Saturday, May 16, 2009

Doing the Bullshit Dance

This city has a problem. Its government is run by a bunch of corrupt charlatans who'd rather pat themselves on the backs and tout worthless drivel and public relations fluff than tackle real problems and serve the citizenry. If one thing being a journalist at a small town newspaper can teach you, it's that human nature is Machiavellian at best and Hitlerian at worst.
Despite what 95 percent of the media critics and stuffed shirt pundits say, the responsibility of the American press is to get factual information. Unfortunately, when agendas are tossed into the mix, the truth is cleverly buried under exaggerations, deception and lies.
It's a clever little number I call the bullshit dance.
The bullshit dance is when an official, usually a politician or someone in a powerful position, dances around the truth by dodging questions and regurgitating canned responses, exaggerations or untruths. Lawyers and public relations people are great at the bullshit dance.
Asking members of the city's administration about a particular item that might be embarrassing to them usually elicits the bullshit dance. I tried to interview the city attorney about one such topic and he diverted the topic away from my line of questioning and brought up a whole new topic, utter misdirection on his part to avoid discussing the controversial issue.
Why not just come clean and tell the truth to the journalist? Why do government officials feel they must lie in order to protect whatever dark little secrets they have? To avoid embarrassment? To divert or distract?
Officials would serve their constituents better if they'd only be open and candid. Facing the heat now is better than getting burned later. Shunning a possible embarrassment or humiliation is far worse than a lie or a cover up only to be caught later.
But they don't listen and they do the bullshit dance, dodging, bobbing and weaving away from questions that they might view as awkward or embarrassing.
The bullshit dance is America's latest dance craze. In the 1920s and 1930s it was the jitterbug and the Charleston. In the 1950s and 1960s it was the mashed potato and the twist. In the last 20 years it's the bullshit dance. From Iran Contra to Monicagate to the mishandling of the Iraq war, the bullshit dance rages on in boardrooms and governmental offices throughout the nation. It's public relations melding into politics, creating a palpable slant the people can swallow instead of facing the bitter, cold truth that things we're doing just aren't working.
People want accountability. They demand it. The press should demand it instead of cramming American Idol/Britney/Brangelina down the throats of a brain dead populace.
When the public doesn't care, when the media is lax and lazy, the bullshit dancers win. When government is not held accountable for its actions, officials can get away with anything, whether it's wiretapping, corporate bailouts or stealthily invading some country Americans have never even heard of.
When the public is lulled to sleep by powerful men of contempt and deception, the entire nation dies a bit, smothered in bullshit.

No comments: