taken over the asylum of public affairs.
To adopt this position, sez I, would be an unconscionable slur on patients in our mental health institutions, whose behaviors are deserving of sympathy, rather than scorn.
Over the next several months, we the sheeple (sic) will be exposed to a barrage of misinformation which would make the whoppers of Baron von Munchausen sound like young George Washington's cherry tree confession.
No politicians worthy of the name would ever admit to telling lies, but neither would they long survive in their chosen profession of mud wrestling without having mastered the science of spinning truth, which is to say disguising pants-on-fire lies as facts.
Therefore, in the interest of accuracy in labeling information, we herewith propose the introduction of "splying" as a word to describe the marriage of spinning and lying, which is the very essence of politispeak.
This is not, however, to imply that the technique is either new or restricted to the bevy of bull-scatters who will hog every microphone, stuff every mailbox and bend every ear in the nation between now and November.
Diplomats have been accurately described as unctuous, righteous hypocrites whose principal mission is to camouflage lies for the country which pays them.
Similarly, lawyers who claim that their every utterance passes the smell test of veracity suffer, at the very least, from a sensory handicap, but let's not go there here and now.
Rather, let's focus on the artful dodging which will characterize the spoken and written material the electorate will be force-fed for the duration of the food-fight which passes for our democratic process.
Instead of logical and responsive debate, covering points, counterpoints, rebuttals and concessions, our diet will be one of carefully crafted “talking points,” which point with pride to one political view and view with alarm any and all opinions that differ, however slightly.
Words and phrases of the opposition, however trivial and irrelevant they might be, will be taken out of context, blown out of proportion and shaken like frightening fetishes before their supporters and undecided voters.
Simultaneously, the gaffes of like-minded candidates will be dismissed as misunderstandings, misquotations and/or "personal attacks," rather than admissions of human imperfection.
So-called "debates" have become a perversion of the classic opinion clashes of past history, during which specific positions were presented, then rebutted, then re-presented and re-rebutted until the issues and differences were clear, if not necessarily resolved. (Lincoln v. Douglas comes to mind, iner alia.)
That process not only allowed voters to see all facets of each issue, but actually compelled them to do so before reaching a conclusion.
These days, most of the print and broadcast media offer formulaic and prejudicial material to semi-captive audiences, providing for them the same benefits that lamp posts offer to drunks; i.e., support, rather than enlightenment.
The "splying" maneuver provides convenient cover for candidates and their sycophants to avoid facing difficult questions by simply ignoring them, and/or blithely answering a question that wasn't asked, but for which there is an easier and/or flashier response.
In his heyday, the incomparable Sid Caesar – and before him the late Cliff Nazarro – were masters of double-talk, a verbal adaptation of the shell game, in which victims were misdirected from what was important to what the practitioner wanted them to see and hear.
Aside: Only fellow geezers will remember Cliff, but younger oldsters might recall Nat King Cole's cryptic plea, “I want the frim-fram sauce with the ausen fay, with chafafah on the side.”
Back to the subject du jour: The spin doctors, prejudiced pundits and Kool-Aid-addicted ideologues who will be seeking to shape and/or disfigure public opinion during the months ahead will find easy prey among voters who are either uninformed or apathetic about the serious matters that must be decided by the victors in next November's contests.
Gazillions of dollars will be lavished on splying between now and then, buried (sometimes deeply) within which will be occasional nuggets of truth.
These elements are often difficult to identify, but are always critically important for the future of our nation and our descendants who will depend on us for wise decisions at the polls (and, justifiably, blame us for every wrong one).
Think it through, folks, and don't be distracted by those side dishes of chafafah!