Of Course…

” Of course air travel is perfectly safe. Look at the HINDENBURG. It’s never crashed yet. ”

A perfectly valid statement at the end of 1936 as the zeppelin completed 17 round trips in its first season across the Atlantic. It went to North and South America with no incidents. And then the first trip of Season Two to Lakehurst, New Jersey in 1937…

Putting aside the humanity, look at the phrase ” of course “. I just traced it through the computer’s internal dictionary and it seems to indicate that something is obvious or expected. But you knew that already, didn’t you…

Yet, it seems so many times that it is used to mask what is not obvious  – the bias of a political debater, or the pre-made circular and specious argument that serves the propagandist. I hear it repeatedly when eavesdropping on others. Of course, I don’t do that in an obvious manner. No wire taps or tape recorders. I just lurk and listen.

I’m starting to think it’s a valuable marker for this sort of thing. A litmus test for bullshit, if you will. A small warning bell that tells you someone is flanneling on while they fumble for your wallet.

The truth is that nothing is ever ” of course “. It can be ” off course ” easily, and frequently is ” of a curse “. but beyond that you really should not take things for granted.

Tomorrow’s post: How to apply for a grant without a revolver.


Culturally Sensitive Political Incorrectness


Well, let’s face it, in today’s society you are going to offend all the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time. You might as well do it with precision and style. You will be no worse thought of than if you just blundered and will have the satisfaction of an artist.

There are any number of topics that easily get danders up; race, religion, sex, politics, etc. They are fields can be left to others to plough – the skilled practitioner gets more pleasure and recognition by dealing with ideas that are either hazier or that are intensely specialised. Let me give your some examples.

a. If the person whose armour you wish to pierce has any hobby or interest that is outside of the mainstream they are an instant mark. If their passion is the theatre you can either criticise the idea, finances, or ethos of it. Ethos is a good word because you can then link it to pathos and bathos and turn your nose up. Be careful not to mention Aramis or D’Artagnan or your victim will know they are being gulled.

If they are sophisticated, be rude. If they are boors, be intellectual. And then, midway in the conversation…just as they start to heat up…swithc to the other mentality for a few sentences and switch back. Do it deadpan.

b. Give praise to Jonathan Swift for his “Modest Proposal ” about solving the overpopulation in Catholic Ireland by eating the babies. He wrote it, got it published, got it into the hands of readers, and then ran for it. The people in authority who he lampooned got the message, as did everyone else.

c. ” Lampoon ” is almost the same as ” Harpoon “. Perhaps it is derived from the practice of using a coal-oil lamp to capture whales. Perhaps not.

d. If someone is offended it does not mean that they do not agree with you – it sometimes means that they are mad that they did not get to say it first.

e. Righteousness is a salable commodity – just ask Elmer Gantry or any of the television evangelists. So is sinfulness – otherwise Northbridge, the Tenderloin, and any number of theme parks would not exist. Why not invent a way of combining the two for even more profits? Sinful righteousness or righteous sinfulness sounds like you could sell it in bags at $ 50 a pop.

f. You must ask yourself what use is political incorrectness? How can it benefit the average man or woman? If you heat up a university student to incandescence with a carefully orchestrated series of insults and gibes, can they be plunged into a tub of cold water to heat it up and do the dishes? If so, it would probably be the only time in their entire university careers that they ever did the dishes…

g. Can the naked truth about something be politically incorrect? And viewed from the other way, can something that is politically incorrect be absolutely true? I think it can – if you understand that anything someone does not want to admit to can never be spoken of, then you can get away with doing quite a lot of unspeakable things. Remember that you can effectively turn a conversation away from your own flaws by accusing someone else of having the same ones…but the deluxe model with added brimstone.

Indeed the topics under consideration need not even be arcane – as long as you can howl racism, sexism, ageism, or any other current buzz word, you can derail any train of thought. It will give you time to loot the mental baggage car and ride away before an intellectual posse can be formed.