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moonshineWilliam Tyndale once ridiculed the poor logic of a 16th Century blowhard by writing that, “the proof of his whole conclusion…hangeth by moonshine.” Tyndale of course, ultimately became a victim of moonshine when he was condemned as a heretic and strangled by real rope – and burned as well – for translating the Bible into English.

Moonshine, a fine word for unreal or laughable lies, shines on. Our political sphere is positively aglow with it. It is never eclipsed, and its source never sets.

The debate over health care reform, for instance, has been bright with it. Just about every word uttered by the opponents of health care reform has been moonshine. Every word, and everyone knows it.  The House managed to shield its eyes from the glare just long enough to pass a health reform bill. And in retrospect, the attacks on reform look all the more ridiculous.

We were told that freedom would be destroyed by our better health. We were told health care reform was communism, or fascism, for socialism, or some other non sequiturism. We were told we’d go broke. Or maybe die. Well, at least if it makes us sick we can afford to see a doctor.  Some might prefer another word to moonshine. Bunkum, for instance, derives from a famously irrelevant and interminable 1820 speech in support of the extension of slavery to Missouri. It was delivered to the U.S. House by Felix Walker, the undistinguished representative from Buncombe County, North Carolina.  Buncombe became bunkum. Twaddle and tommyrot might also do.

Then, of course, there’s bullshit, an early attestation of which belongs to T.S. Eliot, who wrote a ballade called, “The Triumph of Bullshit.”

Ladies, on whom my attentions have waited

If you consider my merits are small

Etiolated, alembicated,

Orotund, tasteless, fantastical,

Monotonous, crotchety, constipated,

Impotent galamatias

Affected, possibly imitated,

For Christ’s sake stick it up your ass

Rhyming galamatias (or galimatias) with “stick it up your ass,” is poetic genius. Galimatias, by the way, means moonshine.

I’m afraid it’s the media who must face charges for their impotent galamatias. They consider the reporting of moonshine to be their duty. Hey, if someone said it, it’s up to the people to tell moonshine from sunshine.

Tommyrot. It’s the media’s responsibility to call a lie a lie. If you don’t want to call it muckraking, call it moonraking, with apologies to Ian Fleming.

The trouble with the media’s so-called neutrality is not that people no longer believe anything, it’s that they believe everything. Alternative realities bloom like algae. Remember the famous anonymous quote from an official of the Bush White House:

The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.

The absolute arrogance of such a comment is, well, unreal. But it’s really just a frank statement of an ugly possibility. Since the media has abdicated its responsibilities to truths of the real world, any old moonshine will do.

Humans can’t live on moonshine, however. Millions will die for lack of health care unless health care reform is finally passed and signed into law. There’s another word that history might apply to those who abdicate their responsibility to the truth:  infamy.

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Glenn W. Smith

Glenn W. Smith